By Brian Bennett

Ashington FC manager Ian Skinner expressed mixed reactions after the new fixtures for the 2022/23 were released by the Ebac Northern League on Friday.

After contesting the Cleator Cup final against North Shields on Saturday July 23, the Colliers begin their Ebac Northern League first division programme with a clash against Seaham Red Star at Woodhorn Lane a week later (Saturday July 30) which is followed by a visit from Northallerton Town three days later and Skinner said: “It’s always nice to start with a home game – albeit we haven’t got a great record against Seaham in recent seasons and last year they completed a double over us but we’ll prepare properly and look forward to it. Obviously we’ll potentially have some debutants and a potential for a good crowd so it’s got the makings of being a really good game – but we’ll be looking to get off to a positive start.”

He continued: “However, I’m disappointed with several other aspects. Four out of our first five league fixtures are at home and although people may question my argument, it’s almost a fifth of the season’s home games within the first month so there’s a multitude of things like terms of revenue into the club and supporters who are maybes not season ticket holders simply not being able to afford it. I’m a traditionalist and I would prefer a home and away basis. I’m also disappointed with some of the away fixtures early in the season. We go to Carlisle City on a Tuesday night and the following midweek we travel to Penrith. Later on we have the journey to Redcar and going there midweek last season was a disaster – even though we won 4-1. We got five minutes to warm up and it was late on that we came back to secure the victory because the preparation had been poor. If we played the likes of Carlisle, Penrith and Redcar on a weekend, as a club you’ve got more chance of your fans travelling whereas it’s going to be really difficult for supporters to make the midweek trek and it will hamper player availability – there’s no doubt about that. Plus I’m sure fans could make a ten miles trip down the road as opposed to an 100 mile round journey midweek. Then some of our closest games against the likes of West Allotment Celtic and Newcastle Benfield are on a Saturday – which I think is baffling.”

He went on: “Further down the fixture list, I also can’t understand why we play Heaton Stannington twice in the space of ten days whilst the away game at Pickering – and without looking too far ahead – is fixtured on a cup weekend. So if we get through in the cup then Pickering could potentially become another midweek travel for us. I’ve seen some reaction on social media and the league have put out some correspondence saying a couple of issues have been raised by clubs about dates for certain matches and they are aware of these issues and will address them as soon as they can.”