By Brian Bennett
Ashington FC manager Ian Skinner takes his side into the final of the Ebac Northern League Division One Cup against Newcastle Benfield at North Shields’ Daren Persson Stadium on Bank Holiday Monday (May 2) with an 11am kick-off, hoping they can reproduce some of their early season form.
The two sides have already met on no fewer than four occasions this season – both winning two apiece – but Skinner believes Mondays contest will be all about ‘who turns up on the day’: “I’ve said it before that the semi final is an awful place to lose – but the final is not a great place to be for losers either,” he commented, “So we will be going to win and will prepare the same as we do for every other game. We’ll train twice this week, potentially three times in terms of we may have a practice match on Saturday having not played since our away game at Consett. Cup finals are very much about who turns up on the day but the one thing I can guarantee – and obviously I watched the other semi final on Saturday between Sunderland Ryhope CW and Newcastle Benfield – is that we’ll have a game plan.”
He continued: “We’ve played Benfield four times already and I can’t recall a season where we have met the same opponents five times. It’s 2-2 – they have the upper hand in cup competitions knocking us out of the Emirates FA Cup and Buildbase FA Vase whilst we beat them both home and away in the league. However those previous meetings will have zero bearing on Monday’s encounter – they will count for nothing at all because it will be a different game. People may think it’s no big deal – but players are used to playing at 3pm on a Saturday afternoon so kicking off at 11am, the whole routine changes because we will be meeting at 9.30am so that will have to be factored into preparations. It’s two teams who know each other almost inside out. We know Benfield have one or two threats and we’ll have to be aware of them but the plan will be very much about us and if we go and play to the levels which we are capable of, and reproduce some of the football which have done during the season then we’ll stand a very good chance of winning. Will it be easy? No – it’ll be a difficult competitive game.”
He went on: “To reach a cup final is not a straight forward feat so I want the players to enjoy it and to embrace it – but they’ll enjoy it a whole lot more if we are successful and come home with the trophy to show everybody.”
Skinner already had to reckon without Luke Salmon and Max Emmerson through suspension and injury respectively but he added: “We think Bobby Taylor will be ruled out as well whilst the game will probably come too soon for Adam Johnson and Jamie Hanson who are desperate to prove themselves in training this week but neither have stepped onto the training pitch since picking up their injuries. Thomas Kalthoeber is a possibility but again remains highly doubtful.” Skinner is banking on the clubs fans to provide noisy encouragement from the terraces: “Ashington haven’t been to too many cup finals in recent years so it’ll be a fantastic day out for them – and nothing will surprise me in terms of how many supporters make the journey and get behind us,” he added.