Author: Gav Perry

JOHNSON: “IT’S ALWAYS NICE TO SCORE – BUT GETTING THE THREE POINTS WAS MUCH MORE IMPORTANT”

By Brian Bennett

Striker Adam Johnson was the match winner on Saturday as Ashington won their Ebac Northern League first division clash away at Crook Town.

Johnson, who had come on as a substitute for the injured Dan Maguire, struck in the 37th minute of the clash – but was quick to point out that the Colliers third victory on the trot was the all important factor: “It’s always nice to score but getting the three points was much more important,” said Johnson afterwards, “These away games are always hard especially when we are in quite a run of them but if we can just get through them,  it’ll stand us in good stead to go forward.”

The 26 year old described his goal: “It was a great ball played through by Lee Mason and I just tried to get the first touch out of my feet so as to give me an angle to get the shot away. The ‘keeper (Ronan Makepeace) spread himself and I just put the ball through his legs.”

Johnson added that his performance was just ‘routine’: “I get up front and graft – that’s what I do best,” he said, “I try and put the pressure on high up the pitch and put the opposition under the cosh. Pace is my biggest attribute so I look to threaten in behind all the time.”

Blyth-based Johnson believes the Colliers will hand out a big defeat in the coming weeks: “We kept plugging away today and created a lot of chances including hitting the bar twice,” he said, “One day everything is going to click and we are going to hammer someone but we are just having a bit of a run in front of goal at the moment – other than that I think our performance was really good today.” Ashington’s assistant manager Andy Coyles said: “AJ (Adam Johnson) deserves a lot of credit. I thought his work rate was exceptional; his first touch to get the ball out of his feet before he let loose (for his goal) was excellent and he just caused the central defenders numerous problems. Yes he has come off – and sometimes that looks bad when a player has been ‘subbed on’ then ‘subbed off’ – but it was merely a tactical reason in the final three or four minutes and AJ deserved all of the plaudits which he received when he came off so fair play to him. His attitude is phenomenal both in training and in the games – he’s scored the winner today and let’s not forget that he also scored the clincher for us against Penrith three weeks previously.”

COYLES: “WE’VE BOUNCED BACK – AND WITH A COMPREHENSIVE RESULT”

By Brian Bennett

Ashington Football Club’s assistant manager Andy Coyles was naturally delighted on Saturday night after a goal by substitute Adam Johnson had secured the Colliers all three points against Crook Town – and also a third consecutive win.

Johnson’s all important strike came in the 37th minute and proved to be decisive as the Wansbeck side returned to winning ways only three days after suffering the disappointment of exiting the Techflow Marine Northumberland Senior Cup following their 3-1 reverse against Heaton Stannington at Grounsell Park.

Whitehaven-born Coyles said: “That’s three league wins on the spin and it was a comprehensive result. I thought we were in control of the game for the majority and any wave that Crook had, we cancelled it out quite quickly and effectively. Although our ball retention was ‘off’ by our own standards in the first half, we improved massively in the second. But we came here to get three points and when you look at results today where Whitley Bay have dropped points it’s a bonus. I thought everybody contributed today in some way, shape or form and there were some really pleasing performances there today. However, we’ve bounced back after a really disappointing result in midweek and we’re just happy to walk away from Crook with a clean sheet and overall what was a solid performance.”

The defeat against Heaton Stannington ended Ashington’s hopes for cup silverware this season and Coyles added: “We can focus solely on the league now – there are no other competitions to think about. We’ve got 16 games left but there’s still a long, long way to go. A few weeks ago I think people were getting carried away with where we could be but it’s a very long season. We’ve got to keep plugging away and hope we can try and get ourselves a cushion between now and the final quarter of the season because we’ve got some tough fixtures coming up – but if we can continue to put in performances like today and walk away with 1-0 wins each week then we’ll take them all day long.”

The 37 year old continued: “It has to be the old cliché of taking one game at a time – and that’s the way it should be. You shouldn’t be thinking about any other fixture and that’s what we are doing with our squad. We’ve got a big pool of players – a few with niggles – and all we are looking to do is put our best team out each week and then worry about the next game afterwards.” Ashington made five changes to the starting line up from Wednesday and Coyles added: “A few players were selected on merit because they worked exceptionally hard in training which should be about getting into good routines for the game and about fighting for your spot to get in that starting eleven. Today (at Crook), two or three players got in off the back of their performances and attitudes in training.”

SKINNER: “THE GOALS WE CONCEDED WERE VERY DISAPPOINTING”

By Brian Bennett

Ashington FC manager Ian Skinner saw his side go out of the Techflow Marine Northumberland Senior Cup on Wednesday night after they went down 3-1 against Heaton Stannington at Grounsell Park.

