By Brian Bennett
Ashington FC manager Ian Skinner emerged after the 4-1 victory over Whickham at Woodhorn Lane on Tuesday night and said that although his side were not at their fluent best, he was nevertheless delighted with back to back victories following Saturday’s 2-0 result over Thornaby.
The Colliers led 2-0 at half time with goals from Ben Harmison and Andrew Cartwright and when Lang Jacks defender Garon Garside put through his own net in the first minute after the interval it was just the start the home side wanted.
Whickham skipper Dale Burrell reduced the arrears in the closing stages before substitute Craig Spooner scored a stoppage time fourth for Skinner’s side.
“It was good to get another win and put another three points on the board,” said Skinner afterwards, “We knew it would be a tough game because Whickham work hard for each other and have got good team spirit and we knew they would come here and make it difficult for us but I thought we started the game really brightly. Within the first minute or so, we forced them into an error and that helps if I’m honest because it sets the tone and Ashington people think ‘yes we are on this tonight.’
He continued: “We just struggled to find our rhythm but when we did, we scored a fantastic goal following a great move which we had worked on with Ben Harmison being in the side and playing upfront. We talked about getting them to work on opposites and delivering the ball into that space in behind the back lines because now if teams want to come and sit deep, he gives us a different option and if they (the opposition) want to drop even deeper to prevent that ball then we’ll play in front of them. Then Ashington did what Ashington do – and went and gave a penalty away which I thought was really, really harsh if I’m honest. The second bit of football we played, we played out well and broke the lines. We attacked with numbers onto them which brought the foul and from Andrew Cartwright’s delivery obviously the ball took a massive deflection for the goal.”
He went on: “We went in leading 2-0 at half time and without being disrespectful, I thought it was relatively comfortable. There was a period of about ten minutes where we kept the ball and moved it and we talked about keeping clean sheets and defending properly throughout the game and if opportunities presented themselves we’d try to take them but if they don’t and we manage the game properly, we win the game. We got the perfect start to the second half really. We were quick out of the blocks again and forced them into a mistake which unfortunately for them has seen the lad (Garon Garside) put the ball into his own goal. After that, I thought the game petered out a little bit. We had two or three half chances where we’ve turned the ball over in and around their final third but maybes haven’t quite fashioned chances. Ben Harmison has had a superb header at the back post and the ‘keeper has made a great save – again from a good move where Karl Ross has gone down the wing and put the ball in early.”
He added: “We then lost our way a little bit and became very disjointed and very messy with Whickham coming into the game a little bit more. They stuck Jamie Dunn up front and bashed the ball up to him then Dale Burrell scored with a decent free kick for them – but if I’m honest I think we should have done better to defend it.”
He concluded: “We kept going right to the death and the ball has dropped to Craig Spooner and he’s lifted it over the keeper with a great finish. We’ve won 4-1 and if anybody had said that to me before the game, I’d have taken it. We were able to take key players off after an hour and I don’t think you can ask for a lot more. It’s now back to back wins and although we are not quite playing as fluid and as free flowing as we did earlier in the season, what we are doing is still picking up results and that’s what matters in the division.”