Ashington FC manager Steve Harmison praised his players, despite being on the wrong end of a 2-1 defeat by defending league champions Marske United at Woodhorn Lane on Thursday night.
Harmison said: “The work rate, effort, desire and will to work for each other was excellent.
“That is the best the team have started for a long, long time, and they played some lovely football.
“I was excited to see the side I put out and was over the moon at the end with the way they played, bearing in mind I couldn’t call upon Andrew Johnson, Michael Dixon, Andrew Bulford, Ryan Bell, Ben Harmison and Paul Dunn – and apart from Bell who has just recently joined us, that is a big chunk of people who have played a lot of games for us this season.”
After James Harmison had opened the scoring, the Colliers were pegged back when Connor Hood equalised.
Nathan Mulligan netted the winner from the penalty spot in an incident which saw home keeper Conor Grant sent off.
“We had three or four good chances in the first half, but things didn’t go our way with good blocks by Marske,” he added.
“I thought it was an end to end good game of football and I really enjoyed it, but it got a bit feisty by the penalty decision.
“Whether it was a mistake or not, Matty Grieve is standing behind Conor Grant and Conor is adamant that it wasn’t a red card.
“I looked at players’ reaction and at the time they tell me it wasn’t a red card either.
“Then at the end when the ball clearly hit the Marske player’s hand in the penalty area, again instinct reaction from players tells you what they believe the decision should be.”
He continued: “The last few weeks we have been a very tough team to play against, and in the last couple of minutes, Marske, the reigning champions who are still fighting for the league, were keeping the ball in the corner when we have got ten men and a centre forward in goal. That tells you how hard and how well Ashington worked.”