With a home tie beckoning for the winners of the clash, a quickfire start from the hosts – where they scored twice in the opening quarter hour – proved pivotal. Then after dominating the play, the Colliers conceded a third in the dying embers of the contest.

Skinner said: “I thought the three goals we conceded were very disappointing. Probably for about 70 minutes of the game we controlled it but the final third let us down. Obviously I’m disappointed but there are also mixed feelings to be fair. There were some things which I was really, really disappointed with whilst there were others which I was quite pleased with.”

Talking about the negative side, Skinner said: “I was disappointed with the way we started the game. We knew when we came here that they (Heaton Stannington) would come flying out at us; we knew that their threat was the two players with pace who they like to leave high (up the pitch) and play quickly into them. But after five minutes, we conceded a poor goal which was avoidable. We know the lad who has gone down the left is right footed so we know he wants to come inside – yet we’ve allowed him to do that and it opens the goal up and fair play to him (Konner Lamb), he finished it really well. Then the second goal is a mistake. Andrew Cartwright gave the ball away in a bad area – we got punished for it – and that puts us 2-0 down.”

However, the boss was pleased with the response from his side: “From that moment on for the rest of the half we actually came to life a little bit. We moved the ball and kept it better and caused them all sorts of problems – and we penned them in for probably the last 25 minutes of the half. We got the penalty which I didn’t think there was any doubt about and it was a fantastic finish from Damen Mullen from the spot – and if anybody wants to know how to take a penalty, I’ll send him the video!”

He continued: “We got in at half time and really gave the players a clear emphasis on what we expected from them in the second half in terms of how we wanted them to play and again I thought we dominated the ball. I think they (Heaton Stannington) only got into our half two or three times but to their credit, they battled and scrapped and made it difficult for us whilst we got into some fantastic areas but were too sloppy in the final third.”

The home side added a third goal in the closing minutes and Skinner said: “Again I was really disappointed because if anybody was going to score it should have been us. When they (Heaton Stannington) got a free kick, we know the lad Cassidy has got a decent delivery. Our ‘keeper Kyle Hayes, has made a fantastic save to be fair but they were first to react to it (scoring from the rebound), which probably sums up our night. We are out of a competition now where we would have had a home semi final tie but we wish Heaton Stannington all the best.”

He concluded: “We will train tonight (Thursday) as we prepare for our away clash in the league against Crook Town on Saturday but Andrew Cartwright and Yannick Aziakonou are both rated doubtful.”

COYLES: “IT’S ALL TO PLAY FOR”

By Brian Bennett

Ashington FC’s assistant manager Andy Coyles licked his lips in anticipation ahead of tonight’s quarter final tie of the Techflow Marine Northumberland Senior Cup against Heaton Stannington at Grounsell Park and said: “It’s all to play for!”

The two sides met twice in a little over five weeks earlier in the season in their Ebac Northern League games with The Stan winning 1-0 at Woodhorn Lane with a breakaway goal netted by Konner Lamb after ‘keeper Greg Purvis had saved a penalty from Ben Harmison.

However, Harmison had the final say when they met again at Heaton Stannington with Ashington’s skipper scoring a late equaliser to cancel out an opener from Daniel Stephenson.

On Saturday, Sunderland West End versus Horden CW in the ENL second division, was the only game to go ahead with the rest of the programme wiped out due to frozen pitches. Ashington were scheduled to be at home to Redcar Athletic whilst Heaton Stannington were due to host Newcastle Benfield.

Consequently the first division table remained unchanged with Ashington sitting fourth from top with The Stan six points behind in sixth place.

Speaking ahead of the cup tie, Coyles said: “It’s a quarter final so it’s all to play for. From our point of view, the clash is just as important as in the league and it’s about who manages the game well and makes the right decisions.”

He continued: “We’ll have a full squad to choose from and will have five or six lads back who weren’t available for that second game against Heaton Stannington in November.”

The winners of tonight’s tie will be at home to North Shields or Blyth Spartans in the semi final.

Kick-off is 7.30pm

MASON: “I KNEW I WAS ON PENALTY TAKING DUTIES!”

By Brian Bennett | Photo: Rachel McDonald

Ashington FC’s Lee Mason took his goalscoring exploits to a round dozen for the season on Saturday when his 42nd minute strike clinched a 1-0 victory over Seaham Red Star.

The 31 year old striker stepped forward to take over the role of penalty taker – and successfully netted – after the Colliers had missed spot kicks in their last two matches against Whitley Bay and Penrith.

