By Brian Bennett
Ashington FC manager Ian Skinner was naturally disappointed after his outfit had lost on penalties against Newcastle United under 23’s in their Techflow Marine Northumberland Senior Cup quarter final tie in front of a record breaking attendance at Woodhorn Lane on Tuesday night.
A bumper crowd of 1,357 saw the young Magpies go into a 2-0 lead with goals from Jay Turner-Cooke and Cameron Ferguson before Ashington levelled in the second half through Karl Ross and Craig Spooner. The tie then went to a penalty shoot out which Newcastle won 5-3.
Skinner admitted that after his sides first half performance, he was pleased that the players had rallied after the break: “We had Newcastle watched – and I also watched them myself – and we thought we could cause them some problems and that we’d be in the game for sure. However, we approached it like any other – where we wanted to be on the front foot and wanted to win – but it didn’t quite happen for us first half. I don’t know whether we gave them (Newcastle) a little bit too much respect and didn’t get close enough to them or whether we are not used to playing against opponents that move the ball as quickly and as well as they did. There were a few things I was disappointed with in the first half including us conceding a poor goal. To be fair those first 45 minutes were littered with mistakes both in and out of possession. I felt myself getting frustrated and I could sense the players were getting a little bit frustrated with themselves and each other because we all know we are better than that.”
He continued: “Our ‘keeper Karl (Dryden) has made a great save to keep it a 1-0 and at half time we just tried to change one or two things. We talked about trying to get on the front foot coming down the slope that this pitch has – and again the game was passing us by a little bit and I was starting to really fear with my biggest disappointment for the players going to be that they hadn’t showed everybody who had come to watch how good they are – especially those people who had come for the first time. Obviously we have got a fantastic hardcore of 300 – 400 fans who have been coming this season and they know what we are capable of and I didn’t want them to go away disappointed thinking ‘we can play better than that’ whilst the ones who were here for the first time I wanted them to see that we are building a good side here.”
He went on: “Consequently, after making substitutions to freshen things up a little bit I was pleased we managed to get a little bit of momentum in the game. We started to pass the ball and once we made three or four passes, there was a little bit of belief came back in and we created some chances and have scored with a great header following a great cross. We equalised and after that we had a couple of little chances and I thought ‘we might just nick this.’ But to be fair to Newcastle, they finished the game strong and the momentum and the effort we put into having to get back into it at 2-2 we started to see some heavy legs. Karl (Dryden) has made a good save to keep us in it and they (Newcastle) have had a couple of shots from long range. To be fair, I’m pleased there was no extra time because I’m not sure it would have been much of an event if we had had to match them for another 30 minutes.” He concluded: “Obviously a lot of planning goes into a game like this. The advanced ticket sales were fantastic and the crowd of 1357 – a record for this ground – were also fantastic on the night.”