HARMISON: “IT’S NICE TO GET RECOGNITION FROM YOUR FELLOW PLAYERS”

By Brian Bennett

Ashington FC skipper Ben Harmison spoke of his ‘surprise’ – after he scooped the ‘Players Player of the season’ award at the club’s presentation night which was held in the Woodhorn Lane function suite on Saturday.

The 36 year old was unable to attend the event but said: “I received the news via a message from manager Ian Skinner – and it came as a surprise. However I’m over the moon to be honest. It’s nice to win something and with the Player’s player award it is recognition from your fellow players after having a good season with them.”

Manager Skinner said: “Sometimes with end of season presentations you see that one player tends to scoop the majority of the awards – but tonight ours are spread and I think that reflects the season we’ve had where we have had a number of consistent performers.”

He continued: “Obviously the players’ player trophy is the one which players really look too because it is their team mates who have voted – and that’s gone to Ben Harmison tonight. I don’t think its any secret what Ben brings to the team at both ends of the pitch – and not only on the pitch but off it as well. He obviously has the experience and has played higher up the pyramid and in a sporting context having been a professional sports person, he knows what it takes to ‘get the job done.’

At the beginning of this month, Harmison was the proud captain who held aloft the Ebac Northern League’s Division One Cup after the Colliers had clinched a 4-1 victory over Newcastle Benfield at North Shields’ Daren Persson Stadium which brought the Wansbeck side their first piece of silverware for nine years. Ashington will also have the chance to defend the trophy after the ENL announced at the weekend that due to the increased number of teams in the second division, they will run with a Division One Cup and the Ernest Armstrong Memorial Cup (which is for second division clubs) next season.

KALTHOEBER: “I WAS BLOWN AWAY WHEN I FOUND OUT I WAS PLAYING”

By Brian Bennett | Photo: Ian Brodie

Ashington FC defender Thomas Kalthoeber said he was ‘blown away’ when he found out an hour before kick off that he was in the Colliers starting line up for their Ebac Northern League Division One Cup final showdown against Newcastle Benfield on Bank Holiday Monday.

The Wansbeck side convincingly won the clash 4-1 – but Kalthoeber admitted to being taken aback: “I wasn’t expecting to be in the team,” he said afterwards, “I thought I was going to make the bench – so it was a nice surprise.”

Not once but twice, Kalthoeber’s season appeared to be over after he picked up serious injuries but the Newcastle-born defender never gave up hope of the Wansbeck outfit progressing to the final.

In matches barely a month apart against Thornaby, the 20 year old was in agony with separate injuries. In the DOC clash, Kalthoeber made a game changing tackle towards the end to prevent an equaliser – but suffered a hamstring tear.

He made strenuous efforts to recover – so much so that he played against the Teessiders in the league match at The dwmedia Stadium on April 9 – only to be forced off with a shoulder problem.

Again it was thought his campaign would be curtailed. However, less than a week before the grand final of the DOC, Kalthoeber – who is based in Longbenton – returned to training: “I felt fine although I could still feel my shoulder,” he said, “I was putting ice on it and I was desperate to be involved in the final.”

Kalthoeber – who wore the number five shirt against Benfield – continued: “I was a bit shaky for the first five to ten minutes but as soon as I got a touch on the ball I felt comfortable – and I was really confident that we would go on and win. We made the perfect start by scoring because it put them (Benfield) under pressure straight away and I thought ‘this is it.’ To win was just amazing and I’m buzzing. To be honest I wish the campaign was starting now – so I’ll be raring to go pre season.” It was triple success for Kalthoeber over the weekend too. “It’s been good,” he said, “I’ve lifted three trophies in two days. I won the league and league cup with Newcastle Eastend 23’s and then the DOC with Ashington today.”

ROBINSON: “THE LAST TIME ASHINGTON WON A TROPHY, I PLAYED AGAINST THEM!”

