Ashington missed out on the opportunity to appear in a showpiece final of the Brooks Mileson Memorial League Cup against neighbours Whitley Bay when they gave a lacklustre display and were soundly beaten by Marske United at Woodhorn Lane on Easter Monday afternoon.
As part of the League’s 125th year celebrations, the grand final is to be staged at St James Park on Tuesday May 6 – the venue where almost a year ago to the day, the Colliers won the Techflow Group Northumberland Senior Cup for the first time in 33 years after a 3-0 success over the Whitley Bay.
However, there will be no return this term as the Teesiders – who had claimed a 2-0 result in the league in Wansbeck only six weeks ago – came back to haunt Gary Middleton’s men again and deservedly book their place with midfielder Austin Johnston notching a hat-trick.
Ashington’s defeat – which came on the back of four consecutive victories, the latter, a 7-3 thrashing over Crook Town on Good Friday evening – was also a second semi-final blow inside a fortnight after they went down 3-2 to Blyth Spartans in their Senior Cup replay at Croft Park.
Yet after a fourth minute volley from Levent Yalcin had gone just over the bar, the Colliers hit back to fashion two chances in as many minutes. Andrew Johnson’s effort was deflected behind for a corner then Marc Walton – who initially played a superb half volley pass out wide to Johnson – got the return but was then blocked out.
However, Marske stung the home side as they went ahead in the 11th minute. They forced a corner on the left and when Josh Macdonald swung the ball to the far post, Christopher McGill’s header bounced wide of Karl Dryden and inside the far post.
On the quarter hour, a move started by Alex Downey which also featured Scott Blandford saw the latter’s pass find Glen Taylor whose shot was cleared off the line by Seasiders skipper Adam Wheatley. Ashington were getting into some promising positions but were being let down by the final ball – and their task became that much more difficult on the half hour when Austin Johnston powered home a second with a right footer from 25 yards which crashed past Dryden.
Before the interval, Walton attempted an effort from 30 yards which was easily dealt with by keeper Robert Dean then Carson headed wide.
Eight minutes into the second half, McGill and John Alexander combined to set up an opportunity for Yalcin whose first-timer from the edge of the area whistled narrowly over the bar.
After that it was Ashington who enjoyed a huge percentage of possession with Marske looking a threat on the counter.
On the hour and from a Blandford cross, substitute Lee Scott headed on for Carson who tried to cut inside and was blocked out.
However in the 62nd minute Colliers were handed a lifeline as skipper Johnson scored his 30th goal of the campaign. Scott chased down a through ball from Kyle Oliver which forced a defensive error and Johnson took full advantage to slot home from six yards.
Ashington’s performance was frustrating to say the least and in the 80th minute, they went 3-1 behind when Johnston was allowed to bullet home a free header from a Jamie Poole corner on the right.
Then two minutes from time, Dryden brought down Alexander in the area and Johnston completed his hat-trick with ease as he sent the keeper the wrong way from the spot.
Oliver narrowly failed to hit the target and a Johnson free-kick was touched over by Dean – but on the day, Ashington’s performance dipped well below their usual standards and after being on a high following their victory over Crook, they brought their season to a shuddering halt.
Whitley Bay won their place in the final after a 3-2 win over Whitehaven in Cumbria.
Ashington: Dryden, McGlen, Blandford, Oliver, J Taylor, A Downey, Carson, K Downey (Briggs 72 minutes), Walton (L Scott 58 minutes), G Taylor (Norris 49 minutes), Johnson. Subs not used: Brittain, Barnard (gk).