By Brian Bennett
Ashington FC manager Ian Skinner afforded a wry smile after watching his team dismantle higher status Ashton United and comfortably go through to the second qualifying round of the Emirates FA Cup following a 3-0 win in their replay at Woodhorn Lane on Tuesday night.
The Colliers will now host National League North side Bradford Park Avenue on Saturday week (September 17).
Skinner – who always uses the philosophy of not being too high after a win or too low after a defeat – admitted that after the score draw on Saturday in Greater Manchester, that he had taken some criticism on the journey back up North: “I got a bit of stick on the coach coming home on Saturday for being miserable and underplaying our achievements,” he said, “but sometimes I look at things and think ‘I hope that wasn’t our chance’ because I said afterwards that I thought we just shaded the game down in Greater Manchester.”
He continued: “In terms of the replay tonight, I thought on chances we deserved to win. We talked about being brave and having purpose to our possession and we did that. Dan Maguire has scored a great goal for our opener – a great footballing move and it gave us the belief to stick to our principles of getting the ball down and playing. We nearly had an unbelievable second through Maguire when he’s wriggled and twisted and turned but he’s hit the ball against the post. However, we had to be wary because Ashton are a good side and to be fair, they’ve switched the ball across the pitch well to try and open up the diagonal to play forward early. Again I thought our back four were magnificent – that’s 180 minutes against a team who are two divisions higher and 40 odd places above us in the pyramid and we haven’t conceded a goal – which has sometimes been our achilles heel if I’m honest.”
He continued: “At half time, we talked again about being brave and getting on the ball and playing and if we did that then I felt that the way we can move the ball – especially at home and coming down the bank – that we could cause Ashton more problems and we did. After we got a second goal, they’ve had a little bit of sustained pressure for around ten minutes or so where we struggled to get out and gave away too many corners and invited them (Ashton) to keep putting the ball into the box – but again we defended fantastically.”
He went on: “We always knew we would have a chance on the break with the pace of Dan Maguire and also after introducing Adam Johnson. AJ (Adam Johnson) takes some catching and there’ll not be many quicker than him about – so we just thought ‘okay, we might have to sacrifice our principles a little bit and look to play in behind a bit quicker and exploit the space because they (Ashton) are going to push on and try and get into the game. It was a bit of icing on the cake that we managed to fashion a chance albeit a little bit of a mistake by the defender which has allowed Johnson in for our third goal but he’s finished it off in some style. So over the two games I think without being disrespectful we deserved to win the game and go through and even more so tonight that Saturday. I thought we were better tonight than we were on Saturday and we’ve got our rewards through the goals. I’m delighted for the players and for everybody who are involved and who help around the club as well as the supporters.”