By Brian Bennett | Photo: Ian Brodie

Winning trophies is nothing new to Paul Robinson. After all, the stylish midfielder has his own collection of medals and treasured memories.

In an outstanding spell with Ebac Northern League outfit Whitley Bay he not only won the FA Vase with them once or twice at Wembley Stadium but on three occasions – and in consecutive years too. And just to put the icing on the cake, ‘Robbo’ – as he is nicknamed – also scored under the arch in the Seahorses 6-1 Vase final triumph in 2010 over Wroxham.

On Bank Holiday Monday, Robinson was again a scorer and a winner as he put Ashington on the path to victory with a goal inside the first minute of their ENL Division One Cup final against Newcastle Benfield. Ten minutes into the second half, he notched a second with a sumptuous right footer from the edge of the penalty area. His side ran out comfortable victors by a 4-1 margin.

It was Ashington’s first piece of silverware for nine years. The last occasion the Colliers picked up a trophy was after their 3-0 Northumberland Senior Cup victory over Whitley Bay at St James’ Park in 2013. Ironically ‘Robbo’ witnessed the game at close quarters. He was captain of the coast outfit and admitted that Ashington won the game comfortably.

Based in Seaton Delaval, Robinson has worn the colours of Ashington for two and a half years and was clearly delighted to help them arrest a barren run: “Ashington are a great club with great people and have a great set of lads,” he said, “I love playing for them and to win the cup on Monday was a nice way to finish the season. I’m over the moon for Ian Skinner – who is brilliant man as well as being a brilliant manager – and for all the workers behind the scenes. People don’t necessarily see the amount of work which goes on in the background so winning the cup was brilliant for them as well.”

North Shields-born Robinson – a football coach for Pro direct academy – set the ball rolling too: “The pitch was nice because it had a bit of zip on it so we could play and it was just one of those games where a lot of things I tried came off,” he said, “I kept the ball well and obviously scoring after 32 seconds helps everyone’s confidence.”

The 37 year old – 38 at the end of this month – had to find top gear very quickly: “The ball broke to Lewis (Suddick) and I put my head down and tried to run as fast as I could just to get in the box,” he added, “Lewis then played it across and like I have said about the zip on the pitch, there wasn’t any bobble and it was just a case of getting a good clean connection and putting the ball in the net.”

Robinson – happy with his own performance on the day – continued: “The second goal was nice and was another excellent pass from Ben Sampson. Sometimes Ben can fire the ball into me but he’s played it in nice and soft and all the weight was off (the ball) so again I just had to get a good connection, wrap my foot around it and I thought it was going in from the minute it left my foot. It was a great feeling and again, things like that have come off for me today so I’m really happy.” Robinson –- heaped praise on his team mates: “All the lads were brilliant today,” he said, “We played some good football and managed the game when we had too. We had also worked on a game plan with the manager earlier in the week. We had two top sessions and things turned out very well.”

HARMISON: “YOU CAN SEE WHAT THIS MEANS TO THE LADS AND THE FANS”

By Brian Bennett | Photo: Ian Brodie

Ashington FC won their first piece of silverware for nine years on Bank Holiday Monday when they clinched the Ebac Northern League’s Division One Cup after outclassing Newcastle Benfield at the Daren Persson Stadium in North Shields.

And afterwards delighted skipper Ben Harmison – who was presented with the cup by ENL president George Courtney – said the 4-1 victory should be a stepping stone towards future success.

Harmison said: “It was a massive win – and you can see what it means to all the lads and especially the fans. Their support was absolutely top notch and hopefully we’ve given them something to be happy and proud about. There have been a couple of coach loads of fans come through as well as those who have made the trip by other means of transport and it’s brilliant for them. It also shows how together the town is – and the lads and staff are just pleased we can put a smile on their faces.”

