Spennymoor show their class in win over Ashington

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The introduction of ex-Colliers striker Dan Taylor on the hour had a lasting effect on Saturday’s opening Ebac Northern League fixture between Spennymoor and Ashington.

Leading by a single goal at the time, Taylor lit the touch paper which sparked last season’s FA Vase winners and league runners-up into overdrive.

He set up an easy chance which Andrew Stephenson converted to put the Moors two in front.

Thereafter Ashington – desperate to continue their good form of the past couple of seasons at the Brewery Field – simply could not live with the home side and after a quick fire brace from their new centre forward Liam Henderson which took the tally to four, the final whistle was a welcome relief for Gary Middleton’s side.

On a day when the Colliers boss handed debuts to four players with another three on the bench, his plans suffered a setback on the morning of the match when defensive lynchpin Craig Scott pulled out with a groin injury.

Nevertheless having to shuffle his pack, Middleton must have been reasonably happy as his side performed admirably enough in the first half and looked to be going into the half-time break on terms.

But in the 44th minute, Moors’ will o’ the wisp striker Gavin Cogdon broke the deadlock.

Even then, either side of the interval, ex-Spennymoor midfielder Michael Laws could have levelled – his first opportunity of the two presenting him with a more realistic chance – but he spurned it.

And after Stephenson had doubled the lead, Ashington were never a match against a side strongly tipped to lift the league championship this term.

It was schemer Stephenson, who after testing keeper Karl Dryden with an early drive, fired just wide.

Ashington’s first sniff of an opportunity came in the 32nd minute from a quick raid when James Taylor and Andrew Johnson set up the overlapping Lance McGlen down the right, but his low cross was intercepted for a corner.

Within a minute, Henderson had side-footed home from a Craig Ruddy pull back but the score was disallowed for offside.

Then a stinging Cogdon drive was tipped away by Dryden with Daniel Moore going close from the resultant corner.

Ashington pieced together a neat move which ended with Johnson curling wide, but shortly before the break the Moors edged ahead following a short corner on the left.

Ruddy found Wayne Phillips and when he crossed, Cogdon’s glancing header found the corner.

Yet within a minute, the scores ought to have been level.

A curler from Johnson was pushed over by Kyle Hayes – the ex-Whitley Bay and Ashington keeper – and from the corner, Glen Taylor nodded the ball forward only for Laws to head over from close range.

It was a marvellous chance and at the start of the second period after Dryden had held a drive from the ever impressive Stephenson, another went begging.

Johnson’s dangerous free kick was dummied in the centre of goal by Marc Walton but the ball just eluded Laws arriving at the far post.

Moors had signed Dan Taylor on the eve of the match and the ex-Newcastle United and Oldham Athletic forward marked his arrival with an assist – which came within 25 seconds of his introduction after replacing Phillips – and resulted in a pivotal second for the home side.

The ball was slotted through for the newcomer who went past the advancing Dryden and when he pulled the ball back from the by-line Stephenson made no mistake firing in.

Henderson and Taylor went close then following a corner on the left, Stephenson’s drive was fisted over by Dryden.

However, from the corner on the right by substitute Anthony Peacock, Henderson peeled away to head home number three with a free header.

Two minutes later, it was four.

Henderson picked up possession and curled the ball home from just inside the penalty area.

In the closing stages, Hayes dealt with efforts from Glen Taylor and Kyle Oliver whilst a left foot volley from 20 yards by Johnson went wide.

Ashington: Dryden, McGlen, Oliver, Laws (Briggs 79 mins), Atkin, Grieve, J Taylor, Watson (Norris 64 mins), Walton (Carson 76 mins), G Taylor, Johnson. Sub not used: L Scott.

On Saturday, Ashington host Pontefract Colleries in the Extra Preliminary Round of the FA Cup (3pm).