By Brian Bennett | Photography: Ian Brodie
There were jubilant scenes on an historic day at Woodhorn Lane on Saturday when two goals in second half stoppage time by Charlie Exley and Darren Lough saw Ashington stage an amazing comeback to force a deserved 4-4 draw against Brighouse Town on Saturday.
With 90 minutes gone on the clock, the Colliers were staring down the barrel of a 4-2 defeat and even when Exley reduced the arrears two minutes later to make it 4-3 it looked as if it was a case of too little too late.
But then in the 97th minute and after a desperate last ditch attack, Lough gleefully drilled home the leveller.
Going into the contest, the Colliers were bridging a gap of 55 years since they were last in the Northern Premier League and before kick-off players, officials and supporters held a minute’s applause in honour of Jackie Herron – captain of the Ashington team during the 1968-69 campaign – who sadly passed away only recently.
It was the Wansbeck side – who had to reckon without lynchpin defender Nathan Buddle through injury – that began the game the better of the two sides and in the seventh minute, Craig Spooner failed to get any real purchase on a left foot shot with visiting ‘keeper Harry Garman gathering the ball comfortably.
Five minutes later a cross from debutant Exley was headed back across goal by Gascoigne and Wilson Kneeshaw was ready to pounce until he was denied by Alexander Phillipson who produced a great tackle inside the six yards box.
Just past the quarter hour mark, Brighouse forced a corner on the left and it resulted in them taking the lead against the run of play.
The ball was recycled and when it was swung over into the danger zone, Samuel Drake ghosted in to nod down inside the post.
The home side drew level in the 24th minute with a trademark effort from Spooner.
Ashington were awarded a free-kick 25 yards out and the midfielder stepped up to curl a sumptuous right footer into the top corner out of reach of the despairing hands of Garman.
But Ashington’s achilles heel of the afternoon was their woeful defending – and within three minutes they were behind again.
A corner on the right was headed back across the face of the goal where Jayden Major swept the ball home into the roof of the net.
Ashington made inroads early doors after the interval with Gascoigne going close; Dan Maguire lashing over then Garman whipping the ball off Kneeshaw’s toes whilst at the other end, home stopper Karl Dryden made a fine save to thwart Mohammad Qasim.
In the 56th minute, Ashington got back on terms. Gascoigne found Spooner down the right flank and when he drove in a dangerous cross, Curtis Peters – under pressure from Kneeshaw – headed the ball into his own net.
However, the visitors went 4-2 in front – after two further errors inside an eight minutes period by the Colliers.
On 70 minutes, there was ping-pong inside the six yards box following a corner from the left which eventually resulted in Jamie Allsop blasting the ball in from close range.
Then an error by Kyle Errington saw substitute Myron Gibbons intercept the ball, drive forward and slot wide of Dryden.
The frantic finale started in the last minute of normal time when substitute Mason Hardy had a shot held by Garman which was followed by Dryden blocking an effort from Gibbons.
Ashington raided again down the right and when substitute Scott Heslop laid the ball off, Exley executed a fierce low left footer from 18 yards into the bottom corner.
When Garman held a shot under the bar from sub Max Emmerson, supporters thought it was Ashington’s final chance.
Sixty seconds later, the home crowd screamed for a penalty for a handling offence inside the area – but their shouts quickly turned to joy as Lough lashed home the equaliser.
* One own-goal scored by Curtis Peters (Brighouse Town).