He continued: “I also thought the win was thoroughly merited because we played really well today and over the course of the season we have deserved some kind of silverware. Winning the cup is also for all the effort from the staff – manager Ian Skinner, Lee Anderson, Neil Cooper and Mark Ramsden as well as chairman Brian Shotton and all the volunteers for what they do behind the scenes.”

He went on: “I definitely think we can go on to better things next season. Winning today gives us that belief – this was the first trophy for the club for nine years and teams like Ashington should be associated with silverware more often. The togetherness we have got, this should be a stepping stone for us to push on next year and try to win more – like promotion and to have an extended run in the FA Vase and all of the other cups.”

Reflecting on the game – played in front of a bumper crowd of 805 – Harmison said: “Everything went according to plan. We knew how they (Benfield) were going to set up and we wanted to hit them in the wide areas – which we did. We attacked with pace and energy and ‘Robbo’ – Paul Robinson – arrived at the back post and put the ball away for our first goal and then we got a second. We probably took our foot off the gas a little bit and didn’t show enough energy for 10-15 minutes but then second half we kept the ball and dominated and I think we could have scored five or six.” Harmison added: “Everyone is happy and that comes from the hard work on and off the pitch from the lads in the club. It’s great to get a trophy – and it was about time we brought nine years without silverware to an end.”

SKINNER: “I CAN’T REMEMBER TOO MUCH ABOUT THE GAME TO BE HONEST”

By Brian Bennett | Photo: Ian Brodie

Ashington FC manager Ian Skinner was wrapped up in a whirlwind of emotions as the Woodhorn Lane outfit picked up their first piece of silverware for nine years after winning the Ebac Northern League Division One Cup on Bank Holiday Monday.

The Colliers took the lead through Paul Robinson after only 32 seconds and emphatically brushed Newcastle Benfield aside, romping to a 4-1 victory at the Daren Persson Stadium in North Shields.

And afterwards Skinner said: “To be truthful, I can’t remember too much of the game so it’ll be one which I’ll take great pleasure watching back! We wanted to start brightly and couldn’t have asked for anything better than by taking the lead in the first minute. It was strange because I thought it (the goal) would settle us down – but to be honest, we looked a little bit nervous after that. We scored a second (goal) and I thought we were relatively comfortable in the first half – certainly I cannot remember our goalkeeper Adam McHugh having to make any saves.”

He continued: “Second half we expected Benfield to have a bit of a go. They changed their system a little bit but that played into our hands slightly in terms of they left spaces down the sides and we exploited that and managed to get a third goal. Then Benfield scored and you think ‘oh here’s Ashington doing Ashington things’ but the fact that we hit back with a fourth a couple of minutes later settled us down and I think any lift Benfield would have got after pulling one back to make it 3-1 and thinking ‘we’ve got a chance’ was suddenly taken away from them with our fourth goal probably knocking the stuffing out of them.” He went on: “I was quietly confident that if we played to the levels we are capable of – and we have shown that on our day we can beat anyone– we would get the right result and I don’t think anybody can have any arguments that the best team won. We also knew our fans would back us and generate noise which is great – and it was terrific to celebrate with them at the end.”

SKINNER: “I’M DELIGHTED FOR SO MANY PEOPLE”

By Brian Bennett

Ashington FC manager Ian Skinner was ecstatic at the final whistle after his side had swept Newcastle Benfield away to win the Ebac Northern League’s Division One Cup on Bank Holiday Monday.

The game was staged at the Daren Persson Stadium – the home of newly crowned ENL champions North Shields who have consequently been promoted – and saw the Colliers stroll to a 4-1 victory with goals from Paul Robinson (2), Lewis Suddick (penalty) and Dean Briggs whilst Aiden Haley replied for the Lions.

And afterwards Skinner said: “First and foremost, I’m really, really delighted for the players. I think the way we have played and the way we have attacked games this season, warranted us getting something to show for it. The amount of goals we have scored – and conceded – plus the entertainment we have served up along the way, I’m chuffed that the lads have got their just rewards. I’m also delighted for the people (supporters) who have turned out, and it was no surprise that they have come out in their hundreds today because they’ve done it all season and it’s really nice that they have got something to be proud of and something to shout about with a little bit of bragging rights too.”

