Threat of relegation still hangs over Ashington

Ashington midfielder Kyle Oliver in a midfield tussle during the 2-0 defeat at Bishop Auckland. Picture by Ian Appleby -
Ashington midfielder Kyle Oliver in a midfield tussle during the 2-0 defeat at Bishop Auckland. Picture by Ian Appleby -

Silverware via the League Cup remains a possibility for Ashington, but right now manager Steve Harmison and his group of players would be more relaxed if they were to become disentangled from the threat of relegation.

The Colliers rest uneasily sixth from bottom of the Ebac Northern League’s first division as the trap door continues to lurk on the horizon.

But with four of their eight remaining matches against clubs below them, starting with Saturday’s home clash with West Allotment Celtic, it is very much a case of destiny being in their own hands.

The clash at Heritage Park saw the home side shake off the shackles of six consecutive defeats in bizarre circumstances with goals stemming from three pieces of good fortune.

For the first, the ball took a wicked double deflection whilst the second was an unpreventable own goal by Lance McGlen.

Amid difficult conditions yet again with a swirling wind, the visitors could have made an impact after only 59 seconds.

A punch out by home keeper Scott Pocklington fell to Joe Moscop and when he floated the ball into the danger zone, James Harmison’s header flashed narrowly wide.

Bishops’ first threat came minutes later following a cross from the right which caused consternation inside the Ashington area with McGlen relieved to clear.

Dylan Williamson had a drive turned away by Pocklington then a lofted pass from Lewis Brown saw keeper Conor Grant just reach the ball ahead of Andrew Johnson.

And midway through the half, it was Grant who kept the score sheet blank, parrying from Johnson after the striker had intercepted a cross-field pass from Wayne Buchanan.

In the 27th minute the Wansbeck side felt aggrieved when Buchanan was penalised for a foul 30 yards out, and from the restart Bishops went ahead.

Jordan Lavery drilled the ball forward which was deflected, but even more significant was Oliver Hotchkiss’s effort as it came off an Ashington defender to loop over the helpless Grant and drop inside the post.

Within seconds, Kyle Downey’s shot from distance was clawed down by Pocklington, then Glen Taylor headed on a Lewis Davison cross for Williamson who fired over.

Early in the second half Johnson went close with an effort from 22 yards before on the hour Pocklington got across to his left to scoop away a header from Taylor after a ball played in by Moscrop.

Moments earlier, boss Harmison had introduced Michael King for Stephenson and the newcomer saw his 70th minute header from a Downey corner turned over by the home stopper.

King was then instrumental as he set up Glen Taylor but the skipper delayed his shot and was blocked out.

Ashington came again after Buchanan had won a tackle and found Moscrop. He fed Taylor who cleverly outwitted his marker but his cross was intercepted by Elliott Woods.

Ashington skipper Andrew Johnson came on for the final quarter hour following a long term injury, but it was Bishops who called the tune in the final stages.

Grant kept out a shot from Johnson with Harmison clearing the ball off the line, then a free kick by Hotchkiss from fully 30 yards rattled the bar.

In the 87th minute, Johnson seized on a poor throw out by Grant and fired a drive which saw the keeper redeem himself as he pushed over in brilliant style.

John Butler headed wide but in the fourth minute of time added on, a long kick forward by Pocklington saw McGlen unable to get out the way of an attempted clearance with the ball flying off his boot and into the far corner of the net.

Ashington: Grant, McGlen, Davison (Priestner 69), Downey, Harmison, Buchanan, Williamson, Oliver, Stephenson (King 56), Taylor, Moscrop (Johnson 76). Subs not used: Airey, Robson.

Attendance: 215.

In midweek, a lone goal from Joe Moscrop proved decisive for Ashington against Guisborough in the quarter-final of the Brooks Mileson Memorial League Cup. The Colliers will now host Newton Aycliffe with the game to be staged at Woodhorn Lane on Tuesday March 31 with a 7.45pm kick-off.

In the other semi-final, Dunston UTS will meet the winners of the Shildon v Seaham Red Star clash.

On Saturday, the Colliers are at home to West Allotment Celtic (3pm).