Category: First Team


By Brian Bennett | Photo: Ian Brodie

Ashington FC manager Ian Skinner admitted that his outfit were far from being at their best in the first half against Cleethorpes Town on Saturday – but nevertheless thought a draw would have been a fair result.

Following their midweek share of the spoils with Stocksbridge Park Steels on a pitch which cut up, the Colliers did extremely well to get the game on.

Early in the contest, Curtis Bateson fired ‘The Owls’ ahead before Connor Thomson netted the equaliser. In the 80th minute, a sensational strike by Harrison Poulter tipped the scales in favour of the visitors who went on to record a 2-1 victory and complete a seasons double following their 1-0 win at the end of September.

Afterwards Skinner said: “It’s always disappointing when you lose a game. I thought we began really sluggishly and they (Cleethorpes) certainly started far better and went ahead early in the contest. We talked about the wide player (Curtis Bateson) who likes to come inside and open the goal up but we defended poorly, allowing him to move inside and he showed that he is a good finisher. After that, we got a foothold in the game and started to move the ball a bit quicker but I just thought we were too slow in possession and out of possession we didn’t get close enough to Cleethorpes. They were looking to put the ball in behind our full backs for their two wide players who offered them a lot throughout the game. We had a chance that got cleared off the line and from another good passage of play, we got down the side and managed to cut it back and Connor (Thomson) has scored to make it 1-1. After that, we had a little spell where we probably had more of the ball than Cleethorpes but we didn’t really create too many opportunities and at half time, I was probably pleased with a 1-1 score line because I didn’t think we had played to the levels which we are capable of. I’m not offering excuses but this was our fourth game in two weeks with minimal changes and we looked like a team who were feeling the effects of playing four times on heavy pitches.”

He continued: “If the truth be know, we didn’t start the second half particularly well either and we tried to freshen it up by bringing on a couple of substitutes just to see if we could get a little bit more energy into our play. I thought we did that then we’ve probably dominated possession for long periods in the second half and got into good positions in and around their box but a mix of us being a little bit loose and sloppy around their box and some good defending on their part has kept us out. We did ‘get in’ and fashioned a couple of chances – and Karl Ross has put a great ball across that just evaded everybody and trickled the wrong side of the post.”

Skinner added: “Cleethorpes cleared one off the line just before they scored the second goal and I was disappointed that we got caught. I need to see the footage but in my mind there is a potential foul in the build up. We defend it – then a header drops lovely for the lad (Harrison Poulter) to strike and it’s gone in.”

Skinner went on: “Even when they were 2-1 up, we’ve had a couple of chances in and around the box but I just thought we wanted that extra pass or extra touch. We delayed or refused shooting opportunities at times when we could have taken it on and ultimately it’s probably cost us. However for all that, I definitely thought we deserved something from the game for our overall general play and a draw would have been a fair result.”

He concluded: “We just need to dust ourselves down a little bit and need to manage the load. We are running with quite a tight squad at the moment due to injuries and some long term ones – obviously Nathan Buddle, Charlie Exley and Jordan Summerly have all been out for months now – and we’ve had to dip in and get a couple of people dual registered just to help us through the period. Andrew Cartwright played for us on Tuesday night against Stocksbridge and with West Allotment Celtic’s game being called off today it was a bonus to have Cyril Giraud available. However, it was disappointing to lose today because we were on a little unbeaten run of three games. We’ve got to look to bounce back and on Saturday (February 24) we’ve got no tougher a test than when we travel to play the league leaders Stockton Town.”


Ashington Football Club is thrilled to announce a significant milestone, as the club secures its immediate and long-term tenure at Woodhorn Lane through a newly negotiated lease agreement lasting until 2049. This achievement not only fortifies the club’s presence at its home but also sets the stage for future development and continuous improvement as a community asset for the town to be proud of.

We extend our thanks to Advance Northumberland for their assistance in facilitating this agreement. Their faith in the club has played an important role in this positive step forward for us.

