|Tue 3/8/2021||7:30 pm||Northern League - Division 1||2021-22||337|
By Brian Bennett
Ashington won their first league game of the new season with a convincing result against West Auckland at the dwmedia Stadium on Tuesday night.
Managers are always hopeful that players will show a reaction to even the slightest bit of criticism thrown at them. So recap to Colliers boss Ian Skinner’s remarks after the 2-2 draw against Penrith on Saturday: “I thought we were by far the better side in the first half and they were better after the break purely on work rate. They (Penrith) outworked us for the second half. It wasn’t that we didn’t work hard enough – it was just Penrith’s desire and ‘want’ was a little bit better than us.”
Clearly Skinner’s lads got the message loud and clear. On Tuesday, they left every ounce of energy on the pitch in a performance which resulted in the players receiving a deserved standing ovation as they came off the field at both half time and after the final whistle.
Two expertly executed free kicks from Max Cowburn, coupled with goals from Ryan McGorrigan and Dean Briggs were included in an unbelievable first period which left the County Durham outfit shell shocked.
The last time Ashington won by a four goal margin in a contest between the sides was in the 2013-14 campaign – a 5-1 drubbing – yet there was no suggestion of what was to come with the visitors clearly the better side in the opening exchanges even if they failed to trouble Adam McHugh in the home goal.
Consequently they were rocked on their heels on the quarter hour after Briggs had been sent tumbling by James Harwood.
Dead ball specialist Max Cowburn stepped forward and curled a superb right footer from 25 yards wide of ‘keeper Decklan Greenwood with the ball going into the net off the post.
McHugh had to be at his best to push around a shot from distance by Jordan Lavery then an effort on the turn by Jordan Blinco from ten yards crashed narrowly wide.
Ashington’s riposte after 25 minutes, was to add a second.
McGorrigan took down a cross from the left by Luke Salmon then turned and fired inside the post from eight yards.
McHugh was called into action again just past the half hour mark repelling a shot from Blinco with Ben Sampson blocking the rebound from Anthony Bell.
The home contingent in a tremendous crowd of 337 had already been on their feet appreciative of the first two goals – and they standing again as Ashington made it four ahead of the break.
In the 34th minute, Briggs ventured forward until he was brought down 25 yards out.
Cowburn stepped up again and although the free kick on this occasion was further to the right – the end result was stunning with another unerring finish.
Then five minutes before half time, Salmon won the ball on the left and slipped it across for Briggs who waltzed through the West defence and stroked his shot wide of the advancing Greenwood.
Just past the quarter hour mark in the second period, McHugh had to be alert to turn around an effort by Adam Mitchell but two minutes later, Ashington almost scored what would have been a terrific fifth.
Ben Harmison – who was outstanding at the heart of the home defence – threaded a pass down the left flank to McGorrigan who in turn switched the play by spraying the ball out wide to Cowburn.
The winger delivered a first time cross from the right but the inrushing Salmon could not make a clean connection and the ball skimmed off his head and flashed wide.
West were still asking questions and after Arron Thompson had fired wide and Blinco had hooked over, the home crossbar was left rocking when a thunderous effort from Blinco smacked against the bar, bounced down on the line and was cleared.
Then in stoppage time, Briggs put substitute Paul Robinson clear but the midfielder clipped the ball wide of the advancing Greenwood and the far post.
Ashington: McHugh, Sampson, Summerly (Robinson 89 minutes), Anderson, Bramley, Harmison (Tate 85 minutes), Cowburn (Taylor 81 minutes), Ross, McGorrigan, Briggs, Salmon. Sub not used: Dryden.