Ashington extended their unbeaten run at Dunston’s UTS Stadium to four matches on Saturday after earning a deserved share of the spoils.
The two teams played out a hard fought contest which was certainly not a bore draw but provided pulsating viewing for both sets of supporters.
Last season’s contest had resulted in a 1-0 win for the Colliers, despite the visitors ending the game with nine men after Tony Stephenson and Glen Taylor saw red.
Saturday’s full blooded encounter, where there was no quarter asked or given, saw six yellows, three for each side, by Middlesbrough referee Samuel Packer.
The first semblance of a chance fell to the Wansbeck side in the ninth minute after Dylan Williamson had forced a corner on the right. Kyle Downey floated the ball across but Paul Dunn headed a good opportunity well over.
Dunston responded with Liam Thear finding Malcolm Morien but he applied a weak connection and keeper Conor Grant saved with ease.
Another Downey flag kick caused danger when it fell to Chris Moore who beat a defender but saw his effort blocked for another corner.
In a five-minute period, Thear cut inside and fired over then Steven Richardson drove across the face of goal from the left.
However, in the 36th minute a golden chance fell Richardson’s way. Moore lost the ball, James Harmison slipped which put Richardson clean through but the striker was denied by Grant who blocked superbly.
Ashington went straight down the other end and Luke Gilhespy almost put the ball into his own net after a cross by Williamson.
The action was unrelenting and Francis schemed a one-two before driving a low effort from 25 yards which flashed just wide with Grant scampering across his goal.
Four minutes from the break, the Colliers had a gilt edged opportunity of their own. Dunn was the provider of a through ball but Williamson delayed his attempt to chip home stopper and skipper Liam Connell who saved with his chest.
Early in the second period, Morien had two chances but shanked the first wide and miscued the second which Grant gathered.
Williamson, latching onto a Dunn pass, put the ball the wrong side of Connell’s left hand post then Harmison made a trademark block to deny Dan Smith.
On the hour, Smith went around Grant towards the byline and when he drove goal wards, the retrieving Liam Atkin cleared, amid vociferous shouts for a penalty. The home outfit claimed the Ashington defender had ushered the ball away with his hand.
Paul Weldon, Andrew Johnson and Williamson combined to create Ashington’s next threat but Daniel Halliday made a vital interception, then substitutes Josh Gray and Michael Bell linked with Johnson but Connell raced to the edge of his area in the nick of time to smother.
Ashington continued to defend stoically but in the 70th minute, it was Grant who kept the scoreline blank. A swift move by Francis and Morien set up Thear whose instinctive right footer was brilliantly pushed away by the keeper.
Then Williamson found Bell who turned only to be thwarted by a superb tackle by Adam Wilkinson.
Ten minutes from time, Grant spooned his clearance which fell to the feet of Francis but from distance, the midfielder fired wide.
Six minutes from time, Johnson cottoned onto a flicked header from Bell but his centre went agonisingly across goal when only a touch was required.
Both sides had been strong in defensive but Ashington’s whole-hearted effort on the day was typified by the outstanding Harmison who continually put his body in front of the ball to make vital blocks.
On Saturday Ashington are away to newly promoted Seaham Red Star (3pm) then the Colliers welcome Guisborough Town to Woodhorn Lane on Tuesday, September 15.
Ashington: Grant, Atkin, Weldon, Dunn (Gray 57), Harmison, Grieve, Moore, Downey, Williamson, Kanda (Bell 57), Johnson. Subs not used: Race, Quinn, Thompson.