Author: Gav Perry


By Brian Bennett

When Ashington midfielder Craig Spooner scored a brace in the resounding 4-0 victory over West Auckland last week, it was the first time the midfielder had found the net since the beginning of November when the Colliers won 4-1 at home against Whickham.

Now after being on target in Friday’s 2-1 victory over Newcastle Benfield, the 24 year old has notched three in two games– and says he is ‘loving’ his time at Woodhorn Lane:

“Friday saw another one for my tally – but the most important thing was the three points,” he commented afterwards, “I thought we made it hard for ourselves in the second half especially the last ten minutes or so when they (Newcastle Benfield) pulled a goal back but I’m delighted we clinched the win.”

He continued: “I’ll just take things game by game but I reckon I’ll get more goals as long as I keep getting into the right positions. That’s my target – to score as many goals as I can from midfield and to make sure we are definitely battling for the league but I’m absolutely loving my time here.”


By Brian Bennett

Skipper Ben Harmison climbed out of his sick bed to help Ashington to a narrow 2-1 win over Newcastle Benfield at Sam Smith’s Park on Friday night.

But afterwards the 37 year old stated that the most important thing was his side taking the three points: “At the end of the day, it’s irrelevant how the points come – a win is a win,” he said, “We know how hard it is to play against Newcastle Benfield and it doesn’t matter whether you are one or two goals up against them, the players they have got can hurt you which probably showed when we had our backs against the wall for the last 20 minutes.”

He continued: “Benfield started quick but the players they have got are all young, lively and fit. Their movement was good and they passed the ball well – and it took us around 10- 15 minutes to get used to things. Once we did that and kept our shape, we knew we would get chances because we have got players in our side who will take them. Dan Maguire for instance just needed one chance (to score), dinking the ball over the ‘keeper after a great move.”

He continued: “We started the second half well which we have done for the last few games. But for some reason, we stopped going forward in the last 20 minutes and let them back into it with a goal and our ‘keeper Karl Dryden has made some great saves.”

Harmison, who played for 78 minutes before being substituted, admitted that ‘flu had left him ‘wiped out’: “I came home early from nightshift at 3am in the morning feeling wiped out,” he added, “I felt weak and had no energy. Today (Friday) is the first day where I’ve felt a bit better and the manager (Ian Skinner) knew about the situation and asked me to contribute whatever I could. However at this time of the year you are also going to get niggles and injuries.”

He concluded: “It was a great win for us and the three points was all we needed. We are chalking games off one by one and we’re not bothered about anybody else – instead everyone else can worry about us.”


By Brian Bennett

Ashington FC manager Ian Skinner gave a massive shout-out to his squad following their 2-1 win over Newcastle Benfield on Friday night.

The victory propelled the Colliers up to second place in the Ebac Northern League’s first division table – but behind the scenes, Skinner revealed that he had experienced pre match problems due to illness: “It was a great result tonight and even more so because we’ve got some illness in the camp,” he said, “We lost Damen Mullen and Liam Smith before the game with this ‘flu bug which is going around whilst skipper Ben Harmison has been laid low for the last four days and today (Friday) was the first time he had left his sick bed. On top of that, I’m struggling a bit with it (the ‘flu) myself but again this just typifies this group of players we have here because they want to work so hard to try and take us to where we want to go and they deserve maximum credit.”

Harmison actually started the game until he was replaced with quarter of an hour of the contest remaining and was involved in the build up to the second goal scored by Craig Spooner shortly after the interval which added to a first half strike by Dan Maguire before Cameron Gascoigne reduced the arrears in the closing stages.

However Skinner’s overall message remains unchanged: “We’ll just keep looking at one game at a time,” he added, “We needed to come here tonight and win and we’ve done that. Now all of our focus is on Carlisle City whom we play at Woodhorn Lane on Tuesday (February 28).”

Reflecting on the contest at Benfield, Skinner pointed towards Maguire’s goal as being ‘key’: “I thought we started the game a bit slowly and Benfield began the better of the two sides,” he said, “It took us a little while to grow into the game and then when we did, we got one or two chances and scored a fantastically worked goal. It came a couple of minutes before half time and if you could pick times to score, that’s a key period. The opposition don’t get a lot of time to come back at you before the break and then when you get to the interval, it takes the sting out of the game and you start again.”

