By Brian Bennett
Ashington manager Ian Skinner emerged from the dressing room following his sides 5-3 away defeat at Whickham on Saturday and revealed: “I’m still in shock.”
The Colliers went ahead in the contest on no fewer than three occasions but gave an abject second half performance, capitulating in the final ten minutes and Skinner said: “To be honest I’m still in shock that we have lost the game 5-3 despite being really poor and below par. We were 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2 up and when you go 3-2 ahead with only 14 minutes remaining you should never lose the game – the very least you should come away with is a point. If someone beforehand had stated those statistics to me and that we were going to lose 5-3, I wouldn’t have believed them – but it’s happened and it needs to be addressed quickly. The fifth goal you take because defender Ben Harmison has gone up front and stayed up there and we are all over the shop a little bit. It’s one of those situations where you are losing 4-3 and you take a risk to try to make it 4-4 – but the chances are you might also concede and then the game has gone from you.”
Reflecting on a first period which saw the Colliers go in at the break holding a slender 1-0 advantage, Skinner said: “It was a game of contrasting styles (of play) to be honest. We knew it would be. We know that Whickham look to get the ball forward as quickly as they can and we know they are big and physical so it’s something we always challenge our players about. We have got some technically excellent footballers who want to get the ball down and play but I just thought today we were way below par both in and out of possession. Out of possession we didn’t work hard enough to make it difficult for them (Whickham) and in possession we were really sloppy. We didn’t play to the levels we are capable of – that said we found ourselves 1-0 up at half time after a good header by Ben (Harmison) and you hope that that is going to be the catalyst to kick on in the second half. But after the break I just thought we were miles off and were really, really poor. Again out of possession as a team we didn’t seem to defend. We didn’t defend the box well; we allowed them (Whickham) to get into the area too easily and the goals we conceded were really poor – and I think that is three or four times now this season where we have been away from home and have shipped four of five goals – and that’s not good enough.”
He continued: “Collectively you defend as a team and it was too easy to expose our penalty area and then we didn’t defend the box well enough. There were some individual mistakes in there as well which you can’t legislate for but we’ve got to be more difficult to play against because otherwise the flashes of brilliance that we show like for the second goal to go 2-1 up and the third goal to go 3-2 up, count for nothing and leave me frustrated. In short spells, two of the three goals are great moves, great football, great play and a great finish but again they count for nothing because we haven’t rolled our sleeves up and haven’t made it difficult for them and that’s the disappointing thing. We will dust ourselves down as we always do, we’ll reflect on it ahead of training this week but the lads who haven’t played today as well as those who weren’t in the squad have to come into contention for Saturday’s home game against Bishop Auckland otherwise they’ll come and knock on my door and ask ‘when do I get my chance?’ – and it’s only fair that we look at freshening things up.”
He concluded: “To be honest, I didn’t see eight goals being in the contest today and when they (Whickham) drew level at 1-1 from a free kick which went straight in which admittedly was a great strike, I thought ‘we’ve got a game on here.’ I just felt that they (Whickham) worked harder than us; were stronger and more physical than us whereas we didn’t quite look up for it today – for whatever reason and we need to get back to winning ways.” For Saturday’s 3pm kick off – against a Bishop Auckland side who lifted themselves out of the bottom three following a 2-0 win at Sunderland RCA at the weekend – midfielder Paul Robinson is unavailable.