Stevens double sees Ashington sink defending champions Marske
Two opportunist goals in the second half from Damien Stevens put Ashington on the road to a tremendous 2-1 victory over defending Ebac Northern League champions Marske United on Thursday night.
The game was switched to Billingham Town’s Bedford Terrace ground due to problems with the surface at Marske, and it was the ‘home’ outfit who made a positive start.
They almost caught the Colliers out in the first minute when Luke Bythway and Nathan Mulligan worked a quickly taken free kick on the left which saw a shot from Adam Preston blocked by a combination of Ben Harmison and Matty Grieve.
Ashington threatened in the seventh minute as keeper Conor Grant found Andrew Johnson and the skipper ventured forward on a darting run, evading two challenges before being thwarted by a defender.
Within 60 seconds the hosts looked destined to open the scoring through the lively Bythway, who cut through until Grieve made a great last ditch tackle.
The Colliers, forced to dig deep and defend in numbers with Ryan Bell, Ben Christensen and Kyle Downey making vital interceptions, had the ball in the net through Stevens in the 33rd minute only for the effort to be ruled out for offside.
The Wansbeck side had to be resolute at the start of the second period with Nathan Mulligan prominent.
The forward saw a promising run ended when his shot from the edge of the area cannoned off substitute Paul Dunn for a corner, then Danny Brunskill fired a left footer narrowly wide.
Marske were getting closer to breaking the deadlock and in the 52nd minute Mulligan grazed the bar with a rasping drive.
However, three minutes later only the brilliance of stopper Robert Dean prevented an opener from the pacy Stevens. He burst through down the middle but saw his shot palmed out by Dean, who also blocked the follow up from Ben Harmison.
Adam Preston struck the Ashington bar, then within a minute the Colliers took the lead.
Grant’s long clearance dropped over the top of the Marske defence with Stevens capitalising and drilling a low shot from 12 yards wide of Dean and into the net.
A dangerous low cross by Johnson was cleared by Adam Wheatley then Christensen and Johnson combined to set up an opening for Adam Harvey who was blocked.
Stevens then doubled Ashington’s lead in the 83rd minute after an outstanding piece of skill.
Harvey rolled the ball square to the forward who spun and chipped the ball over Dean from 20 yards.
But there was late drama as Marske pulled one back in the first minute of time added on. A free kick from the right was returned into the middle and Brunskill had the simple task of prodding home from close range.
Just before the final whistle, Johnson shrugged off the attentions of two defenders and looked on as his right footer took a slight deflection and agonisingly missed the far post by millimetres.
Ashington: Grant, Christensen, Trodd (Dunn 17), Bell (J Harmison 38), Grieve, Downey, Harvey, Dixon, Stevens, B Harmison, Johnson. Subs not used: Taylor, Gunn, Hall.
On Saturday, Ashington are away to Jarrow Roofing, kick-off 3pm.