By Brian Bennett | Photo: Ian Brodie
Ashington FC manager Ian Skinner said after the 2-1 Boxing Day defeat by Whitley Bay that his side need to get back to basics.
In front of a crowd of 771 on a bitterly cold day in Wansbeck, Skinner saw his outfit look lively early on. They took the lead through Lee Mason and skipper Ben Harmison had a chance to double the lead but blazed over a 39th minute penalty.
The Seahorses stung the Colliers immediately after the interval and after drawing level through Lewis Orrell, Luke Porritt netted what proved to be the winner.
Skinner said afterwards: “Obviously I’m disappointed with the result and some of the things in our play that happened during the game although there were other aspects which pleased me. We had a couple of chances in the first half through Lee Mason where the Whitley Bay ‘keeper (Dan Lister) has made a great save then Mason put us ahead and I keep saying if we get one chance to drop to anybody in the club it should be to him. Lee is a good finisher and he showed it with that goal. We looked dangerous a little bit in the first half – we were getting in between the lines and getting runners in behind their back three. Then we had a penalty and an opportunity to go 2-0 and on another day, Ben Harmison would score from the spot but he didn’t today – and it was a key moment in the game because if we had come in at half time holding a 2-0 lead it’s slightly different. We went into the dressing room at the break and there were a fair few things which we weren’t particularly pleased about.”
Whitley fashioned an equaliser inside the first minute after the resumption: “We started the second half dreadfully,” added Skinner, “We gave the ball away and conceded a really poor goal which eventually was a scramble in the six yards box and he (Lewis Orrell) poked it home and it seems to be a bit of a pattern for us at the moment that when we concede one, we ship another one quickly. We conceded three in six minutes at West Auckland and two in seven minutes today but just before their second goal we’ve had a good move with a ball into the box and Lee Mason has put it just wide.”
Shortly after, home stopper Kyle Hayes was caught out by a cross from Bailey Geliher which saw Porritt give the coast side a 2-1 lead: “You can’t legislate for individual errors which is what happened for Whitley’s second,” said the boss, “In the first instance, it was poor defending then the lad (Geliher) was stretching and he’s looked to smash the ball across to try and keep it in play. The wind has caught it; Kyle (Hayes) has misjudged it and went to try to tip it over the bar and missed it and it’s come off the front of the crossbar to Porritt at the back post who has bundled it in. After that they (Whitley Bay) were happy for us to have the ball a little bit and look to play on the counter attack and for the last 15 minutes we moved the ball but didn’t really create anything of real note. We had a couple of half chances; played balls across the box and flashed shots from the edge of the box.”
The defeat was Ashington’s third in four matches and Skinner continued: “All in all we’re naturally disappointed to lose at the half way point in our league programme. We started off the season fantastically well but we are having to adapt a bit to how we played earlier in the season. I keep mentioning pitches and again we are having to adjust. Teams are now aware of how we want to try and play and although the objective for us is to try and win every game, we are not going to do that and I think our players need to realise that they need to work a little bit harder (to win matches). In addition to the players, I think everybody connected to the club just needs to realise where it has come from. It was never going to be easy and I said at the start of the season that it would still be tough and not to get carried away. We have got a very talented group of players but to coin a favourite phrase of mine ‘hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.’ We just need to get back to basics to find our winning ways and get back to working hard; being a little bit more disciplined; doing the simple things well – and if it takes a scruffy 1-0 win then so be it but the sooner we can get that win the better. Nobody is pressing the panic button but we certainly need to realise that we need to be better – first and foremost ourselves and then we need to get back to winning football matches starting at home to Penrith on January 7.”
He went on: “I wouldn’t have argued if it had finished a draw today but it wasn’t to be so congratulations to Whitley Bay manager Nicky Gray and his team who came here and won – they are having a good season themselves. On reflection you could say we probably deserved a draw – but we didn’t get one and sometimes in football you get what you deserve.”
Skinner added: “There were pleasing things – we have got goalkeeper Kyle Hayes back who has come in and played well today. Obviously he’ll be disappointed with the second goal but he made a very good save low down to his right in the first half and he’s made a decent save in the second period so it’s good to have him back to compete for the number one spot with Karl Dryden. We also managed to get some minutes into Dean Briggs who had been out for ten weeks and who certainly looked bright and lively in the first half. He played a couple of balls through but faded massively in the second half which you would expect due to fitness.”
Ashington’s next game is not until Saturday week (January 7) and Skinner said: “The schedule is all over the shop because of bank holidays and training facilities not being available. We’ll probably train again this week and then twice next week ahead of the Penrith game when I’m hoping that I should have almost a full compliment of players to pick from.”