Chairman Brian Shotton expressed his enthusiasm, stating, “Our aims this season were to secure our tenure at Woodhorn Lane, carry out essential ground improvements, and ultimately stay in the Northern Premier League East. We are well on the way to achieving these goals, and we would like to thank Advance Northumberland, our valued sponsors, local councillors, and fantastic supporters for helping us get to where we are as a club off the field. We’ve come a long way in five years and I’m thankful for everyone who has played their part.”

“In addition to securing our immediate future, this extended lease opens doors for further development, enabling us to enhance the stadium and clubhouse, and create a community asset we can all take pride in. The club is committed to fostering a vibrant community hub and looks forward to the continued support of its dedicated community, sponsors, and fans.”


By Brian Bennett | Photo: Ian Brodie

Ashington FC manager Ian Skinner said he was ‘slightly disappointed with just a point’ – after his side had fought back to secure a 1-1 draw against Stocksbridge Park Steels at Woodhorn Lane on Tuesday night.

Jack Watson put the visitors ahead in an uneventful first period before Darren Lough equalised just short of the midway point in the second period.

Skinner said afterwards: “I’m probably slightly disappointed with just a point because of some of the chances that we created plus the amount of possession we had in and around their box second half but we haven’t been able to score that elusive winner.”

The boss reflected on the first 45 minutes: “I thought we played too slow and didn’t move the ball quick enough,” he said, “To their credit Stocksbridge obviously recognised the way we were playing and they flooded the centre of the pitch and it was really congested in that area. We were trying to get messages on for players to make runs from inside to out and to stretch the pitch a little bit but in truth there wasn’t really much between the two teams in the first half. Obviously they took the lead with a bit of a bizarre goal. Our ‘keeper Ross Coombe has made a decent save but he’s pushed it (the ball) back out and Andrew Cartwright and their number 11 (Jack Watson) have gone to tackle each other for the loose ball. It seems to have just squirmed up and the ball has hardly crossed the line – it just trickled into the goal and it’ll be interesting to watch it back. Consequently we found ourselves 1-0 down and it gives them (Stocksbridge) something to really dig in for and hold onto.”

Skinner was happier with his side after the break: “Similar to Saturday at Grimsby, I thought we started the second half really brightly,” he said, “We looked to play forward quickly, we fashioned one or two chances and I thought we went on to dominate pretty much the majority of the half. We had a couple of big chances – their goalkeeper (Harry Garman) has pushed a shot out and Connor Thomson was clean through after a great move. However, just like Saturday, we are missing gilt edged chances at the minute and that would have brought us level. We then scored a really, really good goal to be fair and the move leading up to it going from right to left was good. Darren Lough put it away at the back post and after that we were in the ascendancy without really stretching their goalkeeper too much.”

He continued: “Ashington like to make things interesting and in the last couple of minutes they (Stocksbridge) had a flurry of corners and we couldn’t seem to clear our lines a little bit. Then right at the death when I think there were five minutes added, in the third minute, two players, Karl Ross and their player (Alex O’Connor) just seemed to have a hold of each other and ended up rolling down. However, a fantastic ball up the line has released Wilson Kneeshaw who is clean through just inside their half with not a Stocksbridge player near him – and the referee pulls it back. He sends their man off and books Karl (Ross) which doesn’t help us because we were clean through on goal – but listen it is what it is. Stocksbridge have dug in and they’ll go back home tonight having come up here on a Tuesday and been pleased with a point after the work they put in to get one.”


By Brian Bennett | Photo: Ian Brodie

Ben Sampson admitted that his eyes ‘lit up’ when the chance came for to him to score his first goal of the season in Ashington’s 2-1 win over Grimsby Borough on Saturday.

The Colliers had gone behind to an opener from Caine Winfarrah but three minutes later Sampson pounced on an opportunity to level: “We played a little bit different today which allowed me to get forward more than normal,” said the 25 year old afterwards, “After running into the box, Karl Ross got in behind their defence to reach the by-line and cross and seeing the ball come towards me, my eyes lit up. When you haven’t scored all season and its February, you’re a bit nervous – but it was an open goal really and I just tucked it away.”

