Author: Gav Perry

SKINNER: “IT WOULD HAVE BEEN TWO POINTS DROPPED IF WE HADN’T GOT THE WINNER”

By Brian Bennett

Ashington FC manager Ian Skinner gave himself several minutes to draw breath before giving his postmatch assessment after his side had claimed a dramatic 3-2 win with the last kick of the game against West Allotment Celtic at Woodhorn Lane on Saturday.

Skinner had seen his outfit – who led 2-0 at the break with goals from skipper Ben Harmison (penalty) and Liam Smith – pegged back with sub Liam Beeston (penalty) and Scott McCarthy on target for the visitors. Harmison then turned one point into three for the Colliers as he converted his second spot kick of the game in the sixth minute of time added on.

The Colliers boss said: “With lots of other games being off in the league due to the weather, today was another catch up game for us. So the aim was to play really, really well, play some good football, create lots of chances and to win the game – and if we couldn’t do all four then to make sure we got all three points. We did that and to be honest I thought it was a game which we deserved to win.”

Skinner admitted that there was a significant turning point in the contest: “A big moment happened very early in the game when young Lucas Lowery-Matondo – who is a student at Gateshead College where I work and who is an exceptional talent with a bright young future – had a one-on-one opportunity and when I saw him go through, I did think he would finish it but he dragged his shot wide. It was a big turning point for us because in true Ashington fashion, we had a 20 minutes spell where we dominated the ball, got a penalty and scored and then put together a fantastic move where Karl Ross should have netted but hit the ‘keeper. We’ve recycled the ball and after another good move, Liam Smith has finished well to put us 2-0 ahead. However towards the end of the first half, I just thought we lost our way a little bit and the game became a bit scrappy.”

He continued: “At half time we talked about trying to keep a clean sheet which we’ve been good at doing this season and that we didn’t necessarily need to score another goal but to dominate the ball; move them (West Allotment) around; tire them out and if a chance presents itself, then let’s take it. After 20 minutes I remember looking at my watch and thinking we’ve had a couple of half chances and although we’ve dominated the ball, we might just see the game out at 2-0. But what I always say about West Allotment Celtic is that they have got a fantastic team spirit; they never give up and we talked about if they got one back, they wouldn’t stop. Their equaliser probably came because we lost our shape altogether and we became really open to play against which isn’t like us this season.”

Skinner was naturally delighted after the late drama: “Good teams go until the end and I always remember Sir Alex Ferguson’s teams at Manchester United who were renowned for going until the end and scoring late on,” he added, “We’ve done it a couple of times this season and it happened again today and to be fair it would have been two points dropped if we hadn’t got the winner. There were periods of the game which we were really, really pleased with and a period which we were not so pleased with. However in the grand scheme of things, we’ve played when our rivals haven’t and we’ve added three points to our tally which keeps us in and around the pack at the top of the league but all we can do is to concentrate on ourselves.”

Skinner reserved his final plaudit for groundsman Scott Robson: “First of all it was fantastic that the game was on,” he said, “Since we moved to Woodhorn Lane we know historically about the fantastic drainage of the pitch and I can’t remember the last time we had a game called off because of water. It drains well but Scott (Robson) keeps on top of it and maintains it brilliantly. He’s probably left a covering of grass on slightly longer than usual as we have to protect it and I thought the pitch played really well although it cut up – which it was always going to do because of the wet weather.”

HARMISON: “WE HAD TO GRIND IT OUT”

By Brian Bennett

Ashington FC skipper Ben Harmison admitted that the Colliers had to dig deep before collecting all three points – as well as a season’s double – over Northallerton Town at The Calvert Stadium on Saturday.

Striker Dan Maguire scored the all important goal during the first half as the Wansbeck side – who had won 3-1 against the North Yorkshire outfit at Woodhorn Lane at the beginning of August – took maximum points.

Harmison said: “After the run we have had in the Emirates FA Cup, its difficult chasing games but that’s now four league wins on the bounce. We had a long travel and Northallerton played well and made it really hard for us today. We had to grind it out and although we were a bit sloppy, we didn’t really look like conceding. When it gets to this time of the year when pitches cut up, I’d quite happily not play very well but get three points.”