Skinner praised goalkeeper Karl Dryden when he added: “Second half I thought we started quite brightly and then we have scored a second early to make it 2-0. That makes the evening a bit more comfortable – and I thought for large periods of the second half, we did look comfortable. Then towards the end, obviously 2-0 down at home, they (Newcastle Benfield) are going to start to throw numbers forward. Karl Dryden has made a couple of outstanding saves to be fair to him and I’m disappointed he hasn’t kept a clean sheet because his performance tonight probably deserved one.”

He continued: “We faced a couple of corners where we couldn’t quite clear our lines and the ball has dropped to Cameron Gascoigne on the edge of the box and he’s hit a decent strike across the goal and into the far corner. Then we managed the game after that. We took our time with things which you are going to do. A couple of weeks ago we were frustrated that teams were doing it to us, but its part of the game. When you are the ones chasing the game, it frustrates the life out of you but when you are the ones that are up in the game and managing it, then you don’t complain about it. It’s about managing the game and slowing it down a little bit and I’m naturally delighted with the three points because its never an easy place to come to (Newcastle Benfield).”

He concluded: “The games are coming thick and fast again – so we’ll dust ourselves down ahead of the Carlisle City fixture – and that’s as far as we’ll look.”


By Brian Bennett

Ashington FC manager Ian Skinner announced that new striker Scott Heslop is ‘registered and available for selection’ as the Colliers make the short journey to face Newcastle Benfield at Sam Smith’s Park tomorrow evening (February 24).

Proven goal scorer Heslop has joined the Wansbeck outfit from West Auckland – although he was not involved for the County Durham side when the two teams met at Woodhorn Lane last weekend which resulted in a convincing 4-0 home win.

The 28 year old, who has also played higher up the footballing pyramid for Dunston UTS and Consett, trained for the first time with his new team mates on Tuesday night and is delighted to have put pen to paper: “Things didn’t work out for me at West Auckland and when Ashington’s assistant manager Andy Coyles spoke to me, he was singing the praises of the club – about how well it is run – so I snapped his hands off. I thought it was the right move for me and my target is to hopefully help the lads and the club to get promoted.”

Gateshead-born Heslop – a software engineer – was a member of the successful Dunston UTS side in the 2018-19 season when after winning the Ebac Northern League’s first division, they took the next step up. And under Coyles’s management at Consett, the forward who is based in Low Fell, also chipped in with goals – including the first for the Steelmen in their 2-1 play-off win against Histon last season which saw them promoted from the ENL: “Last year I netted ten for Dunston in the league above and then about nine for Consett,” added Heslop.

A patient Skinner has finally got the player under his wing: “It’s a bit of a long story really,” said the boss, “I knew Scott when he was a youngster at the Newcastle Academy as I was his coach. It’s a one of those situations where you follow the progress of players who you have coached in that sort of environment. I tried to sign him when he left Dunston UTS but at the time, he chose Consett over us mainly because I think they were still in the FA Vase and were pushing to be league champions so I didn’t hold that against him. However I always said he would be someone who I’d be interested in bringing to Ashington – because he’s a goal scorer.”

He continued:  “During this season, we had a little run of games where we found goals hard to come by; albeit winning matches but only by the odd goal. Then we had a situation where Dan Maguire pulled up in a couple of games with injury; Dean Briggs picked up a knock; AJ (Adam Johnson) was unavailable through working commitments -and all of a sudden we looked a little bit short. I did say recently if I could bring one or two faces in, just to freshen the group up towards the end of the season, I would. We brought Lewis Green in and I just thought that Scott hadn’t played much for West Auckland so I got our secretary Gav Perry to put in an enquiry to see if he would be available and we got some positive vibes back that he might be.”

