By Brian Bennett
It was all a little bit déjà vu for Ashington supporters at The dwmedia Stadium on Saturday.
Only last week, the Colliers were knocked out of the Emirates FA Cup 4-3 by Newcastle Benfield after holding a 2-1 lead with ten minutes to go.
On Saturday, the Wansbeck side wrestled back the initiative with a piece of magic from Dean Briggs putting them back in front against Sunderland Ryhope CW – only to then concede two goals in the closing stages and consequently throw away their unbeaten home tag after only their second Ebac Northern League first division outing of the new season at Woodhorn Lane.
In truth, and just like against Benfield, the visitors were worthy winners – only manager Ian Skinner must be pulling his hair out as Ashington’s inability to see out matches when they are ahead – especially late on – is proving to be their achilles heel.
The two sides went into the contest on the back of totally diverse results in midweek. Ashington were buoyant after a 2-0 victory at Guisborough whilst CW were knocked out of the FA Cup by Goole after conceding late in extra time of their replay.
Going ahead in the early stages of games has been a feature in all bar one of Ashington’s matches so far and on Saturday they did it again – in the ninth minute.
Ryan McGorrigan was fouled 20 yards out and Max Cowburn expertly curled the resultant free kick around the wall and inside ‘keeper James Winter’s left hand post.
Five minutes later, the lead could have been doubled after Briggs cleverly dropped his shoulder to advance into the area but saw his right footer blocked by the ‘keeper then in another sorte up front, McGorrigan pulled the ball down and stroked wide of the upright.
The visitors got the upper hand as Ashington’s game became disjointed and the Colliers were relieved to hear the half time whistle after a frantic final ten minutes.
Following a well worked corner routine on the left by Ryhope, McGorrigan cleared off the line then minutes later, the home centre forward repeated the feat – on this occasion at the opposite post from another Ellis in-swinging delivery.
In the dying embers, the visitors missed a glorious opportunity to draw level. Brad Hird raided down the right flank and crossed into the middle but James Ellis skied the ball over from six yards.
Then after home stopper Adam McHugh had somehow denied Hird, Karl Ross won plaudits in the Ashington camp after getting back to block Ellis when he seemed a certain scorer.
The early action after the break saw Briggs play a one-two with Paul Robinson from a free kick but blast wide of Winter’s left hand post.
At the other end, the visitors fired a warning when McHugh did well to clutch from Ellis – but the pressure continued to mount. McHugh held from Hird whilst Bailey Judson lashed just over from the edge of the box.
And it came as no surprise when in the 64th minute, Ellis headed across McHugh from a cross by Hird for the equaliser.
But for all their lack of fluidity, skipper Briggs put the Colliers back in front with 13 minutes left on the clock.
He picked the ball up on the left, cut inside a couple of challenges then unleashed a glorious right footer from the edge of the area which went in off the far post.
Five minutes later Briggs threatened again but was blocked out for a corner.
Then in the 85th minute, Ryhope got on terms for a second time after a cross from the left was diverted into his own net by Curtis Coppen.
And the situation went from bad to worse in the final minute of the 90 when the ball came over from the right and was sliced across the face of goal with substitute Karl Southern hammering in from on the line.
In stoppage time, following a free-kick, a header by Tom Bramley came back off the bar and was cleared ……then came the final whistle.
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