North Shields 0
Tony Stephenson notched a superb hat trick as Ashington brought the curtain down on their season with a convincing victory over North Shields at Woodhorn Lane on Saturday, writes Brian Bennett.
Astonishingly, whilst Steve Bowey’s side have completed the double over Bishop Auckland, Washington and Billingham Synthonia this term, it is without doubt the two league victories over the Robins which have caught the eye as they have netted nine goals against a side who began the day sixth top of the table.
Colliers boss Steve Bowey had said he wanted to finish the campaign on a high with a positive result – and he certainly got that as his squad had more fire in their bellies and showed a far greater will to win than their neighbours from North Tyneside.
With regular ‘keeper Conor Grant automatically ruled out with a torn quad muscle injury, Luc Glasper came in for his second start between the posts and was one of four changes from the side which went down 2-1 against Shildon in midweek. Ashington began well with Dale Pearson narrowly off target in the fourth minute but Shields responded immediately with Joe Robson’s initial effort being blocked by Craig Scott then his second was fisted away by the diving Glasper. However the home side went ahead in the eighth minute with a fine strike by Stephenson.
Damien Stevens was the provider, crossing low from the right where Stephenson slotted the ball across ‘keeper Sean McCafferty and inside the upright. Robson went close to hitting an equaliser, his drive flying just wide then after Stephenson had had a shot blocked, the same player nodded wide of McCafferty’s right hand post.
Glasper fielded a shot on the turn from Shields marksman and former Ashington striker Gareth Bainbridge then when play switched to the other end, Stephenson played the ball through for Stevens who netted but referee Jonny Urwin disallowed the effort for a foul. Stevens had a shot which took a deflection to go behind for a corner then a shot from ex Colliers midfielder Ben Sampson was touched away by Glasper.
In the 37th minute, Ashington doubled their advantage. Pearson’s throw from the left was glanced on by David Edwards and Stephenson applied the finishing touch with a header at the near post. Two minutes into the second half, Craig Scott flicked a free kick by Pearson to Stephenson whose half volley on the turn was grasped by McCafferty. Kurtis Dodds blocked a shot by Pearson in the six yards box then an instantaneous break by Shields saw Bainbridge strike an effort wide of Glasper’s right hand post.
Dean Holmes lashed over then Glasper pulled off a smart save from Ben Richardson, turning the ball around. However two goals in the space of three minutes put the Colliers into an unassailable 4-0 lead.
Just past the hour mark, the tenacity of Stevens led to an error as the striker pressurised Jordan Summerly whose back-pass saw McCafferty miscue his clearance. The ball fell into the path of Stephenson who calmly advanced before stroking it into an empty net. Stephenson then turned provider, slipping a pass through for Stevens who accelerated before clipping a delightful effort wide of the advancing McCafferty for Ashington’s fourth.