Newcastle-born Mason said afterwards: “I was always going to take a penalty if we got one awarded today and I was happy with the finish.”

After securing back to back wins (against Penrith and Seaham) Blyth-based Mason – who works for Northumberland County Council – hopes this will be the start of another unbeaten run: “Any sort of win in this league is good because they’re massively tough to come by,” he said, “With two wins on the bounce, we are getting back on track but we need to go on a long run again.”

COYLES: “IT DOESN’T MATTER HOW YOU WIN”

By Brian Bennett | Photo: Ian Brodie

Ashington FC’s assistant manager Andy Coyles was delighted after the Colliers had strung back to back victories together with the slender 1-0 verdict against Seaham Red Star on Saturday.

Lee Mason’s emphatically struck penalty just prior to half time was enough to make it maximum points from two games for the Wansbeck side following on from the 2-1 win over Penrith the previous week.

On a windswept day near the coast, the game was competitive. It contained little in the way of goalmouth action – but Coyles was nevertheless pleased on several fronts: “That’s two wins in two games after a bad run of form,” he said afterwards, “It doesn’t matter how you do it – three points is all that matters. It was ugly at times today and we knew conditions were difficult especially in the first half but in the second period we just managed the game well. Did we play well by our standards? No – but game management wise, I thought we were excellent; our decision making was good and we played in the right areas at the right times.”

He continued: “I thought our lads were resilient in that first half. It was a really strong wind which they were kicking against and as a result, anything which we attempted going forward just kept coming back no matter how we played. We broke the play up when we needed to and our objective was to come in at half time with a clean sheet which we achieved.”

Mason tucked home from the spot after Dan Maguire had been fouled in the box – a decision which was disputed by the home outfit: “It was fantastic to go ahead,” added Coyles, “I thought there were two key moments in the opening half. The first came on 24 minutes when Ben Harmison made a one-on-one tackle at the back and his timing was excellent – if he didn’t get it right it would have either been a penalty or the Seaham lad would have been through on goal. The second incident was the link up play which led to the penalty and we got our just rewards for our hard work.”

He continued: “I think it was our first half display rather than our second which won us the game and it’s about momentum now. All the top teams have to play each other and points will be dropped from now until the end of the season and our aim has to be to keep things going and continue to put points on the board.”

Several players came in for warm praise from the assistant boss: “I thought there were a couple of stand out performances,” he said, “When Karl Ross came on as a substitute, I thought he was fantastic. He was running around and gave us an extra ounce of energy; Ben Harmison defended really well at the back and made some last ditch tackles; Ben Sampson was very good in the middle of the park and I think he has had two and a half very solid games because when he came on against Whitley Bay, I thought he did very well. However, someone else who deserves a mention is Damen Mullen. He was a huge miss in those four games where we only managed to collect a draw and since he came back it’s no coincidence that we’ve started picking up the points and collectively our performances have been a lot better with him in there as the midfield general.”

He added: “We’ve got a tough week with three games in seven days so again although it’s all about getting the points it’s also about managing the players and getting the best out of them. Whether our supporters realised it or not, during that recent spell of four games where we weren’t able to pick up as many points as we would have liked, we had a lot of injuries but now those players are all back and fighting fit. We have got a healthy squad – there is competition for places – and that can only be good.”

JOHNSON: “IT WAS NICE TO GET BACK ON THE GOALS TRAIL”

By Brian Bennett | Photo: Ian Brodie

Adam Johnson scored the winner for Ashington on Saturday against Penrith – and afterwards said that it was nice to get back on the score sheet.

Although the Colliers dominated proceedings throughout against the Cumbrians and led with a Robbie Dale goal shortly before half time, they were stunned when Luke Hunter hammered home a 73rd minute equaliser.

But minutes later, Johnson – who had only been on the pitch for five minutes as a substitute – put his side back in front and the Wansbeck outfit not only went on to wrap up three welcome points but complete a season’s double: “I’ve been frustrated a little bit,” said Johnson, “I had a conversation with the manager (Ian Skinner) which was about confidence and taking too many touches, so it was nice to get back on the goals trail today. Once one goal goes in, you start to feel a bit more confident and hopefully I can now kick on.”

The 26 year old reckons his strike may have caught Penrith ‘keeper Aaran Taylor unawares: “When I hit it, the ball went through a few legs and I don’t think the ‘keeper saw it until late and luckily it went into the bottom corner,” he said, “After that, I could have added another but the ‘keeper – who had a blinder – made a brilliant save to be fair.”

