By Brian Bennett
Ashington started their pre season warm up games with a 7-2 defeat away to Ebac Northern League first division newcomers Birtley Town on Saturday.
But manager Ian Skinner has re-iterated that he does not get hung up on results from friendlies – as he tinkers with his formation and style of play: “First of all I’d like to say a big thank-you to Birtley for their hospitality,” he said, “They have got a fantastic set up with great facilities and I’ve got a lot of time and respect for their management team of Paul Bryson, Foss and Robin Falcus who I know personally. We had a few missing for holidays and we had five trialists who played who we wanted to have a look at. Birtley looked to be slightly ahead of us in terms of preparations which led to the outcome we got and they were the better team in my opinion across the 90 minutes.”
Scott Heslop scored both Ashington goals.
Skinner continued: “Of the seven we conceded – and I haven’t watched them back yet – at least four were really, really poor individual errors so four of them (goals) were avoidable. We went in 4-2 down at half time after what looked like a really ragged disjointed first half if the truth be known. Second half we looked better. We started brightly; we dominated the ball and had a goal disallowed. We hit the post twice then the Birtley ‘keeper has made three good saves – so we had a real 20 minutes spell where we created more chances – albeit we didn’t take them. However a slightly disappointing thing was the manner in which we conceded two goals in the closing stages.”
He added: “I knew Birtley would be well organised and be fit and have a way in which they would play. It will be a tough place for lots of teams to go to and I’d go as far to say that they will be my surprise package in the first division of the Ebac Northern League this coming season – not just because they beat us – but because what I know about the management team; the club – and behind the scenes I get on really well with Scott Brown who I think is vice chairman there. I know they are a team very similar to ourselves who work on a self generated income model but they have a good group of tight knit lads who want to work hard for each other.”
He went on: “Pre season is about players getting minutes into players legs and I’ll not get hung up on results. I did an interview last year when I said results don’t really matter (in pre season). We went to Alnwick and won 10-0 and everybody started getting excited. ‘Practice what you preach’ or ‘change your speech’ is something I use quite often. Yes there were some things which I was disappointed with today but there were other things I was pleased with too and probably the most pleasing aspect is that everybody seems to have come through unscathed. We’ll train twice this week then prepare for Whitley Bay away on Saturday (July 15) – but the whole ethos around our pre season programme this year was to get as many tough games as we possibly could.”
Meanwhile Skinner is looking to add to his squad: “Things have been quiet on the incomings front,” he said, “We’re probably looking to bring one or two more players into the squad but they’ll have to fit into the way we want to play and have to have the right character for what we are looking for.”