He continued: “We will continue to take things game by game but we are probably getting to the stage now where we need to look after players who have a few niggles. We have got lads on their way back to fitness including Paul Robinson, Dean Briggs and Robbie Dale but it’s good that we’re without a fixture in midweek.”

Harmison began Saturday’s match at the heart of the defence alongside Ryan McKinnon but was moved upfront following an early injury to Lee Mason before returning to a defensive role in the closing stages: “Lee (Mason) was carrying a niggle and came off so I went up top,” he said, “However, towards the end, Northallerton were pushing quite hard so we made our defensive unit as compact as we could although I didn’t think they looked like scoring. They pushed and pushed but we defended well and we were quite happy to absorb the pressure. We probably should have nicked another couple of goals ourselves and even if our performance was a bit sloppy, it was ‘job done’. That’s all we said in the dressing room afterwards – we didn’t complicate anything – and we now look forward to Saturday’s clash against West Allotment Celtic.”

Harmison – joint top goal scorer alongside Lee Mason with ten goals – joked: “The boss is ruining my chances of getting the golden boot at the end of the season by putting me back to centre half! However, we have got strength in depth and I’m not bothered where I play – I’m just happy to contribute as much as I can.”

COYLES JOINS COLLIERS MANAGEMENT STAFF

By Brian Bennett | Photo: Rachel McDonald

Ashington FC’s newly appointed coach Andy Coyles, said at the weekend that he had ‘no hesitation’ in joining the Woodhorn Lane club.

Coyles had a ‘watching brief’ at Northallerton on Saturday where a goal in the first half goal by striker Dan Maguire resulted in the Colliers winning their fourth league game in a row.

Until recently, Coyles – a UEFA ‘A’ license coach – was manager at Consett and led the Steelmen to promotion to the Northern Premier League Division One East following a play off win against Histon at the end of last season: “They say a week is a long time in football but I didn’t think five days was – and that’s how long it took before I got back into football with Ashington,” said Coyles, “I had no hesitation in wanting to join the club. They are making all the right noises and their ambitions and aspirations match mine and when you commit 100 per cent into something you want to know that there is a purpose behind it. I only had a 15-20 minutes conversation with Ian Skinner and he sold the club to me really well and you only have to look at their social media platforms and the crowds which they are generating for home games. Everything that Ian (Skinner) has done has been to a certain level – and that’s something which I would love to immerse myself in and be involved with.”

The 37 year old – an assistant professor in sports coaching and PE at Northumbria University – continued: “Funnily enough at the start of the season we (Ian Skinner and myself) both actually tried to get each other to join allegiances with our respective clubs – but I didn’t think it would be me making the switch to Ashington! We’ve got a good level of respect between each other. We’ve both been around the footballing scene for a lot of years and I’d like to think that our styles and the way we look at the game will marry up well and will compliment each other.”

Whitehaven-born Coyles says it is ideal that the Colliers are without a midweek fixture for the next two weeks: “It’ll be nice to start working with the lads at training on Tuesday and Thursday nights,” he said, “It’s a good project with a good club and great people and I’m looking forward to it.”

Coyles – who is based in Richmond in North Yorkshire – said Saturday’s 1-0 win at Northallerton was ‘scrappy’: “These are the type of days and games where you just need to come out with the three points – it doesn’t matter how you do it,” he added, “It was very scrappy but it was a good victory in one of the furthest travels the club has to make in their league programme.”

Manager Skinner said: “Andy (Coyles) was somebody who was available and I know his qualities and his strengths. His CV speaks for itself in terms of qualifications and the job he does. He’s got experience in getting teams promoted out of the Northern League -which is what we at Ashington want to do. Obviously we needed to bring somebody in to help – Andy fitted the bill – and I’m delighted to have him on board. He’s had a bit of a watching brief today (at Northallerton) but he’ll feed back on his overall thoughts from the minute we arrived in terms of preparation to leaving the ground. Andy will be a big asset for us and is somebody who I’m sure the players will enjoy working with. He’ll also offer Robbie (Dale) and myself another set of eyes and ears.”

He continued: “With no midweek games for the next two weeks, it gives Andy (Coyles) a good opportunity to form a relationship not just with the squad but with Robbie (Dale) and myself and it’ll be good that he’ll get an opportunity to do that on the training pitch ahead of the next game against West Allotment Celtic on Saturday. However, we are obviously slightly mindful that we’ve got a really busy period coming up so we are starting to plan for that as well.”