He went on: “It took a little bit of time to sort out but we got permission to speak to Scott. So the fact that I knew him; had tried to sign him before; the fact that he had played for Andy (Coyles) second half of least season at Consett – and I can remember him scoring against us in the away game up there – all pointed in the right direction. Scott was hungry to play so we managed to get things done and he will add additional firepower to the squad – I’ve no doubt about that. AJ (Adam Johnson) is available again after having work commitments; Dan Maguire came back into the side last Saturday; Ben Harmison scored four goals in a week and we have Lee Mason – so it’s a nice problem to have. We’ve gone from being a little bit thin on the ground to maybes having some riches in terms of centre forwards but that’s what we want because we are at the business end of the season and we need to keep winning games.”

He added: “Newton Aycliffe are going off like a steam train at the top of the division with nine straight wins – and we have got them to play twice next month – and I just need everybody in my dressing room to stay focussed. By adding two pieces of quality in Lewis Green and Scott Heslop, it’ll keep people on their toes. I’ve got players who will be sat on the bench desperate for an opportunity and not only that; we’ll have a little bit of depth in the squad now. We’ll have a couple of people who maybes aren’t in the squad who’ll be itching to get back in (the squad) – and that’s the way it should be.”

Tomorrow’s match at Newcastle Benfield has a 7.30pm kick-off.


By Brian Bennett | Photo: Ian Brodie

Craig Spooner was delighted to score a brace in the 4-0 rout over West Auckland at Woodhorn Lane on Saturday – but revealed afterwards that he is still chasing a first ever hat trick at senior level!

And the 24 year old – who has recently played for the Colliers at full back – says he is happy to play anywhere. However when he netted just past the half hour mark on Saturday, it was his first goal for the club since the beginning of November: “To be honest, I don’t mind where I play as long as I do my job for the team,” he commented, “Midfield is my preferred position and it was great to be back in the number ten role, score two goals and for us to get the win.”

Spooner scored twice in the space of ten minutes in the opening period and added: “For my first, it was a bit of a lucky ricochet off their centre half which has put the ball in my path and I’ve taken a touch and scored. For the second, I saw ‘Damo’ (Damen Mullen) run through the middle so I arced my run around the back; he’s hung the ball up and I’ve just tapped it in.”

Spooner – based in Cramlington – expressed mixed feelings when he was replaced by Lewis Suddick for the final quarter hour: “Initially, I was disappointed because I’ve never scored a hat-trick at senior level,” he said, “but then I thought ‘I’ve done my bit for the team’ – so I wasn’t really bothered when I came off. As a group, the result finished off what was a perfect week for us with three wins on the bounce as well as three clean sheets.”

Manager Ian Skinner was full of praise for the versatile Spooner when he said: “Craig is a great lad who can play in a number of positions and in recent weeks, he’s done a fantastic job for us both at right back and left back. Obviously we lost Dean Briggs to injury during Tuesday’s win over Redcar Athletic and we just thought that we were at home; second half against Redcar when we moved the ball quick we caused them problems and just thought we needed to play nice and quick. With Jordan Summerly being available I possibly could have left the back four the same as they had kept two clean sheets but I just thought we’d put a natural left back in which would release Craig to go into the number ten role. I thought with his energy and ability to get on the end of things and score goals was what we might need today – and that proved to be the case. I know Craig was desperate to get a third but I was more than pleased for him that he got the two!”


By Brian Bennett | Photo: Ian Brodie

It was quite a week for Ashington FC as they collected a maximum points haul after recording wins against Guisborough Town (1-0), Redcar Athletic (4-0) and West Auckland (4-0).

But it was also quite a week for their Ben Harmison. Four days after he notched a second half hat-trick in the win over Redcar Athletic, the skipper was on the mark again against West Auckland on Saturday.

However after going in at the interval with a blank score sheet against Redcar, even Harmison – who has now notched 17 goals in all competitions this season – was surprised with his treble: “Naturally I was very happy,” he said, “but the thought of scoring a hat-trick never crossed my mind. The second period was good for us and the lads were putting good balls into the box – and that’s what I need. I scored three – but it was more about the assists and good service which gets you the goals so it was a team effort.”

