By Brian Bennett
Ashington FC manager Ian Skinner gave a massive shout-out to his squad following their 2-1 win over Newcastle Benfield on Friday night.
The victory propelled the Colliers up to second place in the Ebac Northern League’s first division table – but behind the scenes, Skinner revealed that he had experienced pre match problems due to illness: “It was a great result tonight and even more so because we’ve got some illness in the camp,” he said, “We lost Damen Mullen and Liam Smith before the game with this ‘flu bug which is going around whilst skipper Ben Harmison has been laid low for the last four days and today (Friday) was the first time he had left his sick bed. On top of that, I’m struggling a bit with it (the ‘flu) myself but again this just typifies this group of players we have here because they want to work so hard to try and take us to where we want to go and they deserve maximum credit.”
Harmison actually started the game until he was replaced with quarter of an hour of the contest remaining and was involved in the build up to the second goal scored by Craig Spooner shortly after the interval which added to a first half strike by Dan Maguire before Cameron Gascoigne reduced the arrears in the closing stages.
However Skinner’s overall message remains unchanged: “We’ll just keep looking at one game at a time,” he added, “We needed to come here tonight and win and we’ve done that. Now all of our focus is on Carlisle City whom we play at Woodhorn Lane on Tuesday (February 28).”
Reflecting on the contest at Benfield, Skinner pointed towards Maguire’s goal as being ‘key’: “I thought we started the game a bit slowly and Benfield began the better of the two sides,” he said, “It took us a little while to grow into the game and then when we did, we got one or two chances and scored a fantastically worked goal. It came a couple of minutes before half time and if you could pick times to score, that’s a key period. The opposition don’t get a lot of time to come back at you before the break and then when you get to the interval, it takes the sting out of the game and you start again.”
Skinner praised goalkeeper Karl Dryden when he added: “Second half I thought we started quite brightly and then we have scored a second early to make it 2-0. That makes the evening a bit more comfortable – and I thought for large periods of the second half, we did look comfortable. Then towards the end, obviously 2-0 down at home, they (Newcastle Benfield) are going to start to throw numbers forward. Karl Dryden has made a couple of outstanding saves to be fair to him and I’m disappointed he hasn’t kept a clean sheet because his performance tonight probably deserved one.”
He continued: “We faced a couple of corners where we couldn’t quite clear our lines and the ball has dropped to Cameron Gascoigne on the edge of the box and he’s hit a decent strike across the goal and into the far corner. Then we managed the game after that. We took our time with things which you are going to do. A couple of weeks ago we were frustrated that teams were doing it to us, but its part of the game. When you are the ones chasing the game, it frustrates the life out of you but when you are the ones that are up in the game and managing it, then you don’t complain about it. It’s about managing the game and slowing it down a little bit and I’m naturally delighted with the three points because its never an easy place to come to (Newcastle Benfield).”
He concluded: “The games are coming thick and fast again – so we’ll dust ourselves down ahead of the Carlisle City fixture – and that’s as far as we’ll look.”