By Brian Bennett
Ashington FC manager Ian Skinner could not hide his disappointment on Saturday after Kev Hayes had knocked the Colliers out of this season Emirates FA Cup with a goal deep into stoppage time.
Hosts Stockton won the game 2-1. Jordan Summerly put Ashington ahead but home skipper Adam Nicholson levelled before the late drama.
However, Skinner said that the game hinged on a big decision following the 87th minute dismissal of striker Scott Heslop. At the time the scores were locked at 1-1 and the possibly of a replay was on the horizon.
“Obviously we’re disappointed to go out of the Cup especially after conceding so late in the game,” said Skinner afterwards, “Overall I thought to be fair playing against a strong wind in the first half, we rode out luck a little bit in terms of some of the chances Stockton had. That said, on the break we had one or two good opportunities ourselves but we were pleased to come in 0-0 at half time if the truth be known.”
During the break, Skinner introduced Heslop for Cameron Gascoigne: “We thought we could hurt them (Stockton) a little bit with in the wind in our favour and we started the second half really brightly and managed to score from a set play which was good,” added the boss, “However, after that, I was probably a little bit disappointed in our performance. We like to get on the ball and move it and I just felt that at 1-0 we went to direct to quickly which played into Stockton’s hands. Their centre backs wanted the ball up in the air because they were big physical defenders against our small sprightly attackers – albeit Heslop is very good in the air and he caused them all sorts of problems up there. I just wanted us to stick to our process and principals of getting the ball and mixing the game up by playing short at times and playing long and I just felt we went to long to early. The ball was coming back and it turned into a game whereby we invited pressure as the game wore on. We got deeper and deeper because we were playing direct and we were having to get up and move 20, 30, 40 yards up the pitch. When the ball was coming back, we were having to recover 20, 30 yards – so the next time you tend to not go as far up and before you know it, you are ‘sitting in’ a little bit to deep -which I felt happened.”
He continued: “They scored almost a carbon copy goal of ours in terms of an in-swinging corner and a bit of a scramble and the officials have said the ball has crossed the line. At 1-1 you are probably thinking ‘let’s see if we can get a draw and bring them back to Woodhorn Lane on Tuesday’ – but it wasn’t to be. I just thought the unfortunate thing was that they have made the man extra count a little bit and we’ve been on the back foot. To be fair, Karl Dryden has made two or three excellent saves to keep us in it but we’ve just fallen short somewhat 90 seconds from the end. We spoke about not allowing Kev Hayes to cut in from the left which he likes to do and to be fair he’s cut in from the right and opened the goal up and bent one in at the near post.”
He went on: “Overall I probably thought on chances they had a few more than us and Karl Dryden has made more saves than their keeper. But Yannick Aziakonou had a header at the back post; Heslop a header at the near post and Dylan Archer has hit one high towards the top corner which the ‘keeper has palmed around – but the game hinged on a big decision really (the sending off of Scott Heslop).
The result extended Ashington’s winless run at the ground: “It’s strange how it happens in football in terms of even at the very highest level you see teams go to certain grounds and they just can’t seem to get a result – and Stockton seems to be an unhappy hunting ground for us – and it’s proved the case again today,” he added, “Whilst there are other grounds I can think of where we go and we don’t fail to get a result.”
Skinner explained his plans were hit 48 hours before the cup tie: “We were dealt a big blow on Thursday when we lost Charlie Exley, Craig Spooner and Max Emmerson – all through injury,” he said, “Two of those started against Brighouse last week and one came on and had a big impact on the game. Today I thought Jordan Summerly came back in and was excellent as were a couple of others but I think Tuesday will come to soon for Exley, Spooner, Emmerson and Nathan Buddle.”