By Brian Bennett
Ebac Northern League first division newcomers Redcar Athletic marked their first ever visit to Ashington with a 3-1 victory at The dwmedia Stadium – on a night of sheer frustration for home supporters.
The sides went into the break all square after a competitive first half which was shaded by the visitors but in the second period, although Ashington had a lot of the ball, they infuriated their fans – as they had done in the first 45 minutes – with moves breaking down on a regular basis.
Yet early doors, it could have been so different had Ben Sampson – restored to the midfield – put away a gilt edged opportunity.
Luke Salmon initiated the move down the left and slotted a pass through to Ryan McGorrigan whose left footer was parried out by ‘keeper James Dawson. The ball rebounded into the path of Sampson but the number seven side footed wide with an open goal at his mercy.
Three minutes later, the visitors took the lead. Salmon conceded a free kick on the right and when Matthew Bell floated the ball into the danger zone, Redcar skipper Jordan Rivis planted a firm header beyond ‘keeper Karl Dryden and into the net.
Ashington’s play had been sloppy and their passing careless but after captain Karl Ross had tried his luck from distance with an effort which was fielded by Dawson, the home side got back on terms in the 24th minute through centre back Ben Harmison.
Awarded a free kick on the right, Max Cowburn sent the ball into the area where Harmison headed it from eight yards over a cluster of players and into the roof of the net.
Before the half hour mark, Redcar’s Bell – whose delivery from set pieces was causing problems – was forced to leave the field with a shoulder injury.
In the 32nd minute, the Colliers came so close to edging in front. Sampson cut inside and found Cowburn whose first time shot from the edge of the area struck the inside of the post and cannoned away to safety.
Shortly afterwards, following a corner, Dominic Agnew missed a glorious opportunity heading wide at the far post from a cross by skipper Ross then Agnew and Sampson combined down the right flank to release Cowburn who put a great ball in which flashed across the face of the Redcar goal.
With half time approaching, Stuart Browne and Issac Walker linked to set up a chance for substitute Owen Clarkson whose shot was deflected behind for a corner.
In the opening minutes of the second half, Ashington forced a corner and when Cowburn’s flag kick was only half cleared, the ball broke to McGorrigan but his half volley from the edge of the box was clutched by Dawson.
Salmon flashed a low drive wide then in the 56th minute, a right sided free kick by Rivis surprised everyone before it cannoned off the far post.
For all Ashington’s final pass was infuriating the home fans, they still kept plugging away and just prior to the midway point in the period, a breakaway attack saw a good interchange between McGorrigan and Cowburn but when the latter tried to find McGorrigan, his cross was cut out by the alert Dawson.
However, in the 70th minute, Ashington were stung when Redcar went in front for a second time when Walker squeezed his shot through the smallest of gaps between Dryden and the post.
In the final ten minutes as Ashington continued to press, a corner from Cowburn was headed back across but McGorrigan’s flick went straight into Dawson’s midriff.
Colliers manager Ian Skinner had changed personnel sending on substitutes Curtis Coppen and Brandon Slater and throwing Harmison up front and in the 85th minute, Harmison put the ball into the net from a Cowburn pass but the goal was disallowed for offside.
In the third minute of time added on – and with the final kick of the game – Redcar made it 3-1 when Connor Smith picked up a ricochet off an Ashington defender, broke through and rammed home.