Ashington 3-2 Whitley Bay
A second half hat-trick by Damien Stevens was the highlight as Ashington notched their first calendar win of 2018 against high fliers Whitley Bay at Woodhorn Lane on Saturday., writes Brian Bennett.
The treble by Stevens – all scored with his right foot – came inside a quarter of an hour purple patch and put the Colliers on the victory trail.
Despite his side conceding a last gasp leveller to draw 3-3 with Stockton Town the previous week,
Woodhorn Lane boss Steve Bowey had stated that a win was “almost there” – and his outfit achieved it in style too, toppling a Bay side who arrived in Wansbeck boasting a highly impressive and eye catching run of eight consecutive league successes on the road.
The club welcomed Nick Dunn – recently acquitted after enduring a four year nightmare in an Indian jail - and his family to the match and then following an impeccably observed minutes silence in memory of youngster Frankie Sherwood, the early stages in this contest were totally uninspiring. A weak effort from Peter Glen-Ravenhill from 20 yards was easily fielded by home ‘keeper Conor Grant then at the other end, Ben Christensen and Dale Pearson combined to set up David Edwards who after cutting inside, curled a right footer wide.
The clearest opening came in the 19th minute and fell to the Colliers. Pearson and Luke Salmon schemed a move down the left which led to a corner and when Lee McAndrew swung the ball in, Ryan Bell’s goalbound header was blocked on the line. After Kyle Patton had hit the side netting for the Seahorses, Ashington carved out another great opportunity on the half hour. Christensen and Pearson featured down the right but when the latter pulled the ball square, Kyle Downey’s first touch let him down and chance evaporated.
Barely sixty seconds later, home fans were shouting for a penalty. Pearson pushed an effort past ‘keeper Thomas Flynn which was drifting wide of the target and when Stevens valiantly attempted to squeeze the ball in from an acute angle, it was blocked on the line - arguably with his arm - by Ross Wilkinson but a spot kick was not given by Gateshead based referee Stephen Dial.
Minutes later, Ashington spurned another opening. Pearson who featured in almost every Ashington attack in the first period, was again at the hub of the move and when his attempts to find Stevens proved unsuccessful, the ball ran invitingly into the path of McAndrew who tried to place his right footed effort which went straight into the midriff of Flynn.
If the first half had been somewhat flat - Ashington hoping that they would not rue missed chances – the second period developed into an enthralling and rip roaring contest.
Eight minutes in, Stevens got the first of his three, poking the ball high into the net past Flynn from a tight angle after an in-swinging left wing cross by McAndrew. Fifty-three seconds later, Flynn prevented a second. Pearson cut inside from the right but looked on as his daisy cutter was pushed around by the ‘keeper and although David Edwards met McAndrew’s deep corner at the far post on the volley, he could not keep the ball down and fired wide. The action continued unabated as Bay drew level on 58 minutes.
Wilkinson headed down a free-kick into the path of Peter Glen-Ravenhill who slotted the ball wide of the advancing Grant. But the scores were level for a matter of only six minutes as the Colliers regained the lead – through the sheer brilliance of Stevens. Whitley Bay were caught out by the speed and delivery of a long throw in from the left flank by Luke Salmon which found Stevens perfectly inside the area and after applying a terrific first touch, the striker coolly steered an effort across Flynn and inside the far corner.
Three minutes later, Pearson was impeded in the area after a challenge by Bay skipper Callum Anderson and Gateshead-based referee Stephen Dial pointed to the spot with Stevens sending Flynn the wrong way to complete his hat-trick.
The closing stages were exciting as Whitley pushed forward with Ashington trying to catch their opponents on the counter attack. Christensen was forced to make a timely block to thwart Christopher Salmon inside the six yards box then after a build up on the left Jack Walker fired over from 20 yards. in the final minute of the 90, the Seahorses got renewed hope when substitute Connor Campbell met a cross from Walker to plant a diving header wide of Grant to reduce the deficit. But after three minutes of time added on, the final whistle sparked off celebrations for Ashington who secured their first victory since defeating Newcastle Benfield 3-0 just before Christmas.
*On Saturday, Ashington are away to Washington (3pm).