By Brian Bennett | Photo: Ian Brodie
Ashington FC manager Ian Skinner said his squad of players take maximum credit following the crushing 4-0 win over Hebburn Town at Woodhorn Lane on Tuesday.
After Wilson Kneeshaw had opened the scoring, striker Connor Thomson provided the knockout punch on Boxing Day with a hat-trick as the Colliers ran riot and they could have inflicted an even heaver defeat on The Hornets who lie second from top of the Pitching In Northern Premier League’s East Division.
On the day of the contest, Skinner had said: “With our group of players, I always look forward to playing the teams who are in and around the promotion and play off spots. Nine times out of ten we play particularly well against them and a look at our results this season shows that we have had very positive results.”
Ashington didn’t only play ‘particularly well’ which led to a positive result – they were magnificent and got the three points they so richly deserved.
Consequently a delighted Skinner said afterwards: “All credit to the players really – they are the ones who go out onto the pitch and do it. We the management team just try and set them up and give them some advice as to how we think we can cause the opposition problems. I even said to them (the players) before the game that I back them every time we play against teams who are in and around the top of the table who are talking about promotion and play offs simply because this group of players at Ashington are equally as good as everybody in the division. Maybes the one aspect where we can improve is that level of consistency but from the first whistle today I thought we looked ‘at it’ and busy. We looked to play quick and move the ball – we got it down and we’ve gone 1-0 up with a good goal then added another with a fantastic move.”
Skinner touched on the dismissal of Hebburn’s former Ashington player Dean Briggs in the 24th minute: “It was as clear a red card as you’ll probably ever see,” he said, “I’ll not be too quick to forget what Dean Briggs did when he was at this football club – but that was as poor a tackle that I’ve seen in a long, long time – and on a mate (Craig Spooner) as well – and he was rightly sent off.”
The boss continued: “I just thought our game management after that was really good apart from the final couple of minutes of the half where we gave away a couple of needless corners and free kicks. Obviously when they went down to ten men, they sort of played a 4-4-1 formation and sat in a little bit to try and stay in the game and probably looked to see if they could pinch something on the counter attack or from a set play. I thought we moved the ball really well and got to a certain point where we slowed the game right down and invited them to come out and try and pinch it (the ball) off us so we could then play in behind. That was very much the game plan second half. Again we’ve played as well as we can against ten men because it’s not always easy and I thought we controlled large periods of the second half and always looked a threat going forward. They (Hebburn) had to try and condense the space and they’ve tried to drop in and let us have the ball to a point and defended with a little bit of a high line – and that’s dangerous when you have got the strike force and the pace we have.”
He added: “If we wanted to be really greedy we could and should have scored more as we created numerous chances but if you’d offered me a 4-0 win before kick off I’m pretty confident I would have accepted it! Listen – Hebburn are a good side by the way. They have got good players and they will be right up there come the end of the season – make no mistake about that. But I was just delighted with our performance; the result; and for everybody involved who came out on a Boxing Day, gave up their time and supported us. Before our game, there were one or two grumblings from disappointed Newcastle United fans following their 3-1 defeat by Nottingham Forest who asked us not to let them down further and thankfully we’ve managed to turn it around with a good result! It was a nice little Christmas present for the staff; the volunteers; the players themselves and for all of the supporters.”