By Brian Bennett
Ashington’s unbeaten record in the Ebac Northern League was under threat on Tuesday night against Newcastle Benfield – until they fought back to gain a point in a thrilling 3-3 draw under the lights at Woodhorn Lane.
Following their exit in the Emirates FA Cup after a 3-1 defeat at King’s Lynn on Saturday, the Colliers returned to action in front of a crowd of 602 – their biggest home league attendance of the season – hoping to get points on the board as they are lagging behind with their fixtures.
Only Newcastle Benfield had written their own script – and silenced the home supporters as they went into a 2-0 lead by the midway point of the first half through Dennis Knight and Ben Dibb-Fuller.
Ashington drew level with Nicholas Green putting the ball into his own net before the interval then skipper Ben Harmison scored from a penalty.
When Knight got his second five minutes later, the Colliers were chasing the game again and after dominating proceedings they equalised through Luke Salmon.
After being 2-0 down then 3-2 behind, the point could prove vital come the end of the season – yet for all their possession, the Wansbeck side turned in a poor performance.
They were caught cold in the fourth minute when Layton Watts whipped in a free kick from the right which was met by Knight whose instinctive right footer went inside the bottom corner.
Dan Maguire wriggled through to fire wide of ‘keeper Andrew Grainger’s right hand post then Dean Briggs cut inside a couple of players but saw his effort deflected for a corner by a defender.
Archie Leonard had a chance but drove past ‘keeper Adrian Janusz’s near post then at the other end, Briggs found Karl Ross whose effort was deflected and from the follow up, Mason’s shot was also blocked.
The visitors were looking dangerous on the counter attack and in the 23rd minute, a superlative strike from Dibb-Fuller not only fired them into a two goal lead but rocked the home crowd.
From an Ashington corner on the left which was taken by Grainger, the Lions broke at pace with Dibb-Fuller running from the inside right channel to the left before firing a thunderous left footer wide of Janusz and into the far corner.
When Benfield’s long serving ‘keeper Grainger saved brilliantly diving to his left to deny Briggs, it looked as if it was going to be one of those nights – but sixty seconds later, in the 34th minute, the Colliers got back into the game when Andrew Cartwright’s cross was deflected into his own net by Nicholas Green.
Five minutes into the second half, Ben Sampson swung the ball into the danger zone where Grainger fouled Darren Lough and referee Matthew Harris immediately pointed to the spot.
Harmison stepped forward and sent Grainger the wrong way to equalise.
Knight was thwarted by an excellent save by Janusz – but in the 56th minute, the Benfield centre forward was put clear and he made no mistake, coolly slotting wide of the home stopper.
Dibb-Fuller had a goal ruled out for offside then Salmon and Cartwright were both denied by Grainger.
Ashington continued to push forward and ten minutes from time fashioned an equaliser. The ball was played into the feet of Maguire who held it up then laid it off for Salmon who slotted home.
Three minutes from the end of normal time, Harmison headed on a free kick by substitute Ryan McKinnon to Maguire who netted but the assistant’s flag was raised for offside.
Benfield – whose work rate was phenomenal throughout – brought on Joe Robson as an 86th minute substitute but as the game entered into almost eight minutes of time added on, the defender was red carded for a foul on Salmon.
Nevertheless, the frantic pace of the game continued right the way to the final whistle but the only opportunity saw sub Adam Johnson fire wide.
Before kick-off, players, officials and supporters stood for a minutes applause as a tribute to Claire Wealleans who sadly lost her brave battle against an illness.
|Tue 18/10/2022||7:30 pm||Northern League - Division 1||2022-23||602|
|Referee||Assistant 1||Assistant 2|
|Matthew Harris||Connor Kitson||Lewis Marriner|