By Brian Bennett

Ian Skinner said at the weekend that his squad will be ready for Saturday’s Ebac Northern League first division opening fixture at home to Seaham Red Star (July 30).

The Ashington boss was speaking minutes after watching his side lift the JR Cleator Cup with a 3-2 win over North Shields – despite describing the treatment room at Woodhorn Lane as being like an ‘A & E’ department!

Skinner said: “Only recently I mentioned that I didn’t think we were ready – but the lads have worked hard since. The ethos of today was about the real bread and butter starting this coming Saturday and we certainly don’t want to be stumbling into the new league season. I almost challenged the players that the campaign started today so that we would hopefully go into Saturday’s opener against Seaham Red Star on the back of a good performance – which we achieved.”

He continued: “I was pleased for the lads today because even though we were 2-0 down at half time, I didn’t think there was too much wrong in the first half. We needed a bit more tempo; a little bit aggression; to be a bit more careful and to play with a bit more purpose in the final third – and I thought we did that second half.”

He added: “We’ll be approaching the Seaham match as we do with all our games – we’ll be looking to be on the front foot; we’re at home and we want to win as many games as we can.”

Injuries have already taken their toll in the warm up matches and Skinner added: “Our physio room is like A & E at the moment. We had seven players unavailable against North Shields today – the majority of those due to knocks and a suspension thrown in with that as well. I had a back four of Karl Ross – who is a central midfielder; Andrew Cartwright whose a right full back, Robbie Dale who can play anywhere and Jordan Summerly so of the back five, the goalkeeper (Karl Dryden) and the left full back were the only ones in their natural positions then we lost Thomas Kalthoeber early.”

For the Seaham Red Star match on Saturday – which will be quickly followed when Northallerton Town come to Woodhorn Lane on Tuesday (August 2) – Skinner said: “Thomas (Kalthoeber) will be out whilst I think Damen Mullen, Darren Lough and Paul Robinson are seriously doubtful. On the plus side, Lee Mason got 70 minutes under his belt today and Luke Salmon will be back from suspension which is a bonus. We’ll just have to see how the week goes but we’ll still be ready for the start.”