After being out for a number of weeks through injury, Ashington-born Sampson was handed a start in midfield: “It was tough but I was fine,” he added, “I was cramping up a bit towards the end but to be fair, considering the time of year, it was a pretty good surface. It was one of those games where you dig in and get the result and sometimes they are the best. I thought we deserved it. Ross Coombe has pulled off a great save from a penalty but the game should have been out of sight.”

Sampson – a civil servant who is based in Pegswood – is hoping the side can kick on: “I love it at Ashington both on and off the pitch and the lads are great,” he said, “To be honest over the course of this season, we sometimes haven’t had the results we deserve but hopefully we can kick on and reach a league position which reflects the performances we have put in.”

Ashington manager Ian Skinner said: “Ben has missed quite a few games with a little bit of an injury so we eased him back in gently. We didn’t take any risks with him at Dunston but we managed to get him on the pitch at home to West Allotment Celtic and he did well when he came on. Ben offers us energy; he covers ground well; he’s got a good range of passing; can break the play up and drive and carry the ball. He got a start today with a bit of a change of shape from us and I thought he did really, really well and should be pleased with his overall performance.”


By Brian Bennett

Ashington FC goalkeeper Ross Coombe has said he will savour what was a dramatic five days in his footballing career.

Coombe – who has competed with Karl Dryden for the number one jersey – made his first appearance for the club in the 5-1 win over Newcastle University in the Newcastle Flooring Northumberland Senior Cup back in September. He was again included in the Ashington side which reached the semi finals of the competition last week following a 1-0 win over West Allotment Celtic.

Coombe – who is based in Consett – made crucial saves in the closing minutes of the cup tie and was handed his league debut in Saturday’s NPL East Division away clash at Grimsby Borough.

The Colliers were ahead 2-1 when the Durham-born ‘keeper saved a penalty with just over quarter of an hour remaining before the Colliers saw out the game: “If anybody had asked me to write down what would be my ideal week in football – this past week would have been it!” said a delighted Coombe, “It was a too good to be true kind of few days and I was delighted.”

Coombe kept out Harvey Tomlinson’s right footed spot kick and added: “You go with your instincts and luckily I went the right way. The penalty save was important because if they had scored it would have made it 2-2 and the game would have been different.”

The 24 year old – a ground worker – continued: “It’s mentally draining working all week then travelling on a Saturday and midweek but that’s the commitment you make in football. Now my target is to stay in the side.”

Ashington boss Ian Skinner said: “Ross is a great character around the place. If I’m being uber-critical, the one thing which we have spoken to him about is to take his football a little bit more seriously. I don’t mean that in a bad way – it’s just his character is lively and bubbly. Ross has been really, really patient – he’s played two cup games and then today made his first league start since joining the club in the summer. I thought he was excellent. He got his opportunity on Tuesday night and didn’t put a foot wrong and made a fantastic save late in the game to see us through the tie and again today he has replicated his performance and made a great save from a penalty.”

He continued: “We have two slightly different goalkeepers at the club in terms of Karl Dryden who has got experience and comes and takes crosses and whose reflexes are good whereas Ross is a little bit more comfortable with the ball at his feet and his reflexes are really, really good too. He’s had two fantastic games and long may that continue because it’s a vital and critical position in a game of football (Goalkeeper). For Ashington to have two goalkeepers as good as we have got fighting and supporting each other for the jersey is great to see. Ross has bided his time and come to games and warmed Karl up – now its Karl’s turn to look after Ross and make sure he prepares pre-game properly. They are both good lads who support each other and are pleased for each other and we are just blessed to have two first class goalkeepers.”

Skinner admitted that he was faced with having to make a difficult decision in Lincolnshire on Saturday: “We looked to give Ross a game in the cup match (against West Allotment Celtic) which we had done earlier in the season when we played Newcastle University,” he said, “However because of his performance level, it would have been really difficult to turn to Ross on Saturday and say ‘I’m leaving you out’ – but then its really difficult to turn to Karl Dryden and say ‘we took you out on Tuesday without any fault and because Ross has done so well, you’ve suffered in terms of it would be difficult to take him back out.’ We are just fortunate to have two lads who I reckon are probably the best goalkeeping department in the league.”


