Ashington FC manager Gary Middleton readily admitted that Andrew Johnson’s return to action following a six-week lay off had given his side a huge lift.
And that was even before Saturday’s 6-1 thumping over Bishop Auckland at Woodhorn Lane.
The boss waxed lyrical about Johnson’s influence after the skipper had scored twice and laid on two of the other four goals.
He said: “We had the encouragement of Andrew Johnson – who has been a big miss – making his return.
“We didn’t start off great but after we went 1-0 down, the lads competed really well against a very strong and physical Bishops side.
“Overall, they worked ever so hard and closed people down, and when they won the ball back we had that bit of creativity.
“And on top of that, they played as a team and not individuals, which resulted in quite a few team goals.
“The quality in the final third was much better – something which we have been trying to work and improve on, and that boiled down to numerous good performances.
“I thought Lance McGlen created an awful lot in the first half down the right hand side, then there was Johnson’s quality whilst the two front lads, Marc Walton and Glen Taylor, linked up very well.”
Ashington cruised into a 4-1 lead within two minutes at the start of the second half, and Middleton added: “We spoke at half-time about how it was really important that we got the next goal.
“Even with a 3-1 lead I didn’t think the game was dead and buried.
“We missed a lot of chances but we came out and played with that same tempo and desire as we had in the first half.”
The boss was delighted as his side handed out six of the best – and picked out the final goal by Kyle Downey as being the pick of the bunch.
“There were some fantastic goals but my choice for the best was the last one,” he said.
“It was a great little pass round the corner from Tony Stephenson to Johnson who could have scored his hat-trick but squared it for Kyle.”
Middleton, reflecting on some indifferent results of late, cited several contributory factors.
“No one has been deliberately trying to play the way we have of late,” he said.
“We had a focus and an awareness of how we wanted to play but for one reason or another, players hadn’t been playing well; we weren’t getting the rub of the green whilst we had a lot of injuries – and even today, Marc (Walton) has picked up a groin strain.”
He continued: “We had the bonus of Andrew Johnson and maybe his presence has sparked a few of the players.
“Certainly if you were a striker, you would love Johnson coming back into the team for his creativity.
“It was very pleasing that we put in a performance today and got a result against a good team.”