Harmison delighted with Ashington’s work ethic at Penrith

Ashington manager Steve Harmison. Picture by Ian Appleby - www.ianapplebyimages.com
Ashington manager Steve Harmison. Picture by Ian Appleby - www.ianapplebyimages.com

Ashington FC manager Steve Harmison was delighted by the work ethic of his injury ravaged squad on Saturday after the Colliers had ground out a 0-0 draw against Penrith.

Michael Dixon, Matty Grieve and Ben Harmison were all sidelined, and the boss, who travelled with only 11 fit players to Cumbria, was forced to name skipper Andrew Johnson, Ryan Bell and Andrew Bulford as substitutes, despite all of them carrying knocks.

“On the eve of the game we are ringing Johnson and Bell asking them to be on the bench to make sure we had a couple of subs if needed,” he said.

“Bulford looked the fittest of the three so was the first option, but again I’m encouraged because the front six were aged 24 and below and it was a big ask for them playing Saturday, Thursday and Saturday.

“Undoubtedly there were tired bodies but they showed guts and determination to try and get something from the game.

“The Penrith goalkeeper [Aaron Taylor] made some good saves, even though I didn’t think it was a particularly good football match.

“It was an end of season affair where quality wasn’t at it’s highest, which was probably down to the surface.

“There are three or four times now this season where the pitch looks great from the dugout, but again on Saturday from the bounce of the ball, it was tough for the players to play on it.

“Last night we had 11 fit men; the reserves were also down to the bare 11 as well, so we couldn’t take any of their lads, and at the moment it’s about what we have got and looking at the bigger picture.”

Harmison, who specifically made a point during his post-match interview to thank the fans who had travelled and who sang non stop throughout.

He added: “’Keeper Conor Grant got a clean sheet today and the back four were excellent, Adam Harvey reverted into a full back role which is where he played as a kid, whilst James Harmison, Ben Christensen and Paul Dunn were solid.

“When the front six are relatively inexperienced you look for your characters and your men, and Harmison, Christensen and Dunn led by example and marshalled the younger lads.

“Win, lose or draw, we asked the lads to give everything they had after Thursday night, and they did that and I was really pleased.”

He continued: “With ten to 15 minutes left, the actual attitude of the lads was ‘we are not going to be beaten’, and after the exertions and tired bodies after Thursday night against Marske United, that was a positive in itself.

“We didn’t win the game after having a couple of good chances and their keeper pulling off of excellent saves, the one off Scott Gunn in the first half was arguably one of the best I have seen this season, it was unbelievable.

“We have travelled two hours on a coach thinking things are going against us again with injuries, and although you are never happy not winning, there is a wry smile on my face after seeing a buoyant dressing room.

“It was a point – and did any side deserve to win the game? I’m not exactly sure.

“Conor has had to deal with a couple of flashes across goal, but I thought we defended very well from set pieces because their delivery was dangerous, so it’s pats on the back to the back four again.

“All in all I am happy with what I have seen from a bunch of kids who were wanting to play.

“If they want to give everything they have for Ashington we’ll be happy enough for them to express themselves.

“It’s a work in progress exercise but there were plenty of positives to come out of a pretty average game of football.

“Looking forward, the future looks OK, and with two or three high quality additions in the summer then we will have a nice little pool of players.”