Br Brian Bennett

Ashington FC manager Ian Skinner was ‘thrilled to bits’ after his side had clinched their fifth away victory of the season with a 2-1 success away to Grimsby Borough on Saturday.

After Caine Winfarrah had put the hosts ahead, Ben Sampson and Connor Thomson turned the tables in Ashington’s favour but before the win was secured, ‘keeper Ross Coombe pulled off a spectacular save from a 73rd minute penalty from Harvey Tomlinson.

Skinner said afterwards: “Overall it was a fantastic result from what was a good game of football – and Grimsby are a good side. Credit to their ground staff and volunteers at the club who prepared the pitch because it was brilliant and we appreciated the efforts they put in to make sure that the game went ahead.”

The boss saw his side go a goal behind but was pleased with how they responded: “I thought we started the match brightly and probably shaded possession certainly across the 90 minutes,” he said, “We conceded a little bit of a poor goal but after that we showed a fantastic reaction to come back; get our foot on the ball and move it around – and we scored two very good goals.”

He continued: “We came in at half time 2-1 up and there were lots to be pleased about and then second half we started really brightly again – something which we had talked about. We probably should have been further ahead within the opening ten minutes of the second half on chances alone but as with football they (Grimsby) were always going to have a little spell. They had a period of 10-15 minutes where they got on top a little bit and created some chances including a penalty but Ross (Coombe) has made an outstanding save and pushed it (the ball) onto the post. We’ve then made a couple of substitutions and changed how we wanted to play a little bit and I thought we saw the game out well.”

He added: “It’s always good to win on the road – and it was a good performance. On another day we probably could of and maybes should have won the game a bit more comfortably on chances created but that’s where we are at the moment. We are getting into good areas and fashioning good opportunities. However we are not being quite as ruthless as we were in earlier games – but that will come. A cliché in football is ‘you worry when you are not creating the chances’ – we are creating them and before long something will click and will win a game handsomely.”

Skinner’s challenge to the players is to be more consistent: “I want us to press on,” he said, “If there’s a slight criticism of the group it’s a little bit around consistency. We tend to go on good runs of winning three or four games in a row but then lose two or three together and I think we just need to find that level of consistency. We are not going to be ‘at it’ every single minute of every single game but when we are not playing particularly well as a group we tend to be on the wrong end of a result. Sometimes you have got to dig in that little bit and if we are not quite performing at the levels we are capable of, we have got to be switched on and make sure we don’t lose the game. However if we are ‘at it’ then I fancy us to beat anybody in the league.”


By Brian Bennett

Ashington FC coach Ritchie Hill was delighted on Tuesday night after the Colliers had won their quarter final tie in the Newcastle Flooring Northumberland Senior Cup against a plucky West Allotment Celtic outfit by a single goal at Woodhorn Lane.

Hill said afterwards: “In cup football it’s all about the result and tonight is fantastic for us as a club and gives us something to look forward to – a semi-final. The pitch was difficult and there was a little bit of a breeze and although I thought the performance by the lads was at times below par, sometimes you’ve got to give credit to the opposition. They (West Allotment Celtic) came here and gave a really good account of themselves and some of them will be sat in that changing room thinking that on another night it could have been their side who had got through.”

Dan Maguire’s goal in the fifth minute settled the outcome and Hill added: “We scored early on – something which we had talked about before the game and which I thought was an absolute must but we didn’t kick on. We were slow in possession whilst out of possession I didn’t think we put enough pressure on the ball to disrupt them (West Allotment Celtic) and it made for a bit of a scrappy first half in fairness. At times we moved the ball and opened them up and we were desperate for that second goal which would have just settled us – and the crowd – down a bit and perhaps then we would have gone on to win more convincingly. However when the game is in the balance at 1-0, the opposition are always going to have a little bit of a go towards the end – and they did that.”

