By Brian Bennett | Photo: Ian Brodie

Naturally disappointed after his side had lost their semi final in the Newcastle Flooring Northumberland Senior Cup 2-1 against Newcastle United U21s, Ashington manager Ian Skinner praised his entire squad for a spirited performance and said they ‘gave everything.’

Quality strikes from Dylan Stephenson in the first period and Jay Turner-Cooke shortly before the midway point in the second half put the young Magpies into a 2-0 lead before Dan Maguire reduced the arrears within a couple of minutes.

Ashington then threw everything at their opponents but just fell short.

Skinner said afterwards: “It’s a little bit strange because we’ve lost the game and an opportunity to get into a final at St James Park which would have been an unbelievable way to end the season but I’m sat here quite relaxed because the boys gave everything and I just thought every single one of them was excellent.”

The boss was happy with how his side began the game: “I thought we started really, really brightly and probably should have gone ahead when Wilson Kneeshaw has had a great chance and you would back him to score. We’ve had some great play and then Connor Thomson has had another opportunity when you would also fancy him to find the back of the net. However, Newcastle scored against the run of play with a ball over the top and Dylan Stephenson has run through, applied a great first touch and a great finish. Dylan has scored lots of goals for whilst on loan at South Shields towards the back end of the season and he’s a good player. I thought it was a little bit unjust and the game developed into a more even contest. We were looking to get the ball down and play whilst they (Newcastle) were looking to stretch our back line with Stephenson running in behind.”

Addressing his players during the interval, Skinner said “It was a case of saying to them ‘we’ve got 45 minutes to extend our season and I don’t want you to come in at the end with any regrets so go out there and give it your best shot’- and I thought they literally did go out there and they gave it everything. We took the game to Newcastle in the second half but then found ourselves 2-0 down. We got caught a little bit on the break but take nothing away, it’s a great finish into the top corner for their second goal. However, I just felt at times we wanted that extra touch or we wanted the perfect shooting opportunity and when you play against lads who are as sharp as they are (Newcastle), that extra touch gives them that split second to get a block in or get behind the ball.”

With the score at 2-0, Skinner to his bench and recalled the game between the two sides two seasons ago: “It’s funny because I turned to the dugout and said we came back from being 2-0 down to draw 2-2 the last time – only to go out on penalties – and within three minutes we had pulled one back through Dan Maguire who has been in good form over the last few weeks of the season. Again that shows the heart and the size within the group. Then we’ve really thrown everything at them. When you look at a team of their stature, they have felt the pressure and it shows you that we had them on the back foot really. Again we could have taken one or two more shooting opportunities and we’ve had some chances – with one blocked deep into injury time plus a penalty shout. But listen, every player in that dressing room tonight can be proud of the performance they’ve put in and they literally did leave everything out there but unfortunately we fell just short.”

The game was witnessed by a record breaking attendance of 1447 and Skinner added: “It was a magnificent crowd with great support as usual but it didn’t surprise me in the least that the previous highest (attendance) was surpassed. To be honest, I think they would all go away slightly disappointed that we lost the game – but as I walked around the pitch at the end, every supporter had nothing but kind words and positivity for the display that they had just watched by us against a good Newcastle side.”