By Brian Bennett

Ashington FC manager Ian Skinner emerged from a gloomy dressing room after the 1-0 defeat against local rivals Whitley Bay on Good Friday – and whilst he shouldered some of the blame for the reverse, the boss reckons his players are suffering from ‘burn out’ at a crucial point in the campaign.

A header from Seahorses defender Elliott Day at the end of the first half proved to be decisive sending the Colliers to defeat and the result also means that the coast club will be the only side to complete the double over the Wansbeck side this term after their 2-1 win at Woodhorn Lane on Boxing Day.

Skinner said afterwards: “It was a disappointing result and a disappointing performance if I’m honest – and I’ll take the lion’s share of the blame for getting a few things wrong today in terms of potentially the starting eleven and potentially the way we wanted to play because it didn’t work. The players do have to take a little bit of responsibility because it’s them who go out onto the pitch and perform – but I just think we are coming to the end of a long tough season and I think our fantastic cup run is starting to take its toll in respect of tired legs. We’re almost crawling towards the finishing line which isn’t great because we are at the business end of the season and hence that’s why in the last couple of games, I’ve tried to make two or three changes just to freshen things up.”

He continued: “In terms of the game itself, I thought it was a pretty even, scrappy affair with not too many clear cut chances. We conceded a really poor goal at a really poor time in first half stoppage time which means they (Whitley Bay) can keep getting their full backs and their wide players to try and double up down the sides and they can play the ball forward knowing that we‘ve got to come out a little bit to chase the game. However the biggest disappointment for me was that we just didn’t threaten their goal anywhere near enough. We had a lot of possession but again we played too safe – we were happy to turn and go back or go inside. What we really need now is for players to stand up and look to make key contributions and drive forward with the ball and look to play key passes that create key chances.”

Skinner added: “Possibly a draw would have been a fair result although our ‘keeper Karl Dryden has made at least one fantastic save early in the second half. I was right behind it and he’s tipped the ball around the post.”

Skinner was furious that his side were not awarded a penalty ten minutes from time when Ben Sampson was bundled over inside the area and said: “It was a penalty for me. I’m not blaming the referee today and he didn’t contribute to the result – albeit his key decision potentially cost us what might have been a point – but the whole standard (of officiating) across the league now is really, really poor. Not only would I take great pleasure in getting Ashington out of this league, I’d take great pleasure in getting away from the standard of officiating (in this league) because it’s not up to what it should be and if we go up a league hopefully the standard will be a little bit better. People look at the Northern Premier League and there are lots of ex Northern League teams in there and it’s becoming a really strong league – and that’s why this club (Ashington) are trying to work hard to get there.” Ashington have three games remaining starting with their final home fixture of the season against Thornaby at Woodhorn Lane on Saturday (April 15): “Three points is a must for us,” he said, “We’ll dust ourselves down; train twice this week and prepare for the game.”