Hill handed out special praise to ‘keeper Ross Coombe: “Dan Maguire scored the all important goal for us but our progress was down to Ross,” he said, “He has bided his time and his attitude has been great. Ross came in tonight and didn’t have a great deal to do but then when he was called upon in the 90th minute, he’s pulled off a one handed save that the best ‘keepers in the world would have been pleased with.”

He continued: “This cup tie had been cancelled a few times and it was always going to be a game which we looked at to perhaps play one or two players who haven’t had many minutes. We did that with the likes of Morgan Dart plus Cam Gascoigne and Ben Sampson who came on as substitutes and it was nice to see both of them back on the pitch. In Ben’s case, it was good to get 20-25 minutes into his system as he’s been out for four or five games.”

He concluded: “All in all the main purpose of tonight was to win the game and get through to the semi final of the competition – and we’ve done that.”


By Brian Bennett

Ashington FC manager Ian Skinner has described his sides clash against West Allotment Celtic in the quarter final of the Newcastle Flooring Northumberland Senior Cup this evening (February 6), as being a ‘big game’ for the Wansbeck based outfit.

Following their 4-1 defeat against Dunston UTS on Saturday, Skinner said: “We’ll dust ourselves down and prepare properly as we always do. It’s a competition we’ll be taking seriously and although the winners already know that they will face Newcastle United Under 21’s or Bedlington Terriers at home in the semi final, we’ll certainly not be looking past West Allotment. It’s a big game for us and they are a good side. They went to Birtley Town last week and won 3-1 and today they’ve got the same result after travelling to face Redcar Athletic.”

Tonight’s game at Woodhorn Lane has a 7.30pm kick-off.


By Brian Bennett

Ashington FC manager Ian Skinner expressed ‘mixed emotions’ after the Colliers 4-1 defeat at the hands of promotion hopefuls Dunston UTS on Saturday and added that ‘big decisions’ didn’t go in his sides favour.

A fine strike by skipper Karl Ross cancelled out Jack Maskell’s opener before Michael Pearson put the home side back in front just past the half hour mark.

The Wansbeck side were well in the game but as they continued to search for an equaliser, UTS clinched the points with late counters from David Robinson plus an own goal.

Skinner said afterwards: “Today was a day of mixed emotions because there was so much to be pleased about – yet there was so much that I’m disappointed about. Certainly UTS were more ruthless than us – they possibly only had four or five shots on target and scored four goals – the last one is an own goal – whereas in the first half we’ve had three or four really good chances but haven’t taken them plus big decisions didn’t go our way today.”

Skinner believed his side should have been awarded an early penalty: “I thought we started the game quite brightly and could and should have had a penalty,” he said, “Connor Thomson has gone through and taken a shot and it’s gone beyond the goalkeeper (Dan Staples). The ball is going towards the goal but Connor’s had to hurdle the ‘keeper who has come flying out which prevents him from getting to the ball to tap it in and allows their recovering defender to get to the ball and clear it – so that was a big decision which went against us. The laws of the game tell you that there doesn’t have to be contact – it’s the intention.”

Ashington went behind in the 14th minute before drawing level and Skinner added: “I was disappointed with the goal we conceded in terms of we didn’t get out quick enough to Sado Djalo who has hit a fantastic shot. Obviously we haven’t reacted when Maskell has knocked the ball into the net but some of my boys are saying they thought it was offside although I couldn’t comment having just seen it in live play. However, the goal we scored through Karl Ross was really good. We got in down their right hand side on a number of occasions in the first half and some of our link up play in and around the box was good and that led to a great strike from Karl (Ross) for the equaliser.”

Six minutes later, the Colliers were behind again – and Skinner could not hide his feelings: “The second goal we conceded was really annoying,” he said, “It came from our free-kick on half way where we gave the ball away. They (Dunston) have then attacked us and even though we’ve won the ball back in and around our penalty area we’ve hit our own player trying to clear it and before you know it, the ball has ended up in the net. We’re 2-1 down, despite the hard work we’d put in to get back in the game and also the bright 10-15 minutes we had causing them problems down their right hand side.”

