By Brian Bennett
Ashington marched into the next stage of the Emirates FA Cup on Tuesday night after turning in a magnificent performance to brush aside Ashton United in their first qualifying round replay.
The Colliers had deservedly brought the side from Greater Manchester back up to Wansbeck following a goal-less draw on Saturday – and Ian Skinner’s outfit were exceptional, winning 3-0 in front of a terrific crowd of 671 who backed them all the way.
Dan Maguire set the home side on their way with a goal in the first half which lit the blue touch paper and when Craig Spooner and substitute Adam Johnson added strikes in the second period there was no way back for Ashton – who play two leagues higher in the Northern Premier League, Premier Division.
The prize for the Colliers is a home tie against Bradford Park Avenue from the National League North on Saturday week (September 17).
But what an evening to remember in NE63 – and on a night where the Wansbeck side wore their brand new away kit of Green shirts and White shorts for the first time – in front of their home supporters – as a tribute to one of Ashington’s favourite sons Jackie Charlton, a World Cup winner with England in 1966 who was also a member of the Leeds United side who lifted the FA Cup six years later.
They talk about the romance of the FA Cup and how it has a special place in the hearts of players, management and supporters as it holds a bit of magic – and that’s exactly what Woodhorn Lane experienced on Tuesday night.
There were mixed fortunes for Skinner before kick-off. The inspirational Robbie Dale picked up a knock in Saturday’s contest which saw him ruled out whilst Dean Briggs – who missed out in the first match due to injury – came through a late fitness test.
Ashington had the first chance in the ninth minute when Ben Sampson – handed a role in midfield – won a header and when Maguire laid the ball off, Lee Mason spotted ‘keeper Luke Taylor off his line and tried an audacious lob from 45 yards which drifted wide.
On the quarter hour, the Colliers broke quickly from an Ashton corner with Jordan Summerly finding Briggs who tried to curl the ball around Taylor but Briggs didn’t get enough purchase on the ball and the stopper held with ease.
The visitors were posing threats from set plays with Matthew Reagan and Niall Battersby both heading off target from pin point deliveries from in-swinging corners by Cole Lonsdale.
There was a scare for Ashington in the 21st minute, when referee Sam Ross pointed to the spot for an Ashton penalty after Darren Lough had caught Benjamin Hardcastle – but after consulting with his assistant Gary Hargrave, the man in the middle changed his decision to a free-kick a matter of inches outside the area.
However four minutes later, Maguire opened the scoring. Briggs played the ball into the area and the striker nonchalantly skipped past one defender. He then delayed his shot as he side-stepped past another before firing low past Taylor and into the corner.
Woodhorn Lane was bouncing and minutes later Maguire pulled down a cross from Cartwright and after teeing himself up, volleyed just over.
Yannick Aziakonou made a superb interception diverting a goalbound shot before Maguire – who was an outstanding performer in the first half – cut inside from the right and produced an outrageous piece of skill as he twisted and turned but saw his left footer cannon back into play after thudding against the base of the post with Taylor rooted to the spot.
Ten minutes into the second period, Spooner had the home supporters on their feet again as he scored Ashington’s second. The midfielder let fly with a blistering right footer from just inside the box which flew into the roof of the net past a startled Taylor.
Saturday’s contest had been a drab affair but this game had turned into a rip roaring contest.
With just over 20 minutes to play, Cartwright made a timely clearance from a shot by Hardcastle before the Colliers added a third in the 82nd minute, with another quality finish.
Substitute Adam Johnson broke from the half way line and was pursued by an Ashton defender.
But after advancing towards the edge of the box, Johnson unleashed a venomous left footer which rocketed inside the upright.
In the next minute, Thomas Kalthoeber made a vital interception after a cross from the right then with time running out, Summerly went on a surging run but after a swift one-two with Spooner, blazed over the bar.
The final whistle went and Skinner must have been delighted – not only with the result – but after his side left every drop of energy out on the pitch to deservedly move into the next round.
|Tue 6/9/2022||7:45 pm||FA Cup||2022-23||671|
|Referee||Assistant 1||Assistant 2|
|Sam Ross||Gary Hargrave||Stephen Birkett|