By Brian Bennett
Ashington FC manager Ian Skinner gave himself several minutes to draw breath before giving his postmatch assessment after his side had claimed a dramatic 3-2 win with the last kick of the game against West Allotment Celtic at Woodhorn Lane on Saturday.
Skinner had seen his outfit – who led 2-0 at the break with goals from skipper Ben Harmison (penalty) and Liam Smith – pegged back with sub Liam Beeston (penalty) and Scott McCarthy on target for the visitors. Harmison then turned one point into three for the Colliers as he converted his second spot kick of the game in the sixth minute of time added on.
The Colliers boss said: “With lots of other games being off in the league due to the weather, today was another catch up game for us. So the aim was to play really, really well, play some good football, create lots of chances and to win the game – and if we couldn’t do all four then to make sure we got all three points. We did that and to be honest I thought it was a game which we deserved to win.”
Skinner admitted that there was a significant turning point in the contest: “A big moment happened very early in the game when young Lucas Lowery-Matondo – who is a student at Gateshead College where I work and who is an exceptional talent with a bright young future – had a one-on-one opportunity and when I saw him go through, I did think he would finish it but he dragged his shot wide. It was a big turning point for us because in true Ashington fashion, we had a 20 minutes spell where we dominated the ball, got a penalty and scored and then put together a fantastic move where Karl Ross should have netted but hit the ‘keeper. We’ve recycled the ball and after another good move, Liam Smith has finished well to put us 2-0 ahead. However towards the end of the first half, I just thought we lost our way a little bit and the game became a bit scrappy.”
He continued: “At half time we talked about trying to keep a clean sheet which we’ve been good at doing this season and that we didn’t necessarily need to score another goal but to dominate the ball; move them (West Allotment) around; tire them out and if a chance presents itself, then let’s take it. After 20 minutes I remember looking at my watch and thinking we’ve had a couple of half chances and although we’ve dominated the ball, we might just see the game out at 2-0. But what I always say about West Allotment Celtic is that they have got a fantastic team spirit; they never give up and we talked about if they got one back, they wouldn’t stop. Their equaliser probably came because we lost our shape altogether and we became really open to play against which isn’t like us this season.”
Skinner was naturally delighted after the late drama: “Good teams go until the end and I always remember Sir Alex Ferguson’s teams at Manchester United who were renowned for going until the end and scoring late on,” he added, “We’ve done it a couple of times this season and it happened again today and to be fair it would have been two points dropped if we hadn’t got the winner. There were periods of the game which we were really, really pleased with and a period which we were not so pleased with. However in the grand scheme of things, we’ve played when our rivals haven’t and we’ve added three points to our tally which keeps us in and around the pack at the top of the league but all we can do is to concentrate on ourselves.”
Skinner reserved his final plaudit for groundsman Scott Robson: “First of all it was fantastic that the game was on,” he said, “Since we moved to Woodhorn Lane we know historically about the fantastic drainage of the pitch and I can’t remember the last time we had a game called off because of water. It drains well but Scott (Robson) keeps on top of it and maintains it brilliantly. He’s probably left a covering of grass on slightly longer than usual as we have to protect it and I thought the pitch played really well although it cut up – which it was always going to do because of the wet weather.”