Skinner believed his side could bounce back after the break: “Did I think we could hit back? – most definitely,” he added, “We talked about one or two things which we needed to be careful of because they (Dunston) play forward quickly. We spoke about areas where we could hopefully entice them to come into – then exploit some space that they would leave by drawing them into certain areas of the pitch. We did it at times but I just thought they defended their box really well. Second half we dominated the ball and territory and we got into some good areas and there were some really pleasing parts to our game. Some of our approach play and build up play was excellent but they (Dunston) managed to get in blocks and defended their box really well.”

He continued: “The fourth goal is disappointing. We probably had the stuffing knocked out of us with the third (goal) and you just think ‘let’s keep things right’ – but again we’d just been a little bit weak and their lad hasn’t even chased it thinking ‘I’m not going to get on the end of it.’ We’ve gone to stab it clear and stabbed it in our own net and it probably summed up our day. To be fair the top end of the pitch we were attacking in the second half didn’t suit Connor Thomson or Wilson Kneeshaw’s running style. It was very, very heavy – but listen it’s that time of year and with the weather we’ve had, it’s just good to get games on.”


By Brian Bennett

Ashington FC manager Ian Skinner was left totally mystified as to why his side were so inept in their 3-1 home defeat by Sheffield FC at Woodhorn Lane on Saturday.

A clearly disappointed Skinner said afterwards: “I didn’t see that performance coming if the truth be known because we were on the back of three consecutive wins with lots of positives from those displays. It was two weeks to the day since we last played and although we’ve trained as usual, it looked that way. Out of possession we were really, really poor. On the transition from attack to defence we didn’t get near the ball quick enough to affect them (Sheffield). We allowed them to get the ball and play forward quickly which then meant we had to make big recovery runs on a heavy pitch. If I’m honest I didn’t think we did enough today and naturally I’m disappointed. There were too many players below par and when you have maybes up to six (below par) then you are going to struggle to win games of football.”

The boss reflected on the first period: “I thought the first half was pretty even. We’ve had a couple of chances and we certainly played the better football but it was between the boxes. We had a couple of instances in the first half where their ‘keeper (Edd Hall) has made a save and pushed the ball out and then he’s blocked the rebound; we had one chance which flashed across the goal whilst they’ve had a couple of corners which caused us one or two problems.”

The visitors took the lead after 35 minutes and Skinner said: “The goal is really disappointing because we had players around the ball. Their lad (Cameron Johnson) has picked the ball up facing the corner flag but we’ve allowed him to turn and we’ve dropped off. He’s then come inside which opens the goal up and he’s used those players as a bit of a shield to bent the ball around so it’s difficult for our ‘‘keeper Karl Dryden to see and we find ourselves 1-0 down.”

He continued: “For the first two or three minutes of the second half, I was pleased because we were really, really bright. There was an instance where we’ve crossed the ball in from a corner. We’ve prodded it towards goal and it has hit the goalkeeper and sat in the six yards box. We’ve had nobody on hand to just tap it home and they’ve managed to thump it clear. That was before they scored the second and at that point I just started to think ‘it might not happen for us today.”

Skinner was frustrated by the nature of Sheffield’s other goals: “We huffed and puffed a little bit but then we’ve been done by two set plays from two deep corners,” he said, “For the first one there’s been a challenge and the ball has dropped in the box and they have been first to react to stab it home. For the second, there’s lot of talk about a foul on our ‘keeper Karl (Dryden) but there were that many players in the six yards box. It’s one of them where people use the term ‘in the modern game’ about goalkeepers being too well protected – but again Sheffield have been first to react.”

He continued: “I take some of the responsibility because we probably changed systems and changed one or two positions twice or three times in the game but the reason we do that is just to see if we can get a bit of a spark from someone – but it just didn’t happen. We haven’t defended our box well enough to prevent them from scoring and haven’t caused them enough problems in their box to score more goals than they did. The performance today was not at the levels we are capable of and which we have been playing in recent weeks which have got us positive results. Credit to Sheffield – they’ve left with the three points and despite all of our possession, goals win games.”