By Brian Bennett
Ashington jumped up four places in the East Division of the Northern Premier League on Saturday night after recording a convincing 4-0 victory over Winterton Rangers at the MKM Stadium.
The game was a clash between two sides at the wrong end of the table – the hosts on the bottom and the Colliers sitting immediately above them – but it was the visitors who emerged as worthy winners on the day.
Having a one goal lead is never comfortable and for the best part of 55 minutes, Ian Skinner’s side were forced to hold onto an early strike given to them by the impressive Connor Thomson who was making his debut on loan from Morpeth Town.
After Wilson Kneeshaw had doubled the tally, it was a second from Thomson – from the penalty spot – which saw them move into a 3-0 advantage before a first goal for the club by Ben Williams emphasised Ashington’s control and dominance.
In truth, had it not been for a stunning performance by home ‘keeper Nathan Popple coupled with missed chances as well as Thomson and Dan Maguire rattling the woodwork, Ashington could have hit double figures.
Yet the home outfit were first to show as in the second minute, full back Sam Aynsley ventured into the box and it took a great tackle from Darren Lough to thwart him.
However, only four minutes later, Ashington responded in style by taking the lead following a three man move.
Nathan Buddle knocked a free kick downfield into the feet of Kneeshaw who laid the ball off to Thomson who side footed into the roof of the net.
It was just the start the Colliers had been looking for – and they ought to have added to the opener after playing some neat football.
Twice Kneeshaw was blocked by Popple and on another occasion, Kneeshaw – after receiving from Jordan Summerly – must have thought he had netted after trying to place his shot but he was again denied by the stopper.
At the midway point during the half, Ben Sampson and Maguire combined to set up Thomson whose shot thudded against the bar and bounced down into Popple’s arms.
In a rare attack, Colliers ‘keeper Karl Dryden made a brilliant save from Dan Hernandez but the remainder of the half belonged to Ashington.
Summerly lashed over; Kneeshaw had two shots – one blocked on the line by Harry Elliot-Bell then another which was stopped by Popple who also kept out an effort from Paul Van-Zandvliet.
Kneeshaw and Thomson were proving to be a right handful for the Winterton defence but for all their pressing, a second goal eluded the Colliers – and it looked like the second half was going to follow a similar pattern.
Six minutes in, Thomson found Maguire whose left foot curler smashed against the bar with Craig Spooner firing over the rebound.
However, in the 56th minute, Kneeshaw struck. Sampson was involved in the build up from inside his own half and when Maguire slipped a pass through for Kneeshaw, the forward slotted home wide of Popple.
Ashington came again with Kneeshaw and Thomson both foiled by Popple whilst Sampson also had a shot blocked by a defender.
Then in the 72nd minute, Kneeshaw was dragged down inside the area. Referee Mathew Wright pointed to the spot and Thomson made no mistake sending Popple the wrong way.
Sub Luke Anderson fired across goal for Winterton before another glut of chances fell to the visitors inside the final ten minutes.
Who else but Popple foiled Spooner; substitute Williams put an inviting low ball across the face of the goal with only a touch required then Kneeshaw fired wide.
Sub Karl Ross was also off target before in the first minute of additional time, Kneeshaw’s through ball released Williams who slotted into the corner of the net for the fourth.