By Brian Bennett
Ashington FC will be looking for two Christmas presents to be delivered on Boxing Day when they take on Whitley Bay at Woodhorn Lane.
Following the recent cold snap, the first is the weather forecast which looks favourable to allow the tussle between these two local sides to go ahead.
Having banked up four consecutive postponements, the Colliers will be eager to return to action for the first time in over three weeks against a rejuvenated Seahorses outfit under manager Nicky Gray.
Consequently the contest between the Colliers, who lie in third place in the Ebac Northern League’s first division and second from top Whitley who are a point ahead, promises to be a top of the table Christmas cracker in every sense – and provided the game gets the green light, will represent the half way point in the league schedule for both clubs.
But whilst the weather remains key, the other present which the Woodhorn Lane side will be hoping for is another bumper crowd.
The Wansbeck side have already set a new attendance record this season when 1,424 came through the turnstiles in early October to watch Ian Skinner’s side beat higher status opponents Stocksbridge Park Steels 3-0 in a third qualifying round replay of the Emirates FA Cup whilst in the previous round, over 700 witnessed the 2-1 win over Bradford Park Avenue and four other home gates have attracted over 600.
Ashington chairman Brian Shotton said: “We are hoping that the game will go ahead – and if it does, then it will be over five weeks since our last home game which is far from ideal from a cash flow perspective. I know the weather has impacted on games being called off but you are also hoping to keep the interest bubbling amongst your supporters.”
He continued: “I’m hoping fans from both clubs will come out in force for the match and if they do, it could see us break through the 1,000 barrier for the second time this season for a home match. Boxing Day is a traditional footballing day in the calendar and it’s a big game between two of the best supported sides in the league – two teams who are chasing at the top of the league – so we need all the support we can get.”
The weather has resulted in cancellations for Ashington against Whickham, Redcar Athletic, Heaton Stannington and Carlisle City – the latter where the whole programme in the ENL was postponed on Saturday due to frozen pitches – but the break has allowed a number of players to recover from injuries.
For the clash, Kieran Graham will be the referee with Connor Kitson and Michael Moore as his assistants. The kick-off is 1pm.