By Brian Bennett

Ashington FC manager Ian Skinner says his outfit need to ‘smarten up – and fast’ in the wake of Saturday’s 3-0 defeat against Dunston UTS in the first qualifying round of the Isuzu FA Trophy.

Speaking after the reverse, Skinner said: “I have mixed emotions if I’m honest. I thought we started the game really, really brightly; moved the ball really well and caused them (Dunston) lots of problems. Then we have a great move and create a great opportunity for Wilson (Kneeshaw) 12 yards out in front of goal. Yes give Dunston ‘keeper Dan Staples a little bit of credit for saving it but Wilson probably should score from there and it would have given us our just desserts – only it wasn’t to be. That was one of a couple of fantastic opportunities we had to take the lead and they are opportunities we need to start taking because then it makes it a different game. But then we’ve conceded a really poor goal where we’ve allowed the wide man to come inside with no pressure on the ball, cross into the box and Jordan Summerly’s got dragged under the ball and the lad at the back post – unmarked – has scored.”

He continued: “I could see the confidence drain out of everybody with players not quite wanting to get on the ball as much as they probably should and it’s a one of those situations where the mentality has got to be ‘let’s make sure we don’t concede another one’ – but at the minute we seem to concede one (goal) then concede another and today we soon found ourselves 3-0 down. As a managerial team, we can break every goal down into poor goals – but the ones we are conceding are really poor. The second (goal) comes after we have been on the attack and the home goalkeeper has gathered the ball and thrown it out to the left back. We’ve come to get pressure on the ball and we’ve stopped before we even get to the man and allowed him to play it unattended – which means we’ve now got a player out of position. Again it’s a really, really poor goal from our point of view but then all three were to be honest – and we need to smarten up and smarten up fast.”

Skinner added: “We’d had two very, very good training sessions during the week. On Thursday night both in and out of possession I saw some of the best I’ve seen from this group since we brought them together and it’s about transferring it from training pitch to match pitch. I reference boxing sometimes and you can have what you call gym fighters. You can have a boxer who in sparring looks brilliant because he knows his opponent isn’t actually going to hit him or hit him properly and I think we’re a little bit like that – in training we look really, really sharp and really, really good then when we get out onto the pitch we’re apprehensive. Again it’s like the boxer who goes into the ring to fight an opponent he doesn’t know and becomes a bit apprehensive and is worried a little bit – and we look a little bit like that – and until we start making it more difficult for other teams when we are out of possession, we’ll continue to lose games of football.”

He continued: “Dunston have come out second half and albeit they were 3-0 up so they didn’t really have to push or exert too much. But it’s frustrating for us because we started really sloppy for a couple of minutes then we got on the ball and started passing the ball again. It becomes a confidence thing where the lads think ‘it’s 3-0 and chances are that the game has gone’ – so let’s get on and play. There was a water break which came at an idea time because I was about to make a substitution and we managed to change one or two things and again from the restart, we dominated the ball. We had a couple of shots that flashed wide and then we’ve picked up a red card which is again frustration – and means that the game is over.”

He went on: “Again to our credit, we had to sit in when we needed to and see the game out and when we got the ball, we kept it quite well with ten men. However, as I said only recently ‘goals win games’ and until we start scoring – because that’s three games in a row now where we haven’t scored – and make it more difficult for the opposition to put the ball in our net, it’ll be a long hard season. The players know that and I have told them in no uncertain terms what we need to be improve on and the sooner they realise that the better. They are a group of players that have been brought together after a lot of changes in the summer and there’s still one or two trying to find their feet whilst we’ve just brought another couple (of players) in recently and we’ve also had a number of injuries. Craig Spooner and Dan Maguire were on the bench today because they missed our game at Bridlington last Saturday through injury whilst Oli Thompson was ineligible today. His parent club Gateshead didn’t him cup tied which is understandable because they got to the final of the Trophy last season.”