By Brian Bennett
Ashington FC manager Ian Skinner was clearly delighted after watching his side claim a thoroughly deserved victory on the road on Saturday as they brushed aside Newcastle Benfield at Sam Smiths Park.
And afterwards, Skinner was pleased on several fronts when he said: “First and foremost, I thought it was a good professional performance from the players. We spoke beforehand about needing to improve our away form. Our home record is second to none but we talked about being a little bit more difficult to play against (away from home) where the onus is on the home team really to take the game to us whereas sometimes we go away and take the game to them and we get caught and end up with high scoring games which we have seen in recent weeks. So today we said: “let’s be brave; let them as the home team bring the game to us and then when we do get the ball and we transition from defence to attack, we go and do what we are good at because I don’t think anybody can argue that we have got a talented group of players who in possession love to play and love to get the ball forward. However, what was equally pleasing today was visibly being able to watch that out of possession, people wanted to run to recover back into position; people wanted to run to get the ball back and that’s all we ask of them (the players) really. Football is a game where you can talk about formations; systems; tactics; game plans, game models and philosophies on how you want play but ultimately we want players to run around when we have got the ball – as well as when we haven’t – and I thought we did that today.”
From a personal angle, after being involved in the game for many years Skinner notched another ‘first’: “It’s probably – and without being disrespectful – as comfortable as I’ve ever been in a game,” he said, “I just felt from very early on as if we were in control without being brilliant. Our ‘keeper Adam (McHugh) has made a couple of good saves to be fair but we have limited them (Newcastle Benfield) to very, very little. For us, we have scored three different goals; Karl Ross’s effort was from the edge of the box and was a good strike; Luke Salmon has put over a great ball for the second goal for Lewis Suddick and although the third one scored by Salmon is a bit of a scramble, it was welcome and pleasing to see – because Ashington don’t score too many like that! Benfield then had to decide whether to stick or twist and as the home team the onus is on them to keep having a go. Consequently it opened up more space for us and we could possibly have had a couple more – but I’ll not be greedy and if anybody had offered me a 3-0 win before the game – as well as a relatively comfortable afternoon – I would have gladly accepted it.” He continued: “We made some brave decisions because some players have played a lot of football recently. So we changed the line up and although people may have looked at the team and wondered why Ashington changed a winning line up after the win against Bishop Auckland the previous week, I just think we are at that part of the season now where not only have lads played a lot of football, there is a case of in the middle of the park where pitches – including our own – are getting difficult so I just thought ‘let’s freshen up that central area.’ Also to factor in is that we play five games – including a couple of midweek matches – in ten days so there was one eye on that aspect as well. It was nice that having made the decision to rotate one or two (of the players), it resulted in a positive result – but that now gives me more headaches for Wednesday night when we are away to Redcar Athletic! You always say to lads ‘when you get an opportunity – take it’ and Ben Sampson and Karl Ross worked tirelessly in midfield; Dean Briggs came back in today and worked hard out of possession – as did everybody else – so it was a collective for us both in and out of possession. Overall, it was a good team effort and I was delighted with the three points.”