|Sat 2/10/2021||3:00 pm||Northern League - Division 1||2021-22||501|
By Brian Bennett
Ashington made it a hat-trick of league wins – and at the same time prevented an unwanted triple – following a 3-1 victory over Newcastle Benfield at The dwmedia Stadium on Saturday.
Following a 4-0 victory over Whickham and a 5-2 success away at Bishop Auckland, the Colliers made it three on the bounce after a second half comeback. Trailing to a Lennon Mills goal on the half hour, Ian Skinner’s side hit back with goals from Ryan McGorrigan, substitute Paul Robinson and Dean Briggs.
The three points were deserved – and the win even more so after the Sam Smiths Park outfit had dumped Ashington out of the two National competitions, the Emirates FA Cup and the Buildbase FA Vase within the space of five weeks in the first part of this season.
The success kept the Wansbeck side in fifth place in the Ebac Northern League’s first division table but the other notable feature was the size of the crowd – at 501 Ashington’s largest attendance of the campaign.
Skinner named Damen Mullen – signed on loan from Hebburn Town – on the bench but Tom Bramley was ruled out after picking up an ankle injury in the recent friendly against Durham University.
The visitors made the better start – seeing a lot of the ball – and they threatened through Mechack Kanda until Danny Anderson got back to thwart him.
It was the ninth minute before Ashington carved out their first opportunity – and they ought to have gone in front.
McGorrigan found Briggs in the box who unselfishly laid the ball off to Max Cowburn but his shot was blocked by ‘keeper Andrew Grainger.
On the quarter hour, Yannick Aziakonou lost possession to Mills who bore down on goal but his effort was intercepted by the retrieving Aziakonou.
Ex Ashington midfielder Ritchie Slaughter then charged through on a run of 30 yards, shrugging off two challenges but dragged his shot wide of ‘keeper Karl Dryden’s left hand post.
A centre by Liam Doyle went across goal then Luke Salmon spotted Grainger off his line and from distance, curled the ball narrowly wide of the upright.
However in the 31st minute, Benfield went ahead.
Archie Leonard broke into the area and when he whipped the ball into the middle, Mills touched home from close range.
Grainger tipped around a left footer from Briggs then at the other end, Jake Thompson fired over on the half volley following a corner on the left.
The final piece of goalmouth action of the half arrived when Salmon, Cowburn and McGorrigan linked but the latter’s first time effort at the near post went narrowly wide.
Ashington started the second half in determined fashion and in the opening couple of minutes, Briggs had two opportunities which were both held by Grainger.
McGorrigan then blazed over before the striker levelled matters on the hour – from the spot.
Doyle advanced into the box before he was caught by a defender’s challenge and McGorrigan emphatically tucked away the penalty, sending Grainger the wrong way.
The goal gave the Colliers a massive boost and five minutes later, Robinson played the ball to the overlapping Salmon but when he pulled the ball across the face, Karl Ross stabbed wide with the goal at his mercy.
However on 69 minutes – only four minutes after being introduced – Robinson gave Ashington the lead.
Briggs rolled the ball across and Robinson applied a fine finish slamming the ball into the roof of the net.
Doyle played the ball into the area where Briggs headed straight at Grainger but in the 78th minute, it was Briggs who gave his side a two goal cushion.
A corner from the left was glanced on and Briggs – at the far post – made no mistake slotting in between Grainger and the upright.
Still the action flowed in the final ten minutes.
At one end, Briggs set up sub Brandon Slater who blasted wide then when play switched to the other, Aziakonou cleared off the line.
In the 88th minute Robinson played a pass inside to Briggs who was caught late by Grainger with referee Zac Kennard-Kettle again pointing to the spot – but the ‘keeper brilliantly finger tipped Briggs’ penalty onto the bar with Benfield moving the ball away to safety.
Still there was time for Salmon to clear away from the goal line – but it was the last scare for the Colliers before the final whistle.
*As the players headed off to the dressing rooms for half time, the dedicated group of colleagues – who walked from South Shields to Ashington to raise money for Prostate Cancer UK – came onto the pitch to take a well deserved bow and received a round of applause. Setting off at 7am they arrived at Woodhorn Lane after successfully completing their challenge which covered a distance of over 23 and a half miles.