By Brian Bennett
Ashington FC manager Ian Skinner was left totally mystified as to why his side were so inept in their 3-1 home defeat by Sheffield FC at Woodhorn Lane on Saturday.
A clearly disappointed Skinner said afterwards: “I didn’t see that performance coming if the truth be known because we were on the back of three consecutive wins with lots of positives from those displays. It was two weeks to the day since we last played and although we’ve trained as usual, it looked that way. Out of possession we were really, really poor. On the transition from attack to defence we didn’t get near the ball quick enough to affect them (Sheffield). We allowed them to get the ball and play forward quickly which then meant we had to make big recovery runs on a heavy pitch. If I’m honest I didn’t think we did enough today and naturally I’m disappointed. There were too many players below par and when you have maybes up to six (below par) then you are going to struggle to win games of football.”
The boss reflected on the first period: “I thought the first half was pretty even. We’ve had a couple of chances and we certainly played the better football but it was between the boxes. We had a couple of instances in the first half where their ‘keeper (Edd Hall) has made a save and pushed the ball out and then he’s blocked the rebound; we had one chance which flashed across the goal whilst they’ve had a couple of corners which caused us one or two problems.”
The visitors took the lead after 35 minutes and Skinner said: “The goal is really disappointing because we had players around the ball. Their lad (Cameron Johnson) has picked the ball up facing the corner flag but we’ve allowed him to turn and we’ve dropped off. He’s then come inside which opens the goal up and he’s used those players as a bit of a shield to bent the ball around so it’s difficult for our ‘‘keeper Karl Dryden to see and we find ourselves 1-0 down.”
He continued: “For the first two or three minutes of the second half, I was pleased because we were really, really bright. There was an instance where we’ve crossed the ball in from a corner. We’ve prodded it towards goal and it has hit the goalkeeper and sat in the six yards box. We’ve had nobody on hand to just tap it home and they’ve managed to thump it clear. That was before they scored the second and at that point I just started to think ‘it might not happen for us today.”
Skinner was frustrated by the nature of Sheffield’s other goals: “We huffed and puffed a little bit but then we’ve been done by two set plays from two deep corners,” he said, “For the first one there’s been a challenge and the ball has dropped in the box and they have been first to react to stab it home. For the second, there’s lot of talk about a foul on our ‘keeper Karl (Dryden) but there were that many players in the six yards box. It’s one of them where people use the term ‘in the modern game’ about goalkeepers being too well protected – but again Sheffield have been first to react.”
He continued: “I take some of the responsibility because we probably changed systems and changed one or two positions twice or three times in the game but the reason we do that is just to see if we can get a bit of a spark from someone – but it just didn’t happen. We haven’t defended our box well enough to prevent them from scoring and haven’t caused them enough problems in their box to score more goals than they did. The performance today was not at the levels we are capable of and which we have been playing in recent weeks which have got us positive results. Credit to Sheffield – they’ve left with the three points and despite all of our possession, goals win games.”