SKINNER: “I THOUGHT WE PROBABLY FOUND A DIFFERENT WAY OF WINNING”

By Brian Bennett

Ashington FC manager Ian Skinner said after the slender 1-0 away win against Northallerton Town on Saturday that his side had found a different way of winning.

The Colliers bagged all three points after a flash of brilliance from striker Dan Maguire had seen him net the only goal of the game just past the midway point of the first half.

Skinner said: “It’s going to be difficult for our players to recreate some of the football which they played earlier in the season because pitches – including our own – are changing due to the weather. I think the positive from today is that we probably found a different way of winning. It’s not a way that Ashington are accustomed too having to work hard for it and also work hard for the chances. Albeit we had a lot of possession and we probably had three or four clear cut opportunities throughout the game but only managed to take one of them.”

He continued: “After we took the lead, they (Northallerton) are going to try and keep it a 1-0 then for the last 15 minutes ‘have a go.’  That’s how the game panned out really and fair play to them as they threw bodies forward a little bit more. However I thought we showed some resilience which we’ve done throughout the season in terms of wanting to keep clean sheets and wanting to defend and it isn’t something you could always say about us – certainly last season.”

The boss described Maguire’s goal as ‘brilliant’: “Dan (Maguire) had already struck a fantastic effort which hit the bar but he’s got this uncanny knack of sitting defenders down and then rolling the ball into the corner which he did again today,” he said, “It was a brilliant finish. However Dan should have scored another in the first half – and he knows this himself – when he’s blazed over.”

Skinner went on: “Second half, Ben Harmison has had a very, very good chance which he’s fired over so on another day it could have been 4-0 – and I don’t think our goalkeeper Karl Dryden has had to make a save. They (Northallerton) haven’t really had an effort on target and any half chance they fashioned, a lot of it came from us with unforced errors. It’s not a game which I’ll watch back too many times. I’ll probably look at bits of it to see if what I am reflecting on now is actually what happened. All in all it was not the prettiest game of football but that’s going to happen now as we get into winter pitches but to win 1-0 away from home and take all three points is all anybody could ask for.”

For Saturday’s home clash against West Allotment Celtic (November 19), strikers Lee Mason and Dan Maguire plus defenders Andrew Cartwright and Darren Lough all face fitness tests.

COYLES JOINS COLLIERS

Ashington Football Club can announce that Andy Coyles has joined the clubs coaching staff with immediate effect.

Andy, a Uefa ‘A’ licence coach, is senior lecturer and practitioner in sport coaching/PE at Northumbria University in Newcastle, and head coach of the England Universities National Squad.

Andy left his position as manager of Consett last week having guided them to promotion from the Northern League last season via the playoffs.

He will take his place in the dugout on Saturday away to Northallerton.

Welcome to Ashington Andy.

Club Announcement

Following a transfer request from Danny Anderson last week the club can confirm we have cancelled Danny‘s contract (pending FA confirmation).

We can also confirm that coaching staff Lee Anderson and Neil Cooper resigned from their roles following Saturday‘s game against Bishop Auckland.

The club would like to thank all three for their time and efforts and wish all well in the future.

SAMPSON: “I DON’T SCORE MANY – BUT THE GOAL TODAY IS UP THERE AS BEING ONE OF MY BEST EVER”

By Brian Bennett | Photo: Brian Bennett

Midfielder Ben Sampson put the icing on Ashington’s cake on Saturday when he scored a wonder goal in the 5-0 hammering over Bishop Auckland at Woodhorn Lane.

Sampson’s strike – an outstanding chip over ‘keeper Nicky Liversedge from fully 35 yards – was the Colliers fifth on the day and the 23 year old admitted afterwards that it was one of his best ever: “I don’t score many but the goal today is up there as being one of my best ever,” he said, “I won the ball, spotted the ‘keeper off his line and definitely meant to chip him (the keeper). It was a thoroughly enjoyable moment and the fans were just brilliant.”

Sampson – who complimented the County Durham outfit, labelling them as being a ‘very good team’ – reckons Ashington’s convincing result was a ‘statement win.’