He continued: “To be honest, I’m also delighted for the town as well. Ashington is a place which gets lots of bad press – sometimes rightly so – sometimes not so rightly so – but it’s a tight knit place. Two days ago, I was at Ashington Cricket Club watching my local cricket team get a fantastic win against Lanchester – and the cricket club lads have been here today supporting the football team. Obviously it helps with our skipper Ben Harmison – who plays for them hitting an unbeaten 94 off 51 balls – then he’s lifted the cup for us today and it’s great because Ashington is a real sporting town. Obviously everybody knows about all these fantastic footballers and sportsmen who have come out of the town and it’s nice that at the level at which we operate, we have been able to put a trophy in the cabinet. It’s a really pleasing way to end the season and somebody has mentioned today that not only do we end the season with a cup final but we potentially start next season with one in terms of we will play the Cleator Cup against North Shields – so that’ll be something to look forward too but that’s a long way off.”

He went on: “What we will do is to enjoy today for a little while and we’ll have an end of season presentation and get together – then the vicious circle which is football, we’ll all start planning again and looking ahead to next year and seeing if we can go one better. We have finished eighth in the league and have won the cup, doing it the hard way after beating Thornaby, Guisborough and Consett along the way before Benfield in the final and the players deserve massive credit.” He concluded: “I’m delighted for the club with the amount of work which goes on behind the scenes by all the volunteers that nobody sees – and overall it was a great day for everybody.”

HARMISON: “TO WIN THE CUP WOULD BE MASSIVE FOR US”

By Brian Bennett

Ashington FC skipper Ben Harmison said at the weekend that if the Colliers were to win the Ebac Northern League Division One Cup it would be just rewards for the effort put in by the squad over the season.

Harmison will lead his hometown club out against Newcastle Benfield on Bank Holiday Monday (May 2) at North Shields’ Daren Persson Stadium – with the game having an 11am kick-off.

The two sides are logged at two wins each from four clashes during the season – the Colliers claiming two victories in the League whilst the Lions delivered knockout blows in the Emirates FA Cup and Buildbase FA Vase – and Harmison is under no illusions that their fifth meeting will be anything other than a tough clash: “We’ll be approaching the final just like any other game to be fair,” said the 36 year old, “We’ve played well against Newcastle Benfield a few times this year but it didn’t really matter who our opponents were going to be because whoever you play in a final you know it’s going to be a hard match. We’ll be training twice this week and prepare as normal. We’ll go into the match really confident – we’ve won a couple of games against them and they have got the better of us on a couple of occasions but it’s always a good game when we play them and the lads are all looking forward to it.”

The venue for the match brings back happy memories for Harmison – who is one of a handful of ex North Shields players in the Ashington squad: “I loved my time at North Shields,” he added, “Obviously we will not be playing in front of the home crowd – but I’m sure the Colliers fans will come out in their droves to support us and do what they have all season by giving us a lot of backing. If they do that, then it’ll probably feel like a home game especially on a bank holiday and hopefully we can give them something to be happy about.”

Harmison said it will be a ‘massive’ day for the Woodhorn Lane outfit: “It doesn’t matter what cup it is, to get to the final and have the chance of getting some silverware would be massive for the club and the players who have worked so hard this year,” he commented, “We’ve played some good football and even though we let ourselves down over the last few weeks of the season we picked up again and to be honest I think we deserve something for the way we have played. When you get to this stage of the season and people say the final is nothing, they don’t see the work which goes on pre season as well as the training sessions and long trips away midweek in the middle of winter. You are doing all of that to get to cup finals.”

