ASHINGTON CFC manager Gary Middleton admitted that his outfit did not fire on all cylinders despite a 3-1 win over Norton & Stockton Ancients on Bank Holiday Monday.
However, the boss thought the character of the side shone as they completed the result.
He said: “We got a great start to the game with a goal within a minute which was well worked between Marc Walton and Phill Bell and finished off terrifically by Andrew Johnson, and I thought we did particularly well for 15 minutes after that but then sat back and let them (Norton) come back into the game.
“It was difficult to get out up the hill but I just did not think there was enough desire from us and it was a typical game after New Year’s Day.
“Obviously it was disappointing to go into the encounter without the injured Matty Grieve and Gareth Rees, so we had to change things a little at the back, Dean Deagle had to play at left back and Craig Scott had to come across into the heart of the defence.”
The boss asked his players to raise their game in more ways than one.
“I thought the players’ performances were a little bit flat,” he said.
“We talked at half-time about how we needed to lift everything – the performance, the way we were playing, and to play better football with the wind down the hill.
“And there wasn’t much in the game to be fair.
“Norton could not get out of their own half whilst we did not really get going in the second period either.”
Middleton was delighted, however, that his side have kicked on over the past few months – and won a game which they could have lost last year.
“The lads stuck with it; the character shone through and over the 90 minutes we probably just shaded the result,” he said.
“It was a game which had we played earlier in the campaign or last season we would not have taken anything from it.
“Marc Walton applied a terrific finish for the goal he scored from 12 yards and Phill Bell has also netted – and one which he has deserved.
“Phill’s work rate, and for that matter everything which he does for the team, is first class and he might not be always having the greatest of games but his mobility and his awkwardness to play against are both fantastic assets.”