By Brian Bennett
A tweak in formation by the management team led to two quickfire second half goals from Craig Spooner and Wilson Kneeshaw which paved the way for Ashington to make it back to back wins in the Northern Premier League’s East Division as they defeated Pontefract Collieries by a 2-1 margin on Saturday.
On a day when supporters inside Woodhorn Lane paid tribute to the late Sir Bobby Charlton with a minutes applause before kick-off, the Colliers wore a change kit of red shirts, white shorts and black socks in honour of the Ashington-born legend that enjoyed a playing career with Manchester United which spanned 17 years.
The last time Ashington played Pontefract ten years ago at home in an FA Cup extra preliminary round tie, the Wansbeck side recorded a history-making 9-0 victory – but on Saturday, although the Colliers won, there was never going to be a repeat especially as the West Yorkshire based outfit sat in a play off place in the division.
And for the opening 20 minutes it was plain to see why they were in fourth place as they looked a well drilled outfit with their number seven, Louie Chorlton prominent down the right flank.
Yet in a half of few chances, it was the home side that had the majority.
In the third minute a ball down the left by Darren Lough over the top of the defender, released Kneeshaw but when he crossed, there was no-one in the middle.
Similarly Jordan Summerly found Oli Thompson – on his return to the side after injury – but he pulled the ball back too much and the opportunity went begging.
As the period progressed, both sides were guilty of giving away possession but significantly, Ian Skinner’s side grew into the contest.
Kneeshaw and Spooner missed out with half chances then at the other end, Frankie Sinfield cut inside and fired over.
Before half time, Thompson seized on a loose ball 25 yards out and attempted to lob ‘keeper Lloyd Allinson but didn’t get sufficient height on the effort.
However the best opening came only minutes from the break when Chorlton went through with only ‘keeper Karl Dryden to beat but shot straight at the home stopper.
Ashington then had to make an enforced change when skipper Nathan Buddle was forced off through injury and was replaced by Ben Williams.
At the start of the second period, Sinfield fired an early warning when he curled a shot just wide of the post before Ashington – after making one or two positional changes – took a stranglehold of the contest with Spooner and Kneeshaw both on target within a three minutes period either side of the hour mark.
For the opener, Thompson charged through the middle and played the ball out wide to Kneeshaw. The number 11 advanced down the right then cut inside before clipping a delightful short pass through for Spooner who took a touch and slotted wide of the ‘keeper.
Then a move which started out from the back with Dryden culminated in the second.
A long pass from Si Yakab saw Paul Van-Zandvliet win a header which was picked up by Kneeshaw. The striker played a one-two with Connor Thomson latching onto a clever back-flick from the latter then swept the ball right footed into the far corner.
The purple patch almost continued after great work by Kneeshaw saw him slip a pass through for Thomson who ran from his own half, weaved inside a defender only to see his effort smack against the outside of the post.
A goal then would surely have put the game to bed – but after Dryden had pushed out a free kick from 25 yards by Adam Haw, the visitors came with a late rally.
In the 90th minute, Haw finished with a superb half volley into the top corner from 12 yards after chesting the ball down following a corner on the right.
Seconds into the start of time added on, Pontefract substitute Bailey Thompson was clean through with only Dryden to beat but lifted his shot wide of the upright.
The final chance fell Ashington’s way. Thomson and Kneeshaw worked an opening for Spooner but his shot from 15 yards clipped against the post.
|Sat 28/10/2023||3:00 pm||Northern Premier League - East Division||2023-24||641|
|Referee||Assistant 1||Assistant 2|
|Connor Scott||David Fittes||Thomas Lishman|