The versatile Harmison – who can operate either at the heart of the defence or as a striker up front – will not find out until just before kick off what role he will be handed: “I’d go in goal if I was asked to,” he added, “I love playing for Ashington and if we can win on Monday, it would be a great way to end the season.”

SKINNER: “IT’S ALL ABOUT WHO TURNS UP ON THE DAY”

By Brian Bennett

Ashington FC manager Ian Skinner takes his side into the final of the Ebac Northern League Division One Cup against Newcastle Benfield at North Shields’ Daren Persson Stadium on Bank Holiday Monday (May 2) with an 11am kick-off, hoping they can reproduce some of their early season form.

The two sides have already met on no fewer than four occasions this season – both winning two apiece – but Skinner believes Mondays contest will be all about ‘who turns up on the day’: “I’ve said it before that the semi final is an awful place to lose – but the final is not a great place to be for losers either,” he commented, “So we will be going to win and will prepare the same as we do for every other game. We’ll train twice this week, potentially three times in terms of we may have a practice match on Saturday having not played since our away game at Consett. Cup finals are very much about who turns up on the day but the one thing I can guarantee – and obviously I watched the other semi final on Saturday between Sunderland Ryhope CW and Newcastle Benfield – is that we’ll have a game plan.”

He continued: “We’ve played Benfield four times already and I can’t recall a season where we have met the same opponents five times. It’s 2-2 – they have the upper hand in cup competitions knocking us out of the Emirates FA Cup and Buildbase FA Vase whilst we beat them both home and away in the league. However those previous meetings will have zero bearing on Monday’s encounter – they will count for nothing at all because it will be a different game. People may think it’s no big deal – but players are used to playing at 3pm on a Saturday afternoon so kicking off at 11am, the whole routine changes because we will be meeting at 9.30am so that will have to be factored into preparations. It’s two teams who know each other almost inside out. We know Benfield have one or two threats and we’ll have to be aware of them but the plan will be very much about us and if we go and play to the levels which we are capable of, and reproduce some of the football which have done during the season then we’ll stand a very good chance of winning. Will it be easy? No – it’ll be a difficult competitive game.”

He went on: “To reach a cup final is not a straight forward feat so I want the players to enjoy it and to embrace it – but they’ll enjoy it a whole lot more if we are successful and come home with the trophy to show everybody.”

Skinner already had to reckon without Luke Salmon and Max Emmerson through suspension and injury respectively but he added: “We think Bobby Taylor will be ruled out as well whilst the game will probably come too soon for Adam Johnson and Jamie Hanson who are desperate to prove themselves in training this week but neither have stepped onto the training pitch since picking up their injuries. Thomas Kalthoeber is a possibility but again remains highly doubtful.” Skinner is banking on the clubs fans to provide noisy encouragement from the terraces: “Ashington haven’t been to too many cup finals in recent years so it’ll be a fantastic day out for them – and nothing will surprise me in terms of how many supporters make the journey and get behind us,” he added.

SKINNER: “MY INITIAL REACTION IS ONE OF DISAPPOINTMENT”

By Brian Bennett

Ashington FC manager Ian Skinner admitted after Saturday’s thrilling encounter against Consett had ended all square at 4-4 that a draw was a fair result – but the boss could not conceal his overall disappointment.

Skinner said afterwards: “My initial reaction is one of disappointment if I’m honest because on two occasions in the game we were two goals ahead. To be fair to Consett started the game brighter than we did and we probably scored slightly against the run of play and then we scored another one quickly. But for whatever reason as a team we don’t defend well enough and make it difficult enough for the opposition. There were two attacking minded teams out there today and we conceded a really poor goal allowing Scott Heslop a free header to make it 2-1 followed by an equaliser from Dale Pearson. But by hook or by crook we go 3-2 ahead after Dean Briggs scores an outrageous goal in added on time at the end of the first half, where he takes a fantastic first touch from just inside the Consett half then turns and puts the ball over the ‘keepers head.”

