SATURDAY was the day when it was possible for all good things to come to an end – or fruition – as far as West Auckland were concerned.
The South Durham outfit would have seen them crowned champions of the STL Northern League with a victory over Ashington at Woodhorn Lane.
Only the Colliers had aspirations of their own – overtaking neighbours Whitley Bay in order to finish in fifth, their highest finish since Gary Middleton, Neil Winskill and Richie Bond took over the management reins three seasons ago.
Indeed, the last time the Wansbeck side finished fifth was in 1981 and in 1979 when they ended third, they had 76 points - so this season’s haul of 77 is yet another notable achievement.
The final outcome of the match – a win for Middleton’s troops – was richly deserved, and the jewel in the crown was a scintillating hat-trick from Marc Walton, pictured, in front of a crowd of 500.
Inside 72 seconds, Elliot Gardner fired over with a snap shot from the edge of the area, then Mattie Moffat’s header from a cross by Stuart Banks was cleared from the danger zone by Craig Scott.
However, in the fifth minute, Moffat found Michael Rae who made strides across the area until he was felled by a challenge from James Taylor.
Vociferous penalty shouts came from the West Auckland contingent – and Hartlepool-based referee Neil Sharp answered them in the affirmative by pointing to the spot.
John Campbell had scored with two penalties in the 6-1 win over Whitley Bay in midweek, but the striker was amongst the substitutes so Moffat stepped forward but was left speechless as his right footed effort was brilliantly palmed away to his left by keeper Karl Dryden.
West, who face Dunston UTS in the FA Carlsberg Vase final at Wembley on Sunday, May 13, continued with concerted pressure and after Rae’s 22 yarder which took a deflection had been taken by Dryden, the inevitable happened in only the ninth minute when they got their noses in front.
Moffat started and finished the move. He slipped the ball out wide to Jonathan Gibson who cut inside and when he crossed to the back post, Moffat, steaming in unmarked, made no mistake with a firm header into the roof of the net.
Within a minute, Ashington drew level. Andrew Dugdale played the pass which released Walton and he did the rest, coolly controlling the ball before advancing and driving low past Mark Bell.
Game on it most certainly was with West’s response seeing Rae unleash a drive from 20 yards which was pushed against the post by Dryden.
After the early excitement, the game settled down into an even affair with Moffat trying a curler from 22 yards which drifted wide, then the West skipper headed wide.
With half-time approaching, Ashington carved out an opening.
Jonny Godsmark and Walton combined to set up Darren Lough whose side footed volley was held low down by Bell.
A facial injury sustained by skipper Moffat led him to be replaced for the start of the second period with Campbell taking over up front and after three minutes play, only a fantastic save by Dryden going full stretch to his left kept out a curling effort from Gardner, then a left footed free kick by Tommy English only narrowly cleared the West bar.
On 75 minutes, a dangerous cross by Campbell was cleared in the nick of time by James Taylor, who was then deeply involved at the other end as the Colliers went 2-1 up with a classic strike from Walton.
The forward was blocked but from the rebound, Godsmark played a smart pass wide for Taylor who cut the ball back for Walton who instinctively swept home in one movement with a low right footed effort which left Bell helpless before finding the corner of the net.
Five minutes from time, Walton completed his hat-trick to seal the result.
Dugdale won a header in midfield to find English who played the ball over the top for Walton. The striker was left in a chase with the advancing Bell and won the race to lob over the stopper with the ball first bouncing in the six-yard box then finding the roof of the net, much to the delight of Walton and the Ashington contingent.
Ashington: Dryden, Grieve, Lough, Dugdale, Atkin, Scott, Taylor, O’Dea, Walton (Bainbridge 89 mins), Godsmark, English (Young 93 mins). Subs not used: Moscrop, Cunningham, Buzzeo.
n Representatives of the Mya Simpson Fund were delighted on Saturday when almost £700 was raised at Woodhorn Lane.
Both clubs donated sums of £200 each and referee Neil Sharp handed over his match expenses.
And with the amount from the bucket collection, the end figure was £692.21.
A spokesperson for the fund said: “We’d like to express our sincere thanks to everyone.”
Ashington chairman Ian Lavery said: “Saturday was a brilliant day in many ways and none more so than the fantastic financial support show to young Mya Simpson and her family.
“My sincere thanks goes out to everyone who supported the Mya Simpson appeal.”