Mark in hunt for further strikes

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HAVING broken his duck for the season, midfielder Mark O’Dea is hoping to continue his goalscoring exploits for Ashington when they go hunting for a place in the last eight of the FA Carlsberg Vase on Sunday against Gloucestershire-based Shortwood United.

O’Dea, 30, who had missed a number of games through injury until only recently, struck his first of the campaign when he rifled in the opener in the 3-2 victory over Newport Pagnell in the last round of the Vase.

And having got a taster, he then followed up with consecutive strikes in the STL Northern League first division clashes against Spennymoor Town and Newton Aycliffe.

“I did score from the spot in a penalty shoot-out against Shildon in the FA Cup replay at Woodhorn Lane,” he said, “but I’ve been delighted to get my name on the scoresheet in open play recently.

“Things seem to have clicked a bit for me.

“I have been asked to play a bit further forward and to get involved in supporting the strikers, and it’s nice to get among the goals.

“Certainly I should be scoring a few more and for a midfielder to net in three successive games, you could say I’m in a purple patch.”

O’Dea, who is based in Longbenton, was pleased on two fronts with his goal at Newport Pagnell.

“Not only was it my first of the season but they had had more possession in the opening ten to 15 minutes whilst we hadn’t made a great start, and it was a good way to get us back into the game,” he said.

Now fully recovered from his recent knock, O’Dea is eyeing up Sunday’s clash in the small town of Nailsworth: “I tweaked a calf muscle which forced me to miss a few games – but I’m fine now,” he said, “If selected, Sunday will definitely be the biggest game I will have played in. I’ve been in the Ashington side for games like the Northumberland Senior Cup Final and the League Cup Final but this one will be an even bigger stage – and I’m looking forward to it. We have a good spirit in the camp and are a side who have quality players running right through the team.”

Boss Middleton said: “Mark has hit a real seam of form and has been influential in our current run. He had a spell at Christmas when he was not available due to injury and we are glad to have him back fit – and seeing him perform like we know he can.”