Late Ben Harmison strike earns Ashington win at Bishop Auckland

Ashington striker Ben Harmison. Picture by Ian Appleby
Ashington striker Ben Harmison. Picture by Ian Appleby

Ashington extended their unbeaten run to four matches when a late goal by skipper Ben Harmison brought them victory over Bishop Auckland at Heritage Park on Wednesday night.

It had looked increasingly likely that the well contested match, played at a fast pace throughout, was heading towards a goalless draw.

But in the 89th minute an astute pass down the left by Paul Antony released substitute Dale Pearson and after skipping a tackle he advanced into the area and pulled the ball back for Harmison who calmly took a touch then side-footed home from six yards.

The two Blues – with former Blyth Spartans assistant boss Colin Myers in charge as temporary manager – had begun the brighter and sharper in the opening exchanges.

Indeed in the fifth minute, a screaming 40 yards low driven free kick from Priestley Griffiths took a deflection and was goalbound until visiting keeper Conor Grant made a brilliant save to his right, pushing the ball to safety.

Ashington’s first sniff came minutes later when Ben Harmison capitalised on an error in the Bishops rearguard to set up Tony Stephenson, whose rasping left footer from the edge of the area whistled narrowly over.

Grant pushed away to thwart the impressive Michael Hoganson, then Kyle Downey went to ground inside the box but referee Derric Wade ignored shouts for a penalty.

Inside the first 20 minutes the match had been punctuated by a series of niggly fouls, but it settled down and when Stephenson linked with Lee McAndrew, the latter’s cross was cleared by Daryll Hall.

Midway through the period, Downey was involved in an amazing goal scoring attempt which had he been successful would have gone down as one of the goals of the decade.

The Harmison brothers, James and Ben, combined with the latter glancing the ball into space for Downey who from fully 45 yards attempted to lob keeper Thomas Dawson. As the ball arrowed and dipped towards the danger zone, it looked a winner but Dawson got back in the nick of time to palm it away.

Ben Sampson was just off target with an 18 yarder, then when play switched immediately to the other end, a shot from Thomas McAloon was deflected for a corner.

However, the best chance of the half arrived five minutes from the break and fell Ashington’s way.

A 35-yard diagonal pass from Jay Hornsby got through the home back line and fell to Ben Harmison. The striker was through with only Dawson to beat but tried to curl his left foot effort and it went wide.

Just before the break, Harmison and Downey schemed an exciting move down the Bishops left hand side but Downey was eventually shut out.

Ten minutes into the second half Stephenson found Ben Harmison down the left flank and when he crossed, Sampson, on the stretch, blasted wide.

In the 58th minute, Hornsby was yellow carded for a foul on substitute Andrew Johnson and minutes later when he committed another offence on the half way line, he received a final warning from referee Wade.

Ashington responded by withdrawing the youngster and replacing him with Luke Salmon.

McAndrew went to ground after a challenge from Dawson but again the referee waved aside Ashington appeals for a penalty.

At the midway stage in the period, McAndrew and Salmon linked neatly but when the latter crossed, Ben Harmison failed to apply a clean connection at the near post and the chance evaporated.

Hoganson set up Alex Goundry whose 25 yarder flew inches over, then James Harmison made a miraculous goal-line clearance.

Both sides refused to settle for a point and a frenetic end to end finale ensued.

When Antony played the ball wide for Ben Harmison to cross and Pearson’s shot was blocked, it looked like the final chance had gone, but with one minute of the 90 remaining, Ashington engineered one last move down the left and on this occasion, Harmison made no mistake, netting his third goal of the season.

In stoppage time the home side had penalty appeals for handball turned down – before the final whistle saw the Ashington players applauded off the field by their fans after wrapping up their first away victory in the league over Bishops for four years.

On Saturday, Ashington travel to face Sunderland RCA in the preliminary round of the Emirates FA Cup.

Ashington: Grant, Christensen, Hornsby (Salmon 64), Antony, J Harmison, Buchanan, Sampson, Downey, Stephenson (Johnston 72), B Harmison, McAndrew (Pearson 77). Sub not used: Henderson

Attendance: 199.