“It was a massive win – and a statement win,” he said, “Bishop Auckland are a very good team and they have quality players who moved the ball around well in the first half. We managed to get the first goal which was an outstanding effort from Lee Mason and that gave us a good grounding. For the last three games Ryan McKinnon has come in and been outstanding at the back. We have looked so solid and have never looked like conceding. Our quality shone through in the second half today and the floodgates opened for our goals – but we also stuck in at the back, didn’t concede and to come out with a clean sheet was an added bonus.”

The Colliers are without a midweek fixture this week and Ashington-born Sampson believes the squad will welcome the break: “We had a long run in the Emirates FA Cup and after we went out of the competition to King’s Lynn, we returned to league action,” he said, “We played Newcastle Benfield and Heaton Stannington where I thought we were the better team in both games but dropped five points out of six and it was felt we needed to relax. In general, lads have played a lot of big hard games so although we are training twice this week, the break will help and do the squad good. We have strung three wins together against Thornaby, Whickham and Bishop Auckland and I think we are back on track and bang on form.”

Meanwhile Morpeth-based Sampson says the standard of football which the current squad are serving up has reached ‘a different level.’

“I’ve been at Ashington for five or six years now and the quality of our football on the pitch now has gone to a different level,” he added, “I’m loving it here.”

MAGUIRE: “I’M THOROUGHLY ENJOYING MY TIME HERE”

By Brian Bennett | Photo: Ian Brodie

Ashington FC striker Dan Maguire got back on the goals trail on Saturday as a strong and convincing second half display by the Colliers saw them rip the Bishop Auckland defence to shreds in a dominant 5-0 victory.

And afterwards Maguire, delighted to get his name on the score sheet with an effort sandwiched in-between a brace from skipper Ben Harmison, said he was ‘thoroughly enjoying’ his time at Woodhorn Lane.

Harmison also claimed the assist for Maguire’s goal, flicking the ball wide to the ex Blyth Spartans man who cut inside before steering his shot inside the post: “It was great to see the ball hit the back of the net and naturally I was pleased to get on the mark once again,” he said.”

The forward, one of manager Ian Skinner’s summer signings, has been a revelation up front – something which has not gone unnoticed by supporters at Woodhorn Lane.

“I’m thoroughly enjoying my time here,” he added, “It was smashing being part of the club’s recent run in the Emirates FA Cup but after returning to league action and having had a couple of disappointing results against Newcastle Benfield and Heaton Stannington, it was important that we bounced back – and we’ve done that with three wins in a row.”

MASON: “I’M STILL CARRYING AN INJURY”

By Brian Bennett | Photo: Ian Brodie

Lee Mason scored Ashington’s opening goal on Saturday as the Colliers crushed Ebac Northern League leaders Bishop Auckland 5-0 at Woodhorn Lane.

It was Mason’s tenth strike of the season and his second in three games – but the 31 year old admitted that he is still playing through the pain barrier with an injury which has plagued him for four months since the start of the pre season fixtures: “I’ve had achilles tendonitis since our first warm up match against Alnwick Town at the start of July,” he said, “It went for a week but last Tuesday as soon as I started running it was back. It’s so painful – and that’s why the manager is bringing me off in games but the injury aside, when we went 2-0 up against Bishop Auckland, the best thing to do was to get fresh legs on so again, I was happy to come off.”

On fireworks day, a rocket from Mason just past the half hour mark, gave his side the lead: “It was a great ball by Ben Sampson into Ben Harmison who is always going to win his headers,” he said, “Sure enough, Ben (Harmison) has headed it down and luckily for me, it’s bounced and sat up nicely. I knew I was hitting it first time regardless and I’ve just struck through it and the way I’ve hit it, its went away from the ‘keeper which obviously makes it better. As soon as it left my foot I knew it was going in because I could see the ball curling away into the net.”

Newcastle-born Mason was also involved in Ashington’s second after he was clipped inside the area and Harmison converted the resultant spot kick: “When the ball dropped, I was actually going to hit it first time but I nipped in front of the defender, took a touch and he took my feet away. It was nailed on penalty and Ben (Harmison) has stepped up to tuck it into the back of the net.”

Mason was substituted on the hour – so was able to admire the fifth goal by Ben Sampson: “At first, I thought it was a through ball for Ben Harmison to be fair – but don’t take anything away from Ben Sampson’s finish,” he added, “He’s been tremendous – not just today – but over the last month or so. To burst through from the half way line, see the ‘keeper is off his line and to chip him, Ben (Sampson) has scored a brilliant goal and it topped off our performance in the second half really.”

