Category: First Team

SKINNER: “I THOUGHT IT WAS TWO POINTS DROPPED”

By Brian Bennett

Ashington FC manager Ian Skinner said he thought his side dropped two points after the 1-1 draw at Heaton Stannington on Wednesday night.

The Colliers trailed in to a 27th minute opener from Daniel Stephenson before skipper Ben Harmison stoked home the equaliser 11 minutes from the end or normal time.

Skinner said: “We’ll take a point because we lost against Sunderland RCA on Saturday. It’s always nice not to lose back to back games – but all in all I thought it was two points dropped tonight. We had lots of the ball, so it was a similar story to last Saturday (v Sunderland RCA) but I thought we passed it with a bit more of a purpose tonight. We certainly got into some good areas but our play in the final third wasn’t quite where it has been in previous games. Credit to Heaton Stannington who I thought worked really, really hard in order to try and stop us playing – and then tried to attack us down the sides where they have got some quick and lively players. The game plan for them worked in terms of they went ahead and were then able to try and sit in a little bit and invite us onto them to try to get us to come out to create space for their pacy players to catch us on the counter attack.”

He continued: “Second half we came out and it was a similar story to the first 45 minutes. We are on winter pitches which are very heavy and we need to get used to that – but it just goes to show what a good job our groundsman Scott Robson does at Woodhorn Lane. Again we got into some good areas and threatened their goal a bit more and their ‘keeper (Tom Flynn) has made a couple of saves. He made a good one in the first half when he got down low from a Ben Harmison header and he’s made a couple of very good saves in the second half. I thought we were coming into the game and felt as if we would get something from it. We weren’t playing as well as we could but the amount of possession we had, there was going to come a point where our quality would come out in the end.”

Skinner added: “I then did something which I have never ever done when I made four substitutions together. We changed our shape and I thought we really took control of the game. We started to overload in wide areas; we started to get runners off Ben Harmison in behind and we started to pick up second balls which we didn’t do anywhere near enough in the previous 70 minutes of the game. “

He went on: “We sacrificed our principals a little bit towards the end to try and make sure we got something out of the game. We went a little bit more direct into Ben Harmison and looked to get down the sides a little bit quicker and put balls into the box earlier – and we got our just rewards with Karl Ross running on the end of a Harmison flick on. He then rode a couple of challenges and he’s managed to roll the ball into Harmison’s path and he’s finished across the ‘keeper – and if I’m honest we should have gone on and won it.”

For Saturday’s trip to West Auckland (December 3), Skinner will run fitness checks on Dan Maguire, Damen Mullen and Lee Mason.

SKINNER: “IT’S A BLIP – NOT A DISASTER”

By Brian Bennett

Ashington FC manager Ian Skinner said his sides 2-0 defeat against Sunderland RCA on Saturday was a blip and not a disaster.

A first half brace from striker Kyle Fryatt brought the Colliers sequence of five consecutive wins to a halt at Sunderland LGV Park and afterwards Skinner commented: “Obviously it was disappointing that the run came to an end but full credit to RCA who worked really hard for the win today. But as far as I’m concerned it’s a blip – it’s not a disaster. We were always going to lose more than one game in the season in the league and it’ll be how we react on Wednesday night (November 30) when we go to play Heaton Stannington.”

Skinner reflected on the first half: “I thought we started the game okay and probably dominated the ball for 20 minutes or so,” he said, “Albeit we were a little bit slow in moving the ball but we created one or two half chances. However, when we got into the final third we were a bit loose with the final pass. It was almost as if it became a little bit too easy for us in terms of having lots of the ball and we started to make poor decisions and tried to play the difficult pass instead of doing the simple thing.”

The boss was disappointed with both goals conceded: “We were punished for two unforced errors really,” he added, “We gave the ball away really, really cheaply just inside their half and they’ve played one ball in behind. Fryatt has run onto it and took the goal really well with a little lift over the keeper. Likewise for the second one, we were too casual playing out from the back and our ‘keeper Karl (Dryden) knows he has made a mistake by lofting the ball straight to their player (Fryatt) and he’s gone through and it’s 2-0. It gives them (RCA) something to work for and fight for and again as the half progressed I thought we still had lots of the ball but didn’t really do enough with it.”

Without a trio of strikers in Dan Maguire, Lee Mason and Ben Harmison, Skinner refused to make their absences an excuse: “Second half was disappointing coming down the back as we turned the game into a bit of a scrap as opposed to a football match and I don’t think we passed the ball as well as we could,” he added, “That said we got into some good areas on three or four occasions and have hit the post twice and had a couple of blocks but all in all we weren’t at our best. We were missing a lot of players but injuries are part and parcel of the game so we’ll not use that as an excuse. But obviously our three top goal scorers weren’t playing today and when you take those out of any team then obviously it makes the job a bit more difficult.”

