By Brian Bennett

Ashington will go into Saturday’s Cleator Cup final (July 23) against North Shields at Woodhorn Lane with three of manager Ian Skinner’s summer signings – Damen Mullen, Darren Lough and Lee Mason – fighting fitness battles.

Of the trio, Mullen is the biggest doubt – with Skinner adding that the midfielder is potentially facing a race against the clock to be ready for Ashington’s Ebac Northern League first division curtain raiser at home to Seaham Red Star on Saturday week (July 30).

The Colliers hosted South Shields in another warm up game on Tuesday evening ahead of the Cleator Cup clash against Marc Nash’s North Shields outfit and Skinner said: “We had two good games against North Shields last year. Obviously both squads have changed slightly but there is the added fact that there is a bit of silverware at stake. The game has been switched to our place and it would be nice if we can play a little bit better than we have done today in our single goal defeat against Charnock Richard.”

He continued: “We have a really good week coming up and we’ll find out where we are at the end of it. South Shields will be a tough test on Tuesday because they play a couple of steps above us then North Shields, who won promotion from our first division last season, come to us on Saturday.”

He went on: “Without being disrespectful, I think we need those next three games against South Shields (Tuesday) and North Shields (Saturday) at home and away to Blyth Spartans (Tuesday July 26) – because it will force us to be better. At times – and with no disrespect to the four teams we have played so far – I think we’ve played within ourselves whereas we will not be able to do that in the next three games – instead we’ll have to be at it from minute one. We’ll have to work really hard both in possession and out of possession and when we do create chances, we’ll have to take more care and be a little bit more ruthless.”

The Cleator Cup final has a 3pm kick-off.