By Brian Bennett

Furious Ashington FC manager Ian Skinner said Pickering Town’s late winner on Saturday was unacceptable and that his side are ‘too loose and lackadaisical’ in the final third.

After winning three games on the bounce, the Colliers dominated the game from start to finish but left Mill Lane with empty handed.

The Wansbeck outfit went a goal behind in the first half but just when it looked as if they were going to take at least a share of the spoils through substitute Luke Salmon, the Pikes scored with five minutes remaining.

“Obviously, I’m very disappointed,” said Skinner afterwards, “I thought our first half performance was really poor. People who have been here today may disagree because they have seen an Ashington team who started quite well and were quite bright – and we got in down the right hand side with Craig Spooner and Lewis Suddick. But the story of the recent games is that we get into the final third and are too loose and too lackadaisical and we don’t take enough care of it (the ball). I’ve said this before that it’s the hardest part of the pitch to get into because that’s where goals are scored so players defend that area really, really manfully. We got into great positions two or three times but didn’t take advantage of it and got caught with a classic sucker punch from a free kick. I didn’t think it was a free kick but we haven’t defended a ball into the box and they (Pickering) have scored.”

He continued: “We got in at half time and I didn’t say a great deal because I’m not a manager who screams and shouts or rants and raves but I found it really difficult not to lose my temper – and I’m not somebody who likes to do that. Second half, Pickering are going to do what you would do. They are finding points hard to come by so they sit in and try and invite us on and play a little bit on the break and their forwards worked very hard when they got the ball up to them. They kicked the ball off the pitch as far as they could and again that’s part and parcel of the game. It’s a side of the game that frustrates you because if you are leading and do it, everyone thinks it’s great – but if you’re behind like we were and are trying to get back into the contest, you think it’s terrible.”

He went on: “We got an equaliser and you then think ‘we might just go on to win it.’ But after we had worked hard, taking everything that came at us, to concede again to what was their only shot in the second half is not acceptable and beyond belief to be fair.”

He added: “There’s just something about us in that final third because we’ve gone from being free scoring to struggling to score goals and again I think lots of it comes down to being too loose and slack when we get in there (the final third). Certainly the last 10-15 minutes of the game, our decision making was way off. There were times when we took a shot when it was on to play somebody in and vice versa. But at the minute, it just feels as if I’ve got to get after them a bit (the players) to drive standards up. Coming into today, we had had a run of three wins on the bounce and then all of a sudden, we have this plummet where our standards really, really drop. So now I’ll have to get after them again to get back to the standards they are capable of – and I shouldn’t have to do that with this group. They are better than they are showing at the moment and need to start showing it again – or the only alternative is that we look to bring one or two new faces in and freshen things up and that might be what it needs.”

He continued: “We were playing a team who knew it was going to be a really difficult game playing against what is a good Ashington side. They knew they were going to have to work hard and battle and scrap for everything – and when teams do that at the minute, my team struggle. Coin my favourite phrase ‘hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard’ – I keep hammering that home and today is an example of it.”

Without a fixture in midweek, the Colliers travel to face an in-form Guisborough Town side on Saturday (February 11) before they play Redcar Athletic at Woodhorn Lane on Tuesday February 14.

For Saturday’s trip to Teesside, Skinner will await fitness reports from skipper Ben Harmison, Darren Lough, Dan Maguire and Jordan Summerly.