Johnson added that one of his targets is to make a telling contribution for his home town team: “I’d like to have a more consistent role and hopefully that will happen now that I’ve got a goal under my belt today,” he said, “I’d also love to contribute more – anything to get us further up the league and gets some more wins behind us. Before the game we spoke about how it didn’t matter how we got things done – we just had to get a win today especially after a few defeats – and we achieved that.”

Manager Ian Skinner said: “AJ (Adam Johnson) has been chomping at the bit really. He’s been in and out of the side and we’ve had a little chat to him about one or two things. We told him to play on his instinct because he’s better when he does that. For the goal, AJ took his chance early and the ball has gone through bodies and caught the ‘keeper by surprise. I’m pleased for Adam because he’s a great character and a likeable lad who always works hard and is honest in everything he does. He’s played through the middle and out wide and he just gets on and does a job for us.”

SKINNER ON PENRITH STOPPER AARAN TAYLOR

“THAT PERFORMANCE IS UP THERE AS BEING AS GOOD A GOALKEEPING DISPLAY THAT I’VE EVER SEEN”

By Brian Bennett

Ashington FC manager Ian Skinner hailed a crème dela crème goalkeeping performance on Saturday as his outfit hit the victory trail for the first time in five matches with a narrow 2-1 verdict over Penrith.

Colliers sub Adam Johnson struck the winner after Luke Hunter had cancelled out an opener from the home sides Robbie Dale.

However, the Woodhorn Lane boss was not lauding one of his own stoppers but Aaran Taylor – the custodian for the Cumbrians!

Skinner commented afterwards: “All I will say is I that I hope the Penrith lads bought their ‘keeper a drink or two either at the bar or at a stop off on the trip back across to Cumbria. That performance from Aaran Taylor is up there with as good a goalkeeping display that I’ve ever seen – certainly I can’t think of too many better ones since watching the game as a kid through to coaching for the last 20 years. The save he made from Lee Mason’s header in the first half – where he’s going the wrong way and throws an arm out and tips the ball onto the bar – was unbelievable but that was just one of many. We were probably in double figures for the number of chances we created and I’m not just talking about saves which Aaran made – I’m talking about him making saves which were top drawer.”

SKINNER: “THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IS THAT WE WON”

By Brian Bennett

Ashington FC manager Ian Skinner – delighted with his outfit after the 2-1 victory over Penrith at Woodhorn Lane on Saturday – said that the most important aspect was the result.

The Woodhorn Lane boss commented: “The most important thing is that we won and put three points on the board. We are in the results business and I think I’ve said it many times that yes I want us to play really, really well and to win games of football – but it we can’t play really well, I just want us to win. Today we felt as if whatever it looked like or however it happened, we just needed to win – and credit to the players because after the defeat against Whitley Bay on Boxing Day, we had a chat about one or two things and where we could improve. The players have trained really well and have been fantastic with their attitude and application. The numbers (at training) have been 20 plus at every session which was pleasing and they have taken it out onto the pitch.”

Skinner was happy from the kick off: “I thought we started brightly,” he said, “We wanted to take the game to Penrith and show our intent from the off. We wanted to see if we could control the game and maybes get into a position where we could force home our authority and we did all of that other than putting the ball into the net. We’ve missed some gilt edged chances and their ‘keeper (Aaran Taylor) has made some unbelievable saves. We‘ve also missed a penalty – but we’ll not dwell on that – and then we have scored a goal right on half time which is a nice time because some of the frustrations that we may have had (had we come in level), diminished somewhat.”

He continued: “At the interval, we talked about making sure we started the second period in exactly the same way as we had begun the first half but 19 seconds in, we had a corner against us and you’re thinking ‘please no’. We created a number of chances; their ‘keeper has made two or three brilliant saves and whether it was tiredness as the pitch was heavy, we just seemed to get a little bit deeper and gave them (Penrith) a ten minutes spell where we invited them to come onto us a little bit. They started to push forward a little and Ashington being Ashington we conceded a poor goal which made it 1-1 and you’re then looking around and wondering what reactions we are going to get. But again credit to the players. We could have ended up with a draw or even worse a defeat but credit to them (the players) because we got on the front foot again and I also utilised the five substitutes to make sure we got some fresh legs on.”

He went on: “It wasn’t pretty today but we challenged the players and I mentioned recently about getting back to working hard – and I don’t think anybody can say that they (the players) haven’t worked hard today – and we were just pleased to get back onto the winning track.”

