Normal service was resumed for Ashington on Saturday as a poacher’s goal from skipper Andrew Johnson proved to be the decisive strike against Thackley which took the Colliers into the fourth round of this season’s FA Carlsberg Vase.
Johnson’s timely strike arrived two minutes before the end of a first period which his side had shaded when he stabbed the ball home from six yards after Kyle Downey had back heeled a cross from the pacy Sam Norris into his path.
Thereafter in an even second half, although home keeper Karl Dryden looked assured and was never seriously tested, the Wansbeck side had chances to put the game beyond their high flying visitors from the Northern Counties East premier division.
Scott Blandford came through a late fitness check on a hamstring strain to take his place in a side which also saw the return of Dryden and David Carson.
Before kick-off, the teams, officials and supporters celebrated the respective lives of Nelson Mandela and former Ashington Football Club chairman Eric Nichol with a minute’s applause.
The Colliers almost made the perfect start as within 50 seconds they forced a corner and from Johnson’s delivery, Glen Taylor’s header was cleared off the line by Paul Whiteley.
Minutes later, and after receiving from Darren Lough, Marc Walton teed up a right foot volley for himself which was tipped over by Dennyboys keeper Matt Convey.
And the action continued to be focused on the Thackley goal as Craig Scott had a header deflected over; Walton went close with a right foot screamer then Convey held efforts from Kyle Oliver and Glen Taylor.
Luke Richardson directed a free kick straight down Dryden’s throat before the keeper excelled midway through the half.
Following a move down the right, Mike Garrod’s right footer was tipped over then James Firth saw his effort palmed away by the stopper and Blandford cleared the resultant corner off the line.
However, it was to be Blandford’s last piece of action as he was forced to retire with a recurrence of his injury.
Ashington got their second wind to force the pace again with Walton and Johnson being blocked out, then Oliver’s drive was grasped by Convey.
Norris caused problems down the right flank with his pace and after another surging run and cross, Johnson, rushing in at the far post, just failed to connect.
After James Taylor had made what has now developed into a trademark block in the Ashington penalty area, a highly promising run down the left to the byline by Glen Taylor saw his pull back find Johnson who was denied before the Colliers got a terrific boost ahead of the interval when Johnson netted what proved to be the all important goal.
Early after the resumption, Johnson and Glen Taylor were foiled; Craig Scott fired wide and an excellent move ended with Norris’s shot being held by Convey.
Ashington continued to go in search of a second and Walton and Glen Taylor – in identical fashion – both frittered away good chances by chipping over.
After coming on as substitute, the lively David Carson fired wide after receiving from Walton, and the last action saw Chris Davey slice wide for the visitors.
Ashington: Dryden, J Taylor, Blandford (Downey 25 mins), Oliver, C Scott, Christensen, Norris (Carson 72 mins), Johnson, Walton, G Taylor, Lough. Subs not used: McGorrigan, L Scott, Barnard.
On Saturday Ashington are at home to Penrith (3pm) then the Colliers travel to face Bishop Auckland on Tuesday, December 17.