Sunderland RCA 2-1 Ashington
A wonder goal three minutes from time by Sunderland RCA substitute Dylan Elliott sewed up victory for his side but was wretched luck for a battling Ashington outfit at Meadow Park on Saturday, writes Brian Bennett.
The Colliers had been reduced to ten men following Ryan Bell’s first half dismissal then Michael Chilton received his marching orders for dissent after there was controversy in the build up leading to Elliott’s sublime winner.
The extremely strong downfield wind caused problems for both sides and Ashington – kicking with the advantage on their backs in the opening period – made a positive start against a side who had dumped them out of the FA Cup in mid August.
Inside four minutes, a clever back-flick by Tony Stephenson sent Luke Salmon scampering through and when he crossed, Lee McAndrew was thwarted by ‘keeper Keith Finch.
McAndrew struck a right foot sizzler narrowly over before Ashington were reduced in number with the sending off of Bell. The defender made a hash of an attempted header back to Grant which put Nathan O’Neill through 30 yards from goal. The striker was fouled by Bell who was last man and consequently shown the red card and when play restarted, Grant pushed out the resultant free-kick by Adam McGuinness.
Colin Larkin had a shot blocked then Stephen Callen drove across the face of the goal. Grant denied O’Neill before Ashington went ahead. Chilton’s persistence in pressing the back line saw the defender play the ball to Finch whose clearance was blocked by Stephenson who then swept home from close range.
But two minutes later, it was all square as Ross Preston drove a daisy cutter wide of Grant following a free-kick.
And in the fourth minute of five added on, the picture could have been worse for Steve Bowey’s side until Grant brilliantly denied Callen.
Early in the second period, Elliott had a 30 yarder pushed aside by Grant then Salmon burst forward again on a foraging run and his left footer stung the palms of Finch.
A draw looked on the cards, but in the 87th minute Elliott struck a wonderful winner from 30 yards out.
Seconds later, Chilton made a comment to the referee and was promptly sent off leaving the Colliers to see out the game with only nine men.