Skinner then elaborated on positives to come out of the reverse: “I thought AJ (Adam Johnson) came in today for his first start in a while and worked really hard whilst we also got some minutes into Robbie Dale who has been out for ten weeks,” he said, “But this group of players are really good at bouncing back from a poor result – the last time was at home to Heaton Stannington and after that we then won five games in a row. So hopefully it’s just a case of pressing the reset button and refocusing and getting back to doing what we do well. What we need to understand is that the pitches are changing now so some of the type of football we played early in the season is difficult on difficult pitches and we’ll need to look at different ways in which to play – starting first and foremost by making sure we compete.”

For Wednesday’s short journey to face Heaton Stannington (7.30pm kick-off), Skinner said he will need to check on his trio of injured strikers – Maguire, Mason and Harmison – before naming his line up.

SMITH: “WE ARE STILL WINNING AND THAT’S THE SIGN OF A GOOD TEAM”

By Brian Bennett

Ashington FC midfielder Liam Smith reckons there is more to come from the Colliers – even though the Woodhorn Lane side have won their last five matches in the Ebac Northern League and sit third from top of the first division table.

South Shields-born Smith scored his second goal of the season in Saturday’s 3-2 victory over West Allotment Celtic and is happy on several fronts: “Obviously it’s been a while since I played a consistent amount of matches so I’m still not at my peak,” he said, “but I’m getting nearer and nearer with every game and as a team we haven’t dropped any points over the last five games so that’s the main thing.”

Ironically, Smith opened his account after being on target in the 3-1 away win against West Allotment Celtic in the Techflow Northumberland Senior Cup – but Saturday’s effort which put the Colliers into a 2-0 lead – was a venomous left footer from the edge of the area: “I just wanted to make good contact with the ball,” he said, “It was pretty much straight at the ‘keeper but it (the ball) went through a few players so I think it caught him by surprise. Nevertheless I was delighted when it hit the back of the net.”

The 27 year old – a strength and conditioning coach – who signed for Ashington in mid August added: “I’ve settled in and I’m enjoying it. Everything is good – the group of lads, the coaching staff and the fans so I’m happy. I don’t feel we are playing great at the minute but we are still winning and that’s the sign of a good team. Eventually I think things will all come together – where we are playing well and picking up the points.”

HARMISON: “WE GOT COMPLACENT AND MADE THINGS HARD FOR OURSELVES”

By Brian Bennett | Photo: Ian Brodie

Ashington FC skipper Ben Harmison blasted home a 96th minute penalty which secured a 3-2 victory for the Colliers over West Allotment Celtic at Woodhorn Lane on Saturday.

And afterwards, Harmison admitted that his side – 2-0 up at the break – had not fired on all cylinders: “I thought overall that we deserved to win – but we made it hard for ourselves second half,” he said, “We got really complacent and stopped trying to score goals. We needed to get that third (goal) because all of a sudden if it (the game) goes to 2-1 there’s a bit of pressure on you – and that’s what happened. They then got the equaliser and the game was so open it was anyone’s for the taking.”

Harmison elaborated on the move which led to the high drama – with the third penalty of the game being awarded in the dying seconds of the game: “I put a diagonal ball through for Dan Maguire and he’s ended up getting a penalty which I put away,” he added.

Harmison believed he was playing in the back four – until a late change of plan: “I thought I was playing centre half today but the manager tweaked things and with the conditions, he wanted to play me up front just to give us a bit of an out ball,” he said, “I was comfortable taking the two penalties and I was just happy they went in to be fair. Even though we were poor for half an hour in the second half it shows the character of the team because we kept going and kept putting balls into the box at the end. We needed that bit of luck and we managed to get three good points.”

Ashington start a run of six consecutive away games when they go to Sunderland RCA on Saturday (November 26) and Harmison said: “Naturally, it helps playing at home with the big crowds but we’re looking to it and hopefully the fans will travel to support us. We had a couple of players missing today but we’ll have a couple back for Saturday and we’ll continue to take it game by game.”

Manager Ian Skinner hailed the versatility of Harmison: “I think with Ben it’s fantastic to have somebody like him who can do a brilliant job at both ends of the pitch. Last season we really bore the benefits of him as a centre half but I think this term – and certainly in this run of five straight wins – we are seeing the benefits of him as a centre forward in terms of him occupying defenders; always keeping the opposition on their toes and allowing us to mix our play up.”

He continued: “With Ryan McKinnon unavailable, the easy option today (against West Allotment Celtic) would have been to play Ben at the back. The pitch was going to cut up and be difficult to play on and would be heavy underfoot and we wanted to leave him (Ben) up top. We asked one or two others to play in slightly different positions – credit to them – and we got our just desserts. Ben scored with two penalties after creating them both so fair play to him and he is now the top goal scorer at the club. The irony is that when we asked Ben last season, he said he preferred playing at centre back – but I wonder what his answer will be now!”

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.