Meanwhile Blyth-based Mason – who works for the Council – is happy the Colliers have a free midweek: “The pitches have been a bit heavy recently at Thornaby and today at Woodhorn Lane so I think a free week and rest will do us good,” he said, “Regardless of the run we had in the Emirates FA Cup, today’s clash was massive because it was probably one of the biggest games of the season so far. Take nothing away from Bishop Auckland who I thought were good in the first period but for us to put on a show like we did, especially in the second half put a statement out. It showed that we can mix it up in the big games in the FA Cup and also when we come back to league duty that we are ready to go again and get the results we need.”

SKINNER: “WE’LL ENJOY TODAY’S RESULT – BUT WE CERTAINLY WON’T BE GETTING CARRIED AWAY”

By Brian Bennett | Photo: Ian Brodie

Ashington FC manager Ian Skinner was naturally euphoric after his sides convincing 5-0 win over Ebac Northern League first division leaders Bishop Auckland at Woodhorn Lane on Saturday.

Lee Mason fired the Colliers ahead in the first half then the goals flowed after the break with Ben Harmison hitting a brace (including one from the penalty spot), Dan Maguire and a Ben Sampson special.

The boss said that the club will enjoy the moment – until the players return to training this week: “We do this as a hobby and when you win any football match 5-0 – let alone against a team who are a great side and who will be there or thereabouts at the top end of the table come the end of the season – it would be daft for us not to go and enjoy it,” he said, “When we win a match, it puts a smile on faces in the camp and rightly so – but the message is to enjoy the result now because we’ll be back on the training pitch and back to working hard on Tuesday night. The victory over Bishop Auckland will be put to bed and we’ll be turning all of our attentions towards our away match against Northallerton on Saturday.”

Looking back on the first half, the boss said: “If I’m honest, at 3pm all we wanted to do was to win a home game – and we’ve done that. I thought they (Bishop Auckland) probably started better than us and there’s a big moment after about seven minutes when our ‘keeper Karl Dryden makes a brilliant save. Whether that woke us up a little bit I don’t know but I just thought for the first 10-15 minutes they (Bishop Auckland) were probably slightly the better side and we grew into the game. Obviously to take the lead helps – and it was a good goal. Ben Harmison has headed down a cross and Lee Mason’s thunderbolt was a great strike. Lee (Mason) strikes a ball lovely – we’ve seen him do it at Thornaby recently and other places also spring to mind. After that, the first half was quite tentative and quite close – which we thought the whole game would be.”

He continued: “Second half I thought we just looked as if we were at it a little bit more and it was nice for a change that we have punished mistakes which the opposition have made. When we got the second goal, we really looked to control the game and didn’t give them (Bishop Auckland) a moment to settle. We took our chances when they came and I thought we looked a bit stronger than them and wanted it that little bit more. For our second goal I definitely thought it was a penalty and obviously Ben Harmison – having missed one recently – has stepped up to take it and scored then we’ve gone on to add some really good goals including a terrific effort from Ben Sampson.”

He went on: “All in all to win 5-0 against Bishop Auckland – who are having a fantastic season and who have got a fantastic squad – is very satisfying. Obviously the clean sheets are pleasing and again our goalkeeper Karl Dryden has made a good save at 5-0 from a free kick to preserve that clean sheet. We have only played 13 league games and it’s a great result today – but we won’t be getting carried away. It’s a home win in front of another magnificent crowd; we have scored five goals to boot; added three points onto our tally and plus five on the goal difference. Following our exit in the Emirates FA Cup against King’s Lynn, we drew one and lost one of our next two league games and a lot was said about it with people calling it a cup hangover. Probably too big of a point was made of it but it’s great that the players have taken it on board and gone to Thornaby and won then backed that up with two wins from two home games. As I have already said, if you win your home matches and pick up points on the road, then you are on track to have a pretty good season – and with only one game at Woodhorn Lane out of the next eight, a steady stream of away games is rapidly approaching.”

For Saturday’s trip to North Yorkshire (November 12), Skinner said: “We will need to check on one or two bumps and bruises but we’d like to think Paul Robinson will be available for selection although the game will probably come too early for Robbie Dale and Dean Briggs.”