By Brian Bennett

Ashington FC manager Ian Skinner saw his side go toe to toe with Hebburn Town on Thursday night – and take the lead – before the Hornets ran out 4-1 winners which saw them go to the top of the Pitching In Northern Premier League East Division table.

Apart from the result, the boss was happy that his outfit put indifferent performances in their last two games against Grantham Town and Winterton Rangers behind them: “I thought we started the game really well,” he said afterwards, “We were on the front foot; we played to our concepts; we dominated the ball; we caused them problems in behind and we deservedly went a goal in front through Connor Thomson. However, a big moment came when Connor was in again with an opportunity to make it 2-0 and the Hebburn ‘keeper (Kieran Hunter) has made a save. If Connor scores, we are looking at a real different game then four minutes later Hebburn equalise. Olly Martin has done really well cutting in off the line and listen it was a great finish into the far corner.”

He continued: “After that I was a little bit disappointed that we lost our way and didn’t quite carry out our concepts or play to the way in which we look to play. We started going direct and people weren’t quite as brave to get on the ball and we invited pressure – and when you invite pressure against good teams, they take it.”

Robbie Spence gave the home side the lead on the stroke of the interval and Skinner said: “In my opinion, it was a really, really soft free kick but once it was given we’ve got to defend it. Liam Noble has got good quality and he put the ball into a really dangerous area and they’ve scored which has seen us go into the interval 2-1 down and I thought it was harsh. I’m frustrated but I’m frustrated for good reasons; I’m frustrated because of how well we played and how we took the game to them and the problems we caused them. Then I’m also frustrated because we didn’t keep doing the things that caused them problems and we’ve allowed them back into the game.”

Two goals inside a quarter of an hour period during the second half took the game away from Ashington – but Skinner thought the final score line flattered the newly installed league leaders: “Second half we talked about being brave and again taking the game to them and I thought 4-1 flatters them (Hebburn) a little bit. But what I will say is that they were ruthless. Amar Purewal has capitalised on an individual error but he nevertheless took his goal really well and that’s why he’s comfortably the top scorer in the league. Then the young lad Leo Robinson has come on and again we haven’t tracked a run and the ball has dropped for him and he’s struck with a fantastically great finish.”

He continued: “We had a couple of half chances but what I was happy about was that we didn’t stop; we moved the ball and overall I was really pleased especially off the back of some iffy performances. Certainly our last two home games against Grantham and Winterton have been below the levels which we expect but I have said time and time again about this group of players that when there’s a challenge laid in front of them they usually step up to it. Looking at our results against all the teams in the top ten we’ve taken points off them all other than Stockton and that’s because this group of players relish a challenge. What has let us down a little bit is the inconsistency against the teams in and around us or below us when we haven’t taken the points which we should have done.”