By Brian Bennett | Photo: Ian Brodie

Ashington FC manager Ian Skinner admitted that his outfit were far from being at their best in the first half against Cleethorpes Town on Saturday – but nevertheless thought a draw would have been a fair result.

Following their midweek share of the spoils with Stocksbridge Park Steels on a pitch which cut up, the Colliers did extremely well to get the game on.

Early in the contest, Curtis Bateson fired ‘The Owls’ ahead before Connor Thomson netted the equaliser. In the 80th minute, a sensational strike by Harrison Poulter tipped the scales in favour of the visitors who went on to record a 2-1 victory and complete a seasons double following their 1-0 win at the end of September.

Afterwards Skinner said: “It’s always disappointing when you lose a game. I thought we began really sluggishly and they (Cleethorpes) certainly started far better and went ahead early in the contest. We talked about the wide player (Curtis Bateson) who likes to come inside and open the goal up but we defended poorly, allowing him to move inside and he showed that he is a good finisher. After that, we got a foothold in the game and started to move the ball a bit quicker but I just thought we were too slow in possession and out of possession we didn’t get close enough to Cleethorpes. They were looking to put the ball in behind our full backs for their two wide players who offered them a lot throughout the game. We had a chance that got cleared off the line and from another good passage of play, we got down the side and managed to cut it back and Connor (Thomson) has scored to make it 1-1. After that, we had a little spell where we probably had more of the ball than Cleethorpes but we didn’t really create too many opportunities and at half time, I was probably pleased with a 1-1 score line because I didn’t think we had played to the levels which we are capable of. I’m not offering excuses but this was our fourth game in two weeks with minimal changes and we looked like a team who were feeling the effects of playing four times on heavy pitches.”

He continued: “If the truth be know, we didn’t start the second half particularly well either and we tried to freshen it up by bringing on a couple of substitutes just to see if we could get a little bit more energy into our play. I thought we did that then we’ve probably dominated possession for long periods in the second half and got into good positions in and around their box but a mix of us being a little bit loose and sloppy around their box and some good defending on their part has kept us out. We did ‘get in’ and fashioned a couple of chances – and Karl Ross has put a great ball across that just evaded everybody and trickled the wrong side of the post.”

Skinner added: “Cleethorpes cleared one off the line just before they scored the second goal and I was disappointed that we got caught. I need to see the footage but in my mind there is a potential foul in the build up. We defend it – then a header drops lovely for the lad (Harrison Poulter) to strike and it’s gone in.”

Skinner went on: “Even when they were 2-1 up, we’ve had a couple of chances in and around the box but I just thought we wanted that extra pass or extra touch. We delayed or refused shooting opportunities at times when we could have taken it on and ultimately it’s probably cost us. However for all that, I definitely thought we deserved something from the game for our overall general play and a draw would have been a fair result.”

He concluded: “We just need to dust ourselves down a little bit and need to manage the load. We are running with quite a tight squad at the moment due to injuries and some long term ones – obviously Nathan Buddle, Charlie Exley and Jordan Summerly have all been out for months now – and we’ve had to dip in and get a couple of people dual registered just to help us through the period. Andrew Cartwright played for us on Tuesday night against Stocksbridge and with West Allotment Celtic’s game being called off today it was a bonus to have Cyril Giraud available. However, it was disappointing to lose today because we were on a little unbeaten run of three games. We’ve got to look to bounce back and on Saturday (February 24) we’ve got no tougher a test than when we travel to play the league leaders Stockton Town.”