Ashington 1-2 Guisborough Town
Ashington skipper Shaun Henderson and striker Damien Stevens were both sent off as the Colliers tumbled to their third league defeat in four matches against Guisborough Town at Woodhorn Lane on Saturday.
The Priorymen also had forward Anthony Hume dismissed – all three heading for an early bath after an unsavoury incident 10 minutes from the end.
Zak Atkinson’s goal on the hour for the home side – who were trailing 2-0 shortly after the interval – had put the game back in the melting pot.
Indeed, the Wansbeck side looked as if they could force an equaliser until the flashpoint which happened on the halfway line and in front of the main stand.
Visitors’ right-back Bradley Mills was one of four players – two from each side – who were also cautioned during the second period and the home crowd believed Mills ought to have been shown a second yellow after a collision with Jay Hornsby on the touchline.
Referee Johnny Urwin thought otherwise and when Henderson went in with a late tackle on Mills, the game boiled over. Mr Urwin consulted with his two assistants before separately calling over Henderson, Stevens and Hume and giving them their marching orders.
The incident completely overshadowed what had been a decent although not absorbing game with both sides playing some good football.
Yet for all that, chances in the first period were scarce.
Within 30 seconds, Mills made a powerful run into the home box but shot wide, then Liam Armstrong made a telling block to deny Hume.
Steven Roberts fired over before, in the 33rd minute, the Colliers carved out their first opportunity.
Kyle Downey’s in-swinging corner from the right was flicked on and Armstrong – steaming in at the back post – put the ball wide.
Five minutes later, an even better chance fell to Gerard Richardson. Downey slipped a lovely pass through but the forward saw his effort superbly parried by keeper Jordan Nixon, with Richardson lashing the rebound into the side netting.
Ashington were rocked within four minutes of the second half commencing, as Guisborough scored twice from set pieces.
The opener came just a minute in, when a free kick was floated into the box and Henderson, attempting to clear on the edge of his own penalty area, completely sliced the ball which fell into the path of Lee Bythway, six yards out, whose right footed volley left ‘keeper Conor Grant flat footed and went into the far corner. Guisborough’s second came from Nathan Steel who met Joe Ferguson’s restart and gave Grant no chance with a classic header at the far post which went across the ‘keeper and inside the upright.
On the hour, Ashington manager Steve Bowey made a double substitution introducing Sam Norris and Damien Stevens for Lee McAndrew and Tony Stephenson – and within two minutes, the move culminated in Zak Atkinson reducing the arrears.
A cross from Hornsby found Norris on the right and when he whipped the ball goal wards, Atkinson applied the finishing touch from close range. With half an hour remaining, the crowd sensed a rip roaring finale.
Neither side created a chance during the next 20 minutes – then the red mist descended on Woodhorn Lane - and any hopes of a late rally vanished completely.
*On Saturday, Ashington are away to Penrith (3pm).