By Brian Bennett
It was billed as the ‘Match of the Day’ in the Ebac Northern League on ‘Non League Day’ – and leaders Newton Aycliffe and second placed Ashington didn’t disappoint as they played out an intriguing 1-1 draw in front of a bumper crowd of 941 at Woodhorn Lane.
Only three weeks ago, the corresponding clash between the two sides had seen the Newtonians run out 4-1 winners in a game which also saw both outfits reduced to ten men.
On Saturday it was deja vu – with Colliers defender Darren Lough seeing red in the 65th minute and Aycliffe’s influential midfielder Ethan Wood receiving his marching orders for a second yellow card as the game approached the final ten minutes.
The visitors started the better and on the quarter hour mark home ‘keeper Karl Dryden was called into action diving to his left to push away a goalbound effort from Liam Adamson.
Three minutes later Colliers skipper Ben Harmison spurned a glorious opening.
Robbie Dale swung over a deep cross from the right but Harmison – after peeling away from his marker – shanked a half volley wide.
Now it was Ashington’s turn to be in the ascendency and seconds later, Harmison glanced the ball on but Dan Maguire snatched at the opportunity and his effort went past the same upright.
Midway through Craig Spooner capitalised on an error by an Aycliffe defender and advanced before seeing his shot pushed away by former Colliers stopper Adam McHugh.
The home side ramped up the pressure forcing four corners in succession with McHugh forced to push away an in-swinger from Andrew Cartwright before Harmison headed over from the last.
Dean Briggs curled wide then Adamson found Kyle Davis whose shot was off target.
In stoppage time, Ashington went ahead.
A deep free kick by Lough saw Maguire’s shot parried by McHugh but Harmison was on hand to smash home the rebound from close range.
In the opening minute of the second half, a great through ball by Cartwright found Maguire but the move ended with Briggs directing a tame shot at McHugh.
Shortly afterwards, an error in the home defence saw Jack Naylor’s effort crucially saved with his legs by Dryden then Adamson fired over.
Aycliffe had come out all guns blazing as they took the game to their opponents and the home goal survived after a corner from the right went across the face of the goal and out for a goal kick.
Then a turning point arrived in the 65th minute.
Referee Lewis Hardy blew for a handball against Lough and also sent the defender off before Liam Jarvie stepped up to send Dryden the wrong way from the resultant penalty which brought the scores level.
Ten minutes later, Dryden parried an effort from Wood and Naylor netted from the rebound but the goal was disallowed for offside.
Briggs cut inside to curl an effort from the edge of the box just wide before Aycliffe were also reduced in number when Wood received a second yellow followed by a red after stopping a promising run through the middle by Dale.
The finale was nervy and cagey – and the third minute of time added on saw Ashington go close. Dale found Cartwright down the right and from his cross, substitute Scott Heslop headed just over.
At the start of the day, the County Durham side were three points in front of the Colliers having played a game more – but the 1-1 draw saw Bishop Auckland leapfrog over the Wansbeck side following their 5-1 win against Sunderland RCA.
|Sat 25/3/2023||3:00 pm||Northern League - Division 1||2022-23||941|
|Referee||Assistant 1||Assistant 2|
|Lewis Hardy||Connor Kitson||Thomas Wallace|