By Brian Bennett | Photo: Ian Brodie

Ashington FC manager Ian Skinner thought his sides 1-1 draw with Newton Aycliffe on Saturday was a fair result – but the boss believed a controversial incident just short of the half way mark during the second half was pivotal.

After skipper Ben Harmison had blasted home his 19th goal of the campaign to put the Colliers ahead on the stroke of the interval, defender Darren Lough was penalised for handball and red carded by referee Lewis Hardy with Liam Jarvie confidently scoring from the resulting penalty for the equaliser.

“The game obviously swung on a massive decision in terms of a handball and a red card,” said the boss afterwards, “I need to see the footage back so I can only speak from how far away I was at the time but my initial reaction is that it’s harsh – the ball hasn’t travelled very far – it hasn’t travelled across a lot of distance and the way I looked at it, the ball was kicked at Darren (Lough).”

Before kick off the County Durham outfit held a three points lead at the top of the league from the second placed Colliers who had a game in hand and reflecting on the clash, Skinner added: “If I’m honest, a draw is probably the result neither team wanted – but I thought it was fair and in the final analysis, I wasn’t too disappointed. Newton Aycliffe started the brighter than we did then we grew into the game a little bit and we had a period of about 20 minutes in the middle of the first half where we were the better side. We had a spell where we had four consecutive corners and fashioned one or two chances. Then they (Newton Aycliffe) came back into it a little bit towards the end of the half before we managed to score and go in 1-0 up at the break.”
He continued: “Second half we had a fantastic little chance within a minute after a great move. We got in but the ball just didn’t quite sit right for us and then credit to Aycliffe who came and attacked us and it was nip and tuck. After losing Darren Lough, we really became a little bit ragged. We weren’t quite sure of our shape; and they (Aycliffe) moved us around and also moved the ball well. However a cynical foul on Robbie Dale as he’s stepping through saw a second yellow for their lad (Ethan Wood) and then its 10 v 10. After that, the game probably ebbed and flowed a bit without either team really creating too many chances. I can remember a fantastic header at the back post by Jordan Summerly where the ball was stood up and their player is running onto it and Jordan has managed to back head it away. At the other end, Dean Briggs has cut in from the left and bent one (a shot) just wide whilst Scott Heslop has had a header which has gone just over. We’ve scored from open play and limited Aycliffe who have only scored from a penalty and I said it when we played them at their place – and I said it again before the game – nothing would be won or lost today. It’s a case of as you were only with a game less because we both got a point and our goal differences stay the same.”

He went on: “It was a good game between two good sides. Obviously it was first versus second which attracted a fantastic crowd of 941 on Non League day and they have seen a good game of football with two teams giving it their all.”

Skinner believes his side have got a ‘tougher’ run in to the end of the campaign as opposed to Aycliffe: “I certainly think we’ve got the tougher run in of the two teams,” he said, “If you look at it, we’ve still got to play Whitley Bay and Bishop Auckland who are wanting to be in amongst those top two places and literally everybody we’ve got left to face have something to play for – including Pickering Town and Thornaby who are scrapping for points to stay in the league.”

He continued: “We’ll see how people have come through today’s game and prepare for our away trip to face Whickham on Tuesday night (March 28) but Damen Mullen, Ryan McKinnon, Adam Johnson and Lewis Suddick will all come into contention.”