By Brian Bennett

Ashington FC manager Ian Skinner says he is confident that the players already at the club can step up and fill the boots of Damen Mullen – after the midfielder returned to Hebburn Town having completed a month’s loan at Woodhorn Lane.

Mullen played his final game for the Colliers against Billingham Town on Saturday and Skinner said: “Damen will be a miss but we’ve got the likes of Yannick Aziakonou – who maybes hasn’t played as many minutes as he would have liked recently – or Karl Ross – who can come in and play in that position. On top of that, we’ve got players who will still be in the squad who we’ll look to and say ‘there’s an opportunity for you – come and grasp it with both hands’ and I’m confident the players we have got here will be able to step up and fill the void.”

On Mullen, Skinner said: “We always knew it was a month’s loan initially and as the time went on we maybes harboured ambitions of keeping him for a little bit longer – but Hebburn have asked for him back and that is their prerogative as they are his parent club. I think what we have seen from Damen is a real good character and a real class individual. He came to us, got his head down and knew he was behind in fitness to everybody else. He worked hard and stayed behind after training to do extra on his own and I was honest with him and tried to manage him the best I could.” He continued: “Damen started on the bench then got into the team and we played him in games and brought him off because what I promised him I wouldn’t do was basically bring him in and play him every minute – and have a chance of a recurrence of his injury. Damen offered us that quality and when you have played as many games as he has done in the higher leagues, it meant he offered us real quality and calmness on the ball and he was good in terms of both building our moves and breaking down the opposition’s attacks. He’ll be a miss – and we’d like to thank him for all his efforts.”