He continued: “At half time we talked about how we can play and what we do when we have got the ball and what we do when we haven’t got the ball. We went 4-2 up after a brilliant move and goal then for a period of 10-15 minutes, the game had a lull which suited us because it wasn’t really going anywhere. Then all of a sudden we couldn’t put two passes together and we kept turning the ball over to Consett who moved it really well and passed it well – and when a team does that, if you keep giving them the ball, you’ve got to do an awful lot of running. We started giving needless free kicks away; too many corners away, bearing in mind that we talked about their delivery into the box which is real quality. Then it becomes 4-3 and we need to be braver at the front post. We talked about we had to be big and brave but it looked as if we turned our backs on the ball at the near post and Calvin Smith didn’t know a lot about it – the ball just hit him and goes in.”

He went on: “Consett kept coming and I thought it was a soft free kick which led to the equaliser but again we have made the referee make a decision and fair play to Jake Orrell who has stepped up and bent the ball into the top corner. We talked about limiting set plays but we should have won it late on with three brilliant chances. Kyle Hayes has made two really good saves and then we’ve broke two versus one. Jordan Lashley has done brilliantly, drawn the defender and passed to Craig Spooner on the edge of the box who with just the ‘keeper to beat has fallen over the ball.”

He went on: “I thought a draw was a fair result today but we’ve had three unbelievable games across the season with Consett and have won 11-10 on aggregate! The clashes have been between two teams that want to go forward and score goals and probably both teams achilles heel for the season is conceding too many goals!”

Skinner reflected on the campaign: “When we analyse the season as a whole, if anyone had said we would finish eighth and get to a cup final then most players would say ‘where do I sign?’ It’s been a fantastic season and the players have done really well but a little part of me is pondering about what could have been especially our form towards the end of the season and three or four of our away games where we were on the wrong end of some big score lines which was quite surprising. However, I’m a firm believer at the end of the campaign – and it’s a bit of cliché – that you end up in the league table where you deserve too and next year we need to look to be better. Meanwhile cup competitions tell us all that on our day we can beat anybody because we have managed to progress to a cup final. We’ve had a tough route to get there beating Thornaby, Guisborough and Consett – and now we’ll start to plan towards the game which will be against Sunderland Ryhope CW or Newcastle Benfield.”

SKINNER EXPRESSES HIS DELIGHT FOR SUPPORTERS – AS WELL AS VOLUNTEERS BEHIND THE SCENES

By Brian Bennett || Photo: Ian Brodie

Ashington FC manager Ian Skinner – understandably euphoric after his outfit had won a titanic contest to go through to the final of the Ebac Northern League Division One Cup after a 4-3 margin over Consett at The dwmedia Stadium on Tuesday night – has expressed his overall delight for the supporters and behind the scenes volunteers connected with the Woodhorn Lane outfit.

Dean Briggs scored a brace for the Colliers whose other goals came from skipper Ben Harmison and Jordan Summerly. Carl Lawson, Scott Heslop and Colin Larkin (penalty) were on target for Consett who played the final half hour with ten men after Calvin Smith had been red carded.

However the Colliers will have to wait patiently for the outcome of the other semi final between Sunderland Ryhope CW v Newcastle Benfield – due to be staged on Saturday week (April 23) – before knowing who they will face in the final.

Skinner said: “As well as being delighted for the players, I am also delighted for the supporters. They have come out in their numbers all season and backed the team with fantastic vocal support throughout and even in recent weeks when we haven’t quite played to the levels we had earlier in the season, they have stuck with us and hopefully they can enjoy a day out at the final.”

He continued: “In addition I am also delighted for the chairman (Brian Shotton) who invests massive amounts of his time carrying out all sorts of duties above and beyond his role plus all the volunteers behind the scenes who keep the club operational on a daily basis. This is as much for them and their hard work as it is for the players and supporters. However we will all only enjoy our day if we can go on and lift the cup – and that is what the aim will be.”