The 37 year old netted Ashington’s third just after half time against West Auckland on Saturday and said: “We’ve been working on one or two things – and we are quite a hard side to handle with our size and power. Until Tuesday we had had no luck – but the deliveries (into the box) have been great.”

Harmison, reflecting on the last three matches and the forthcoming fixtures, insists the Colliers are merely taking things on a game by game basis: “The aim was to get nine points for the week – and we did that,” he said, “We had to battle with second half performances in all three games but the lads were unbelievable. We are just ticking the games off and it doesn’t matter who we are playing against – as long as we take care of what is in our dressing room and not worry about anyone else. We need to continue to put points on the board and look to catch whoever is in front of us (in the league table). It’s the old cliché of taking one game at a time – then seeing where we are at the end of the season.”


By Brian Bennett | Photo: Ian Brodie

Ashington FC manager Ian Skinner was delighted after his side had collected three wins last week – but stressed that everyone within the dressing room are keeping their feet firmly on the ground.

Skinner looked on as the Colliers successfully saw off challenges from Guisborough Town, Redcar Athletic and West Auckland respectively to take over third place in the Ebac Northern League’s first division.

Ashington’s goals in the 4-0 win against West Auckland on Saturday came from Craig Spooner (2), Ben Harmison and Karl Ross – and a beaming Skinner commented afterwards: “We’ve taken nine points from nine; have scored nine goals and haven’t conceded one. I said we faced a big week – and I don’t think I could have asked for much more. We are most definitely going in the right direction – but we are not getting carried away and it’s still a case of taking one game at a time.”

Combining his thoughts from consecutive 4-0 victories (over Redcar Athletic and West Auckland respectively), the boss added: “I was pleased against Redcar on Tuesday night. Although the first half performance wasn’t too disappointing, I just thought we were a little bit slow at times but second half we played a little bit quicker. The challenge today (v West Auckland) was to start the game really quickly whilst the pitch was wet. We knew it (the pitch) was going to be heavy and knew it would cut up later in the game so we needed to try and do all of our best work as early as we possibly could. I thought we began really brightly and dominated the ball – and it was just a case of taking care in the final third which we’ve mentioned on a few occasions. Then we’ve scored with a good strike from the edge of the box by Craig Spooner and the second goal shortly before half time was a brilliantly worked move.”

He continued: “At the interval, we said to the lads, ‘look, let’s keep going the way we are; let’s keep moving the ball; let’s keep doing the right things and play with pace and purpose – and we had the benefit of scoring another two (goals) in the first six minutes of the second half which made the game relatively comfortable. We lost our way a little bit towards the last 15 minutes but that was a combination of a couple of things – tired legs on a heavy pitch and multiple changes (substitutions) and it’s difficult for the lads to then get up to the speed of the game.”

He went on: “Overall the performance today was very, very pleasing and credit to the players who were brilliant to top off what has been an excellent week. We’ll enjoy it and then report back for training to prepare for our away game against Newcastle Benfield on Friday (February 24) – which is never an easy place to go.”

On the team news front, Skinner said: “Lewis Green will come back into contention whilst Adam Johnson could return to the squad after missing the last two games through working commitments. However, we think the game will probably could come too soon for Dean Briggs who was forced off through injury in the game against Redcar.” Friday’s match has a 7.30pm kick-off.


By Brian Bennett

Ashington FC’s assistant manager Andy Coyles revealed that a half time pep talk paid dividends after the Colliers had swept Redcar Athletic away with an emphatic 4-0 victory at Woodhorn Lane on Tuesday night.

Coyles admitted that it wasn’t the ‘complete performance’ from the Wansbeck side – but said that the players had carried out the instructions given to them in the dressing room: “We just got at it a little bit more,” he commented, “We were disappointed at half time. Granted it was 0-0 and we had had a lot of possession but we just thought we had been quite lethargic in our play and the key was to move the ball a lot quicker and earlier and to be a bit more creative and add a bit more flair in the attacking third – and I thought we did that. Consequently we are extremely pleased. It wasn’t the complete performance by any means in terms of the standards we are trying to set – but if someone had suggested before the game that we would win 4-0, we’d have taken it hands down.”

