By Brian Bennett
Ashington FC manager Ian Skinner certainly did his homework on opponents Bradford Park Avenue in preparation for Saturday’s second qualifying round tie in the Emirates FA Cup which the Colliers won 2-1 at Woodhorn Lane.
And after the final whistle, Skinner’s immediate thoughts were one of delight – for so may people connected with the club.
Skinner speaking within minutes of the win against the National League North side said: “I’m obviously delighted – for the players, for the club, for the fans and for all the hard work which goes into preparing for these types of games. Personally I’m not looking for any plaudits but the chairman (Brian Shotton) and myself drove down to Bradford on Monday evening to watch them in action against Darlington. I also managed to get a copy of every game in which they had played this season. I must have sat watching hours and hours of footage of them (Bradford) to work out how we could look at playing against them. Then you read comments about how it will be a great day for their strikers to boost their confidence because they haven’t scored many goals and I just thought ‘I’ll stick that piece of news on our dressing room wall!’
He continued: “One thing was uppermost in my mind – a way of how we wanted to try and play because we set up purely and simply to win the game – nothing else. I said to the lads ‘I think we can win it and I expect us to win to be honest.’ They (the players) were fantastic in training on Thursday. They showed some real quality in the final third around how we were going to play – so full credit to them because they have taken the information which they were provided with on board.”
On the first half, Skinner said: “For the early exchanges I thought we were the better side and deserved to go ahead. We had them rattled a little bit in the first 20 minutes then we just seemed to drop off a touch and invited them to have the ball. We knew their danger was big diagonal balls into their striker Jacob Blyth and then looking to get Brad Dockerty and others around him and playing off seconds – and they grew into the game and had a couple of chances. They had a goal ruled off in the first half but our ‘keeper Karl Dryden hasn’t really had a save to make and we’ve come in at half time ahead.”
He added: “We talked about one or two things at the interval in terms of being a little bit braver and staying on the ball a bit more in the way we usually play and combining and putting passes together. We knew there was a bit of a wind so when they (Bradford) tried to play a little bit more direct it (the ball) would hang up in the air. Again we fashioned some chances; Lee Mason was clean through and it was a good save from their ‘keeper (George Sykes-Kenworthy) then Mason has had a fantastic and technically brilliant strike which has hit the bar.”
With quarter of an hour remaining, skipper Ben Harmison added Ashington’s second with a header – and Skinner said: “I was right behind the effort and it was one of them where it was looping and you think ‘it’s in, it’s in’ – only it took an age for the ball to drop into the net! At 2-0, you think ‘let’s see if we can manage the game out’ but to Bradford’s credit – and it was a cup tie where they had to go for it – they started to cause us problems. The left back had real quality and started to get little three versus twos down our right hand side and they got balls into the box and from one which was half cleared, they’ve pulled one back. It wouldn’t be Ashington if we didn’t make things a little bit exciting! They had another goal disallowed for offside but then after that we managed to see the game out relatively comfortably and we’re in the hat for the next round.”