By Brian Bennett
Ashington FC manager Ian Skinner was delighted on Saturday – after a terrific strike from Andrew Cartwright cemented a precious 1-0 win for his side over Guisborough Town.
Over the years, clashes between the two clubs – particularly on Teesside – have always been extremely well fought but Saturday’s contest took on even more significance with Ashington fourth in the first division of the Ebac Northern League table and the Priorymen only a few points behind in fifth.
“I was delighted with the win,” said Skinner afterwards, “It’s a tough place to come and they (Guisborough) are having a good season themselves being just below us in the league table so it was a big three points for us. Yet again the group have bounced back after a disappointing result at Pickering the previous week – which has been a bit of a theme for the season.”
Chances were rare in the first 45 minutes and the boss added: “I don’t think we were quite at it in the first half and I thought it was a scrappy affair. The ball was in the air a lot; there wasn’t a lot of possession or build up play from either team so it was one to forget in terms of it being a contest – but nevertheless we battled; scrapped; worked hard and stuck at it.”
He continued: “At half time we talked about playing to our strengths a little bit more and shortening our game up. Ben (Harmison) has played up front today and I think in the first half we took the easy option on too many occasions of playing early and long and into him – and that’s not really Ben’s game. Anyone who has seen him play will know that he’s better with the ball in and around his feet and chest and such like. Also we needed to move them (Guisborough) around. They played with a back three so whenever a team does that, if you can exploit the space in behind the wing backs and down the outside shoulders of the outside centre backs that’s what is going to cause their system problems – and I think from the first minute (of the second half), you could see the intent that we were going to try and do that. Andrew Cartwright got on the ball; Karl Ross has made a great run from inside to out – we’ve played it up the line and got in and forced a succession of about three or four corners within the first five minutes. I think that really set the tone for the second half because in terms of possession of the ball we really dominated; in terms of getting the ball into key areas we did it far more than Guisborough and I’m just pleased we managed to get something to show for it with a good well worked goal at the end. It was a little ‘give and go’ and we always talk about the full back when he’s played outside to step inside – and fair play to Andrew Cartwright who’s put the ball into the back of the net.”
He went on: “From then on we’ve sort of managed the game well and seen it through. Our ‘keeper Karl Dryden made a great save in the first half but after that, I can’t remember him making any more. However, he did fantastically well when deep into added time, he came and claimed a corner which is what you want your goalkeeper to do when it’s virtually the last kick of the game so credit to him for that.”
Skinner outlined that the win came at the start of what is a ‘big week’ for the Colliers with back to back games against Redcar Athletic (Tuesday February 14) and West Auckland (Saturday February 18) at Woodhorn Lane: “To be honest, I can’t wait to get back playing at ‘home’ again as it seems like an eternity – not just with Ashington but all the other football I’m involved with as we seem to have been on the road forever,” he added.
For Tuesday’s 7.30pm start, Skinner will await fitness reports from striker Dan Maguire – who came off after 33 minutes at Guisborough – as well as Luke Salmon who missed Saturday’s game through illness. However lynchpin defender Darren Lough is a definite non starter: “Darren has broken toes sustained in the Pickering game so we’ll miss him for a few weeks,” added the boss.