By Brian Bennett | Photo: Rachel McDonald

Ashington FC manager Ian Skinner lauded praise on Darren Lough after the defender turned in a sublime performance on his return to the side – and also scored his first goal of the season – in the 3-0 win over Redcar Athletic on Saturday.

Lough had been sidelined for the past six weeks after he broke two toes in the away match at Pickering Town at the start of February.

But on Saturday Lough came back into the starting eleven: “I trained on Tuesday and Thursday and with Ryan McKinnon not available, I was told that I may be needed,” he said, “I had no reaction from the sessions and it was a sink or swim situation. I gave it a go and everything turned out okay with my foot – the only problem I had was that I got a bit of a dead leg in the first half but I managed to get through it and played for 80 minutes so I was happy.”

The 33 year old lynchpin was equally pleased to open his goalscoring account: “Ben (Harmison) flicked the ball on from Andrew Cartwright’s corner and I was caught in two minds so I just went to head it and I was delighted when it hit the net,” he said, “At the end of the day, we got the win and a clean sheet which is just what we needed going into Saturday’s clash against Newton Aycliffe.”

Lough – one of a plethora of signings by manager Ian Skinner in the close season – is delighted he put pen to paper for his hometown club: “I’m enjoying it,” he said, “The lads are spot on – and we play some nice football at times. We can change it up and we’ve got some great players that know exactly what they are doing on a football pitch.”

Boss Skinner said: “Darren would have played the last five games for us with a couple of broken toes if he could – but we just needed to manage him. He’s probably done two and a half to three training sessions and for today’s trip to Redcar, we knew Ryan McKinnon was unavailable so we had earmarked this as a game where we potentially would like to get him back on the pitch. Darren being Darren, after training on Thursday when I said to him ‘let me know what you are like’ – his response was ‘if you need me I’m ready and I’ll play.’ He may not thank me for saying this but he’s what I class as an ‘old school’ player at this level in terms of he never wants to come off the pitch and wants to win every game in training. What you see is what you get with him and he gives you everything he’s got – and he even chipped in with a goal today!”

He continued: “Darren also played with a bit of a ‘dead leg’ after he took a whack in the first half. We had to keep him moving at half time so when we got that second goal, with two strikers on the bench (Lee Mason and Scott Heslop), it was an opportunity to freshen the front up a little bit. We managed to get Dan Maguire off to protect him a little bit and asked Ben Harmison to drop into centre back which we know he can do. We put the two fresh forwards on to try and chase down a few more goals and I was pleased for Lee (Mason) who took his goal very, very well. He has had limited game time of late but we know if he gets the ball in the box that he is a very good finisher.”