Hard-fought win for Ashington
Ashington 2West Auckland 1Ashington opened their account with a hard fought 2-1 win over West Auckland at Woodhorn Lane on Tuesday night.
The victory came only days after they had lost their first encounter of the season 5-1 at Hebburn and gave them a boost ahead of Saturday’s extra preliminary round home tie in the Emirates FA Cup against old adversaries Albion Sports.
Defenders Marc Lancaster and Gavin Caines made their debuts whilst Dan Taggart was on the mark for the second consecutive game to give Ashington the lead. West – reduced to ten men with the dismissal of defender Jamie Cobain – came out after the interval all guns blazing and levelled within two minutes through Thomas Price.
The game became even more absorbing with a penalty awarded at either end - the first for West was rescinded but Ashington’s stood with Callum Johnston’s effort proving to be the winner.
Still the action continued as West went down to nine men with Francis sin binned and a cat and mouse finale developed as the Wansbeck side looked to put the game to bed with a third whilst the visitors continued to search for an equaliser. Both ‘keepers distinguished themselves in the opening exchanges.
After eight minutes Taggart had an opportunity but his shot was repelled by Mark Bell then at the other end, Adam Burnicle was foiled by Dan Staples. On the quarter hour, Francis whipped over a dangerous looking cross but Stephen Gibson was on hand to make a timely clearance before the first talking point of the game arrived on 27 minutes. Johnston burst through in the inside left channel until he was checked by Cobain. It appeared from the stands to be a basic yellow card offence but the defender put his head in his hands and West were furious when referee Mark Ryan produced a straight red for denying an obvious goal scoring opportunity. Johnston took the resultant free kick from 25 yards out and his curler had ‘goal’ written all over it until Bell dived to his right to produce an outstanding save and divert the ball for a corner.
On the half hour, Johnston motored down the flank and when he crossed, Taggart failed to apply a good connection and his weak shot rolled wide of the far post. However 70 seconds later, the striker was not to be denied. He latched onto a great ball from Danny Anderson - who was starting only his second game at Northern League level – took a touch then drove under Bell. Bang on half time, Lancaster’s ball over the top released Johnston but his effort was blocked by a defender.
In the 47th minute, the County Durham side drew level. Staples saved brilliantly from Nathan Fisher but Thomas Price rifled home the rebound. Two minutes later, referee Ryan pointed to the spot for a pull back inside the area by an Ashington defender but the official changed his decision after consulting with assistant Gavin Sloanes who had his flag raised for offside. Sixty seconds later, Taggart’s through ball for Stevens was inch perfect but the forward slipped at the vital time which allowed Bell the opportunity to thwart him.
Even with ten men, West were looking an impressive outfit and on the hour, Amar Purewal fed Fisher but his weak low shot was gathered by Staples. Ashington’s riposte was instant with Lancaster switching the play to the overlapping Gibson on the right but he was blocked. Francis cut inside and fired narrowly wide before Taggart was again foiled by Bell.
A massive turning point arrived on 70 minutes when Staples produced another magnificent save diving to his right to keep out a thunderbolt from Adam Mitchell. Three minutes later, the home side forced a corner on the right. When the ball was swung in, referee Ryan emphatically pointed to the spot for some grappling - and Johnston emphatically drilled home the penalty.
Francis was then sin binned for a remark to the man in the middle leaving West to battle the next ten minutes with only nine men. Johnston took the ball around the advancing Bell but was driven wide and eventually his shot was directed straight into the hands of the recovering ‘keeper. In the second minute of time added on, a ball by Price went across the face of the home goal before the final whistle sounded with Ashington cheered off by their supporters after recording their first win of the campaign.
There were some good performances in the home camp but none more so than from captain Curtis Coppen who led by example and would have won any man of the match award after being head and shoulders the best player on the park.
On Saturday, Ashington are at home to Albion Sports in the extra preliminary round of the Emirates FA Cup (3pm).