Ashington 0-1 Newcastle Benfield
Ashington FC interim manager Ian Skinner spoke about being ‘immensely proud’ of his players - despite them playing for an hour with only nine men and going down 1-0 against Newcastle Benfield at Woodhorn Lane on Saturday, writes Brian Bennett.
Mark Turnbull’s goal proved to be decisive for the Lions - which sent the home side spiralling to a fourth consecutive defeat – and was sandwiched in-between two red cards for the Colliers who had Jake Turnbull then Paul Antony dismissed.
The defining action of the entire game came just past the half hour mark - and was incredibly condensed within the space three minutes. Firstly Turnbull was sent off by referee Mark Ryan for an off-the-ball incident on the far touchline before Benfield skipper Mark Turnbull, after seeing his initial effort repelled by home ‘keeper Conor Grant following a corner on the right, prodded in the rebound. Barely a minute later, Ashington were reduced to nine men. Again it was off-the-ball with Antony seeing red after a tangle with ex Collier Dale Pearson.
Ashington supporters could have been forgiven for fearing the worst – but what they witnessed was a terrific non-stop battling performance by their side. Admittedly, the Lions did have further chances coupled with Grant being in inspired form – but Skinner’s troops had a determination about their play as they tried to prevent a second and defended stoically.
They were still in the game with ten minutes remaining and after changing the shape, had a couple of raids which caused panic in the visitors ranks.
However, rather than dwell on the two dismissals, Skinner chose to laud praise on his players: “I’m not going to let the red cards deflect from what was a really, really good professional and solid performance for 60 minutes with only nine men,” he said afterwards, “We had to change the shape and the game plan. We managed to get to half time 1-0 down which was mightily important because we could then talk about different things.
The second half almost looked like a training game of attack v defence but what we couldn’t do was to concede a second goal and people watching sometimes need to realise that fact when you are two players short,”
He continued: “We had to be really compact through the middle of the park and make them play around us which would take longer and give us more time to recover in key areas. It also would make it difficult to play through us to the goal – and I thought the lads carried out the plan impeccably. They have played for an hour with nine men; not conceded a goal and I am proud of them - and the players should be proud of themselves.”
In the opening half hour, Grant denied Paul Brayson whilst a screamer from 30 yards by Jake Orrell flashed wide. Grant then parried from Orrell and the stopper also thwarted Dale Pearson. Early in the second period, full back Ryhs Evans had two opportunities before Ben Sampson got possession, advanced and let fly from 25 yards. The effort went wide but nevertheless drew warm applause from the home supporters. Brandon Morrison - on his full debut - headed wide from a Lee McAndrew cross before Pearson hit the side netting and an effort from Dean Holmes was pushed around by Grant who also blocked from Turnbull. A shot on the turn by Morrison was deflected to ‘keeper Andrew Grainger before a late flurry saw Sampson fire wide and Benfield relieved to clear a corner.
*On Saturday, Ashington are away to Seaham Red Star (3pm).