By Brian Bennett

Ashington FC manager Ian Skinner lauded his players with the highest possible praise after they had secured a point from a 2-2 draw away to Belper Town on Saturday.

The Woodhorn Lane boss saw his outfit denied what would have been a merited 2-1 victory snatched from their grasp following an unbelievable stoppage time equaliser from the home sides Sidik Atcha: “To be honest I thought the boys were magnificent this afternoon,” he said, “I don’t think we could have asked for much more from them. We lost seven players from the squad during the week for various reasons and we’ve had a bit of illness in the camp which has wiped one or two out whilst we had a couple of lads who have been ill, come back in and play today.”

Ashington went a goal behind on the quarter hour mark which left Skinner frustrated: “It terms of the game itself I didn’t think we started particularly well,” he said, “We looked a little bit lethargic and leggy and although I don’t want to look for excuses, that could have been down to the near four hour journey on the coach to Derbyshire. I was really disappointed with the goal we conceded which was poor from our point of view. We got the first contact; the ball has dropped into the box but we haven’t got the second contact and they have scored. However, I was pleased with the reaction of the lads and I thought we went on to control the first half. We got back into it with a good equaliser from Cam Gascoigne then we’ve had a couple of very good chances to take the lead – hitting the crossbar whilst their ‘keeper (Daniel Moore) has made a couple of good saves.”

He continued: “We got in at half time and talked about continuing to keep doing the things which were causing them problems whilst looking to improve on a couple of aspects like when we are out of possession. Second half we started really brightly and had a couple of big opportunities in the first five to ten minutes. Wilson Kneeshaw was played clean through and went around the goalkeeper but had a bit of a heavy touch which allowed the defender to get back onto the line. A couple of minutes later, we’ve done really well in terms of switching the play and Will Constantin has got into the box on the far side on the right hand side but he’s flashed a shot over the bar. Again I thought we went on to control pretty much of the second half. We’ve gone 2-1 up with a good goal – doing what we do best. They (Belper) have held a high line; we’ve got Wilson (Kneeshaw) in behind with his pace and he’s gone through and finished it off really well. After that we dominated large periods of possession whilst they offered the odd little threat on the counter attack. I remember one shot which flashed across our goal but other than that our ‘keeper Karl Dryden hasn’t had a great deal to do. Then there were a couple of big moments. With about ten minutes to go, Wilson (Kneeshaw) has gone through again and hit the post and if he had scored and it goes to 3-1, I think it would have been game over.”

He went on: “Belper have brought a substitute on who can throw the ball into the box but I didn’t feel we were under too much pressure. Then we were in their box and pulled the ball back trying to score a third and they have broke and the centre half (Sidik Atcha) has picked the ball up and has hit an unbelievable strike with the outside of his right foot into the top corner. Without being disrespectful, I’ll give him 100 attempts at doing that again and I reckon he’ll not score more than one!”

He concluded: “It’s a tough one to take because I thought our performance today was as good as I’ve seen from us all season and some of our football was fantastic. We’ve worked a lot on our play in and around the penalty area in terms of being patient; not needing to score with every attack and waiting for the right moment and I thought it was excellent today. I’m just a little bit disappointed for them (the players) as I thought our efforts and showing warranted the three points.”