MARC Walton’s seventh goal of the season secured a hard fought victory for Ashington over a battling South Shields outfit at a windswept Filtrona Park on Saturday.
The win extended the Colliers’ sequence of results at what has become their favourite hunting ground to eight victories in as many visits – only tasting defeat in the Craven Cup in the 2000/01 season and an FA Vase reverse 14 years ago.
Matches over several campaigns have always been well contested – the sides battled out a 2-2 draw at Woodhorn Lane in mid-November – and Saturday’s was no different.
The all important strike which decided the contest arrived on the half hour.
Mark O’Dea, restored to the midfield, sprayed the ball out wide on the right to Gareth Bainbridge who advanced before squaring it across for Walton, who nonchalantly steered a left foot effort from 14 yards wide of a flat-footed Jonathan Ball in the home goal.
In truth, the whole game – although played with full commitment from both sides despite a strong wind – contained only a sparse amount of opportunities.
But whilst Ashington enhanced their chances of achieving a top six finish, the Sand Dancers – on this showing – are in a false league position.
Unbeaten in seven matches before their FA Carlsberg Vase exit at Shortwood, which was quickly followed by a narrow 2-1 loss at West Auckland, Gary Middleton’s side have strung three wins and a draw from their last four outings and thought they had got off to a flying start only to be thwarted by the referee’s assistant.
Tommy English slotted the ball through for O’Dea who netted, but their joy was short lived as the official had his flag raised for offside.
Shields hit back and a pin-point cross from the right by Denver Morris picked out ex-Collier David Colvin whose goalbound volley was superbly palmed away by the alert Karl Dryden.
Shortly afterwards another dangerous raid saw another former Ashington player Johnny Wightman clip the ball into the area where Craig Scott – who was to have a stormer of a game at the heart of the defence – headed clear.
In the 25th minute, Shields were forced into a change when Wightman was carried off with a knee injury, and five minutes later they were trailing after Walton struck.
In response, Morris cut inside two defenders but fired over, then on the stroke of half-time Bainbridge was off target with a header after a corner by English.
Two minutes into the second half, Andrew Johnson got possession and crossed for O’Dea, whose right footer drifted wide – and how the Colliers in hindsight would have welcomed a second goal at that juncture.
For after Lee Bell had fired wide at the far post following a Paul Talbot corner on the left, the Wansbeck outfit had to weather a storm from Jon King’s side.
In the 55th minute, a cross from the right from Matthew Soulsby found Andrew Barclay whose right foot shot was brilliantly saved by Dryden going to his right, then an effort from substitute Simon Fitzpatrick was cleared off the line by English.
Stephen Ramsey also went close, but after soaking up the pressure, play finally switched with Johnson finding Bainbridge but his driven cross was held at the near post by Ball.
Shields still posed a threat even though their earlier concerted pressure had now been checked by a resolute Ashington defence with the Colliers looking dangerous on the break.
In the 89th minute, English put the ball through for Walton but the striker fired into the side netting.
Ashington: Dryden, Buzzeo, Lough, Taylor, Atkin, Scott, Johnson, O’Dea, Walton, Bainbridge (Godsmark 68 minutes), English. Subs not used: Young, Dugdale, Grieve.
On Saturday Ashington are at home to Shildon before the Colliers travel to face Bishop Auckland on Wednesday, March 21.
n In midweek, two goals from Marc Walton put the Colliers on the road to a 3-1 win over Consett at a rain lashed Woodhorn Lane.
Walton – playing against his former club – scored the opener in the eighth minute after the visitors keeper Peter Jameson had paid the penalty for applying a poor touch to a back-pass.
Gareth Bainbridge capitalised to cross for Walton to net.
On the hour Walton got his second, finishing well after a great ball knocked into the area by Tommy English.
Eight minutes later Walton set up Bainbridge who buried his shot from 16 yards past Barry Poskett, the substitute keeper having only been on the field three minutes for the injured Jameson.
In the 72nd minute, Michael Mackay was held in the penalty area by home skipper Liam Atkin and the Consett striker made no mistake from the spot, sending Karl Dryden the wrong way.