By Brian Bennett
Ashington FC manager Ian Skinner looked on as his outfit were forced to come from behind against a ten man Penrith side on Saturday before they ‘successfully carried out the challenge’ with a 3-1 win at The dwmedia Stadium.
Indeed the first footing Cumbrians – looking to climb away from the bottom of the Ebac Northern League – took the lead with a 13th minute penalty from Jamie Armstrong. The home side levelled on the hour mark through Jordan Lashley and after Matthew Moynan had received his marching orders for a second yellow card offence, the Colliers took all three points with goals in the final five minutes of normal time from Adam Johnson and Dean Briggs.
“The biggest thing for me was the challenge we set the players this week which was to make sure we returned after our break with a win – and we’ve done that,” he said, “There are still lots of things still to work on but lots to be pleased with – in particular the manner in which we attacked in the second half and scored three goals. We had two good training sessions in the week leading into today’s game and all we talked about was to make sure we got back into the swing of things and look to win as many games as we can between now and the end of the season so I was more than satisfied. Lots of people kept asking me if the three and a half weeks lay off was going to be good or a hindrance and I think in the first half it looked like it was a little bit of the latter. We probably dominated the ball although Penrith did look dangerous on the counter attack. We had a lot of possession and got into some good areas but made the wrong decisions; missed a couple of really good chances and conceded what looked like a penalty in my eyes, so I had no complaints. They scored to go 1-0 up and when you are the away team and are looking for some results like they are, we have given them (Penrith) something to battle and scrap for and to their credit they did that. The message at half time was to be patient. There were things which we acknowledged as being good whilst some things we needed to be better at but the positive was we were creating chances and we just needed to be a little bit more composed and take one of those chances. Usually if we get one (goal) then we tend to go on and get two, three or four.”
He continued: “Second half we like to come down the bank and I was pleased we stuck at it without being our free flowing selves. Again we dominated the ball and created some good chances but didn’t quite take them, whether the ‘keeper has made a save or it has been a block and the follow up has fallen to us and surely we’re going to put it away – only we didn’t! Then you start to think that Penrith are a little bit of our bogey team really over the last few seasons because they have drawn a couple of times and have also won here. However, we equalised with a good move and good goal. It was a training ground move which we had worked on, on Thursday to score at the back post and it’s nice when that happens. It was a great ball in from Paul Robinson and Jordan Lashley – who was quiet a little bit today – did really well to head it home. After that I thought we could only beat ourselves. Obviously they’ve had a man sent off which helps us and hinders them because they are already playing with quite a low block and looking to hold on really so it was pleasing to get the second goal which Adam (Johnson) took really well. After that Dean Briggs scored a third and we could have added a few more.”
Skinner was delighted with the fitness levels showed by his squad: “We’ve worked the lads quite hard in the trainings sessions and the fitness levels looked good,” he said, “Even right into stoppage time we had lads looking to make runs forward to try and create further chances. In the dressing room now there are tired bodies and we’ve asked them to recover properly over the next 48 hours and be ready for training on Tuesday because now our attention turns to two sessions and an away game at Sunderland RCA on Saturday.” He concluded: “I knew the pitch had been quite firm in places with the heavy frost but it had thawed out and the worrying aspect was the rain which made things more difficult. However, it was nice to be back; I was pleased we got the game played and delighted we picked up three points.”