Skinner added that they will take things a week at a time: “We will train twice this week and start to prepare to play Seaham Red Star away next Saturday – and that’s all we will be doing,” he said, “We talked about a narrow focus of one week at a time because there has been too much interference about games in hand and if we do this with these games in hand we’ll get this and if we don’t do this we’ll end up with that.”

Skinner said that he will again have a virtually full squad to choose from for the coming weekend.

SKINNER LAYS DOWN CHALLENGE TO HIS PLAYING SQUAD

IAN SKINNER: “LET’S SEE IF WE CAN GO ON ANOTHER POSITIVE RUN – WHICH WE ARE MORE THAN CAPABLE OF DOING”

By Brian Bennett

Ashington FC manager Ian Skinner has challenged his squad to replicate the vast majority of the first half of the season as the second segment gets under way on Saturday (January 7) with the Colliers at home to Penrith (3pm).

Skinner – whilst having his Festive celebrations dampened following the 2-1 defeat on Boxing Day against Whitley Bay at Woodhorn Lane – said that on reflection, the club can’t be anything other than pleased with the first half: “Obviously the current run of four games without a win slightly dampens where we are and probably takes a little bit of the shine off but what we can’t do is to forget or lose sight of where we have come from,” he said, “I’ve been reflecting a little bit now that we are at the half way point and it’s the first little bump in the road that we’ve hit in a while. We finished last season on a massive high by winning the Ebac Northern League first division cup and then for the first competitive game of the new campaign, contested the Cleator Cup final against North Shields and got a positive result with a 3-2 victory. So in two games, we were successful in collecting two pieces of silverware – and for ten years prior, this club hadn’t won anything.”

He continued: “We started the season really, really well, winning seven and drawing two of our first nine league games and then went on that amazing run in the Emirates FA Cup where we beat teams from two and three divisions above us but since that defeat in the fourth qualifying round at King’s Lynn, it’s interesting. Since that day we haven’t quite been the same if I’m honest, winning five, losing four and drawing two matches. And if you look at King’s Lynn, they’ve suffered a little bit the same. So they had a good result against us then beat Doncaster before they lost to Stevenage – and since then they’ve stuttered a little bit in the league and are trying to find their feet in terms of getting back on track. I said it at the time that the FA Cup is a fantastic competition when you’re in it but it’s ruthless and the minute you go out, it’s a massive comedown and you’re forgotten about. We’ve rode our luck a little bit since we got knocked out so after leading 2-0 against West Allotment Celtic, certainly scoring in the last minute to get the winner was pleasing (after they had come back to level at 2-2) and we followed that with a fantastic result against Bishop Auckland (5-0). I think what we have just got to remember is yes the last four games have been disappointing but where we actually are as a club considering where we have been previously. Yes we should be further ahead in terms of points to where we are but that said we’ve only lost four league games so far. We are half way through and if we were to only lose four more in the second half of the season, we’ll be in with a decent shout (at the top end of the table).”

He went on: “We have got to get back to the standards we set earlier in the season and that will come from working hard but in terms of overall reflection, I think we can’t be anything other than pleased with the progress which the club is making. Probably not as pleased as I would have been three or four weeks ago when I would have used the word ‘delighted.’ But we have got to keep putting things into context. This football club hadn’t won silverware and hadn’t progressed as far in the FA Cup for many years and hasn’t been challenging in and around the top two and three in the league for a long time either. We’ve sat down as a group and had a little look at where we now are at the half way stage. There have been one or two things spoken about in terms of needing to improve whilst not forgetting all the hard work we have done and whilst our last four results is starting to become a slight concern, it’s not a crisis. It’s maybes about refocusing and realigning our goals to what we want to achieve come the end of the season and kicking on in the second half and taking things week by week and game by game. Let’s not get too carried away and let us stick together. We all need to row in the same direction and see if we can go on another positive run which we are more than capable of doing. There’s no doubt in my mind that this group of players I’ve got are good enough to go on another long unbeaten run – that’s the challenge to them – and if we can do that, we’ll see where it takes us.”

Also looming up in the near future, is Ashington’s away tie against Heaton Stannington in the quarter final of the Techflow Marine Northumberland Senior Cup on Wednesday January 18 with the winners at home to North Shields or Blyth Spartans.

Skinner has had his players in for training since the reverse against Whitley Bay and for Saturday’s game against Penrith hopes to be able to choose from virtually a full squad of between 20-22 players.

Meanwhile Ashington Football Club were saddened to hear of the passing of Barry Hindson. Barry covered games on the radio for BBC Newcastle featuring teams in our region and was a stalwart of the non-league scene. The club send their condolences to Barry’s family and friends at this sad time.