By Brian Bennett
Ashington FC’s assistant manager Andy Coyles said his lads played with ‘smiles on their faces’ in the terrific but eventful 3-1 win over Dunston UTS at Woodhorn Lane on Saturday.
Paul Van-Zandvliet scored a brace on his home debut whilst midfielder Craig Spooner netted with an excellent set piece which deservedly put the Colliers on the path to record their first home win of the season in the Pitching In Northern Premier League East Division.
But it was not all straight forward for the Wansbeck club who had to play out the last 35 minutes with only nine men after Simon Jakab and skipper Nathan Buddle were red carded in the same phase of the game by referee Scott Henry.
Incredibly it was the second time in the space of five days that Ashington had been reduced by two in number after Charlie Exley and Karl Ross had been sent off in the 2-0 defeat at Newton Aycliffe in midweek.
Coyles said afterwards: “There was so much emotion going into the game with disappointment behind us over the previous weeks where we played really well and just hadn’t been decisive enough to get that elusive win. Since the victory over Stocksbridge, we just felt like we’d had our backs constantly against the wall with things not going right for us at the right times whereas today everybody – from the people up in the stands to the players on the pitch and the staff came together and you could just see a real togetherness – and what a difference it made. When you don’t win games it’s hard to enjoy yourself but today all of the lads looked like they played at times with smiles on their faces – and I think that was another huge difference.”
Van-Zandvliet put the Colliers ahead in the ninth minute but Coyles was quick to point out: “The first 30 minutes was a replica of every first half hour we’ve played so far this season. We were excellent and the 1-0 advantage which Paul gave us was a just reward for the standard and quality of football we played. They (Dunston) got back into the game but we were still quite happy. Half time was a bit different to the last three games where we’ve gone in quite frustrated and disappointed and there have been a few words said here and there whereas today it was all positive. We said we needed to fine tune a couple of things and we’ve come out for the second half in quite a few games where we have been dreadful – and I think the lads will fully admit and acknowledge that – whereas today was different. We started the period all guns blazing, running for each other and I thought they (Dunston) struggled to deal with that quickness and sharpness very early doors. On top of that, we scored two really good goals. I’m chuffed to bits for Craig Spooner whilst Paul Van-Zandvliet netted with two fantastic strikes and when you put yourself into a 3-1 lead you pretty much think that the game is over. However, it was the start for me because of what we had to do after that when we went down to nine men – but what a performance by those nine players to keep the score line the way it was and to see out the game the way they did.”
In the first half after Dunston had levelled through Jordan Lamb, Coyles was delighted with Ashington’s response: “We’ve had this negative mindset when we’ve gone a goal behind,” he added, “Heads have gone down for five or six minutes but this is something which we have addressed leading up to today. Having equalised, Dunston nearly scored in quick succession but our ‘keeper Karl Dryden has made a terrific save and after that scare, I thought we got back on top and the lads controlled the game really well – even when we were defending for our lives in those final 35 minutes. We managed the contest in terms of just defending the box and I thought the decision making today from minute one to minute 102 was fantastic.”
The 38 year old, who is based in Richmond, continued: “We played with nine men for 35 minutes on Tuesday night against Newton Aycliffe so it shows the resilience of the boys and shows their fitness and energy levels with what they have had to give. They stuck to the game plan as soon as we had the two players sent off and they carried it out exceptionally well – so fair play to them. They’ll have put a lot more in as well because they have been down to nine men in two games over five days.”
Ashington are without a fixture on Saturday but return to action on Tuesday (September 26) when they take on Newcastle University in the Newcastle Flooring Senior Cup at Woodhorn Lane where kick-off is 7.30pm.