Coyles reflected on the first period: “We hit the bar and there were a couple of chances just in front of goal; and a couple where we were stretching,” he added, “However we also rode our luck a couple of times as well; one where they (Redcar) have hit the post and the ball has gone along the line and where they had shots from the edge of the box. We created one or two chances in that first half and just wanted to make it six or seven.”

Ashington scored three goals inside quarter of an hour in the second period and Coyles said: “You make your own luck – and we certainly did that after the interval. After Ben Harmison’s opener, super sub Paul Robinson has added a second after a great decision by the gaffer (manager Ian Skinner) to bring him on. We wanted to make a couple of changes because we felt we needed to freshen things up. Obviously we had had a game 72 hours ago (at Guisborough) and we felt some players looked tired – then the other (an injury to Dean Briggs) was forced upon us. But Luke Salmon did well for himself and Craig Spooner did exceptionally well after dropping into that number ten role.”

Coyles added that skipper Harmison deserved his hat-trick: “Ben’s doing really well,” he said, “He’s a threat but it goes to show that it isn’t just about his aerial presence and prowess. He’s good with his feet and that’s why again at times, we were disappointed at Guisborough on Saturday and again tonight that we weren’t using him to his full assets. However, he took his chances exceptionally well and deserves the match ball.”

Ashington are back in action on Saturday (February 18) – with a second home game in five days – as they face West Auckland: “We now concentrate on West Auckland because they are the threat,” added Coyles, “As a group and as a club, we should remember that they inflicted a 4-0 defeat on us at their place which was quite a tough pill to swallow. So we need to focus and reset and just make sure that we can recover in time which I’m sure we will.”

Ashington picked up a few niggles from the game against Redcar Athletic and ahead of Saturday’s 3pm kick-off against the County Durham side, will run fitness tests on Dan Maguire and Dean Briggs.


By Brian Bennett

Ashington FC’s new midfielder Lewis Green was happy with his full debut against Guisborough Town on Saturday – but said afterwards that the most important aspect was that the team left Teesside with all three points.

After joining the Colliers from Consett, the 27 year old said: “Obviously I knew Ashington’s assistant manager Andy Coyles (from when I was at Consett) and as soon as he became aware that I was available for transfer, it (Ashington) was the first place I wanted to come. I’m glad to put pen to paper and get back playing.”

He continued: “It was a tough game today which it is whenever you come here (to play Guisborough). It’s a long heavy pitch and I hadn’t played a full 90 minutes since the end of November but I’ve been trying to keep myself ticking over by working out in the gym. I was happy with my debut but the most important thing was that we got the win.”

Green added that he had enjoyed his first appearance for the Colliers and could possibly have scored – if he had been match fit: “I wasn’t quite sure whether I would be starting today or would be on the bench – but I really enjoyed it,” said Hartlepool-born Green, “I had a half chance in the second half but I couldn’t adjust my body due to tired legs – if it had been in the first half it might have been a different outcome!”

He continued: “The few occasions I’ve been to Ashington with Consett and my previous clubs, it’s a good pitch with good fans and a good atmosphere. The games are coming thick and fast – but as a squad, we’ll be looking forward to them.”


By Brian Bennett | Photo: Rachel McDonald

Ashington FC defender Andrew Cartwright said he was ‘buzzing’ – after scoring a stunning winner at Guisborough on Saturday which secured his side all three points.

Cartwright’s moment of glory came with only six minutes of the 90 remaining. After playing a one-two with substitute Dean Briggs, he let fly with a thunderous right foot drive from 18 yards which left home ‘keeper Will Cowey helpless: “I’m buzzing,” said a beaming Cartwright afterwards, “I just smacked the ball and hoped for the best. When it flew in I was naturally delighted and with the goal coming near the end to win the game, it felt even better.”

The 28 year old added: “First half they (Guisborough) came out quick but we weathered the storm until half time and there’s no way a team can run that much in the first half and continue in the same vein after the interval. We rolled them over in the second half and deserved the win.”