Yet again Ashington fail on the big stage with FA Vase defeat

Ashington's Kyle Oliver celebrates after his equalising goal. Picture by Ian Appleby
Ashington's Kyle Oliver celebrates after his equalising goal. Picture by Ian Appleby

Another year and another inglorious exit for Ashington from the prestigious FA Carlsberg Vase.

The dream ticket of a trip to Wembley for the showpiece final in May was only five steps away.

But for the Colliers it is now another season away after another painful afternoon – and one of frustration.

As against Shortwood and Bodmin in the past two years of the competition and now Wisbech, just what is it about the Colliers – Northumberland Senior Cup final apart last season – that they fail to deliver on the big stage?

Kyle Oliver provided a timely and much needed boost in stoppage time in the first half with an equaliser, but that aside it was an abject performance at best on the day from Gary Middleton’s men.

Yet for all that, and quite significant in the scheme of things, ‘The Fenmen’ ought to have poured an extra glass of champagne for keeper Carl Mackney in their post match celebrations ahead of the long trip back to Cambridgeshire.

For it was Mackney whose outstanding and quite breathtaking save from home skipper Andrew Johnson five minutes from time denied the Wansbeck outfit what would have been an equaliser and would have provided them with a lifeline.

Instead the Woodhorn Lane outfit will reflect on a performance where they never got going.

Wisbech settled from the start and got the fillip of an early lead with Tom James on target.

The referee had already mystified home supporters with a couple of decisions and in the ninth minute Colliers fans were again left curious as to why he had blown for a Wisbech free kick just outside the area.

The award was for a shirt pull and after lining up his shot, James stepped up to plant a right footer wide of keeper Karl Dryden and into the net.

Ashington were anonymous in the attacking third, borne out by the fact that it was not until the 20th minute when they threatened.

Even then, Marc Walton’s effort, after receiving from James Taylor, was easily held by Mackney.

The home side thought they had levelled when Kyle Downey slipped a short pass to Glen Taylor but his shot rippled the side netting, then on three occasions inside five minutes, Andrew Johnson picked out Craig Scott from right sided corners but the defender was unable to hit the target.

Wisbech, first to nearly every ball, had not troubled Dryden since the goal but they went close to doubling their lead when Matt Lunn’s shot clipped the base of the post, then Adam Millson’s sweetly struck drive flew narrowly wide.

Ashington’s performance had certainly not gone according to plan but in stoppage time at the end of the half they got back on terms.

Johnson once again was the supplier of a deep corner from the right where Oliver’s bullet like header beat Mackney and a defender on the line.

It was a timely boost for the home side but it still failed to bring out the best in the Colliers after the break in what was a flat performance.

James Taylor had a low cross intercepted at the near post and a Wisbech defender sliced the ball over his own bar following a cross by Walton.

Johnson volleyed wide and Walton just failed to get on the end of a David Carson cross which took a deflection.

Then came the defining incident in the 73rd minute when Carson upended James inside the area.

At first Darlington-based referee Geoff Liddle played on before pointing to the spot and James sent Dryden the wrong way from the penalty.

After being injured and leaving the field, Oliver picked up a yellow card for re-entering play before being waved back on.

Then Mackney’s save broke all Ashington hearts and in an instant turned what had already been a grey afternoon into a dark abyss.

Ashington: Dryden, J Taylor, Lough, Oliver, C Scott, Christensen, Carson (Norris 77 mins), Johnson, Walton, G Taylor, Downey (Brittain 77 mins). Subs not used: McGlen, L Scott, Barnard.

Attendance: 396.

On Saturday Ashington are at home to Spennymoor (3pm), then entertain Consett at Woodhorn Lane on Tuesday, January 28.