By Brian Bennett
Ashington had midfielder Luke Salmon sent off as the Colliers tumbled out of this seasons Emirates FA Cup at the first hurdle against Newcastle Benfield at The dwmedia Stadium on Saturday.
The midfielder was shown the red card by North Shields based referee David Pill for flailing an arm towards a Benfield player ten minutes from the end of what then turned into a seven goal thriller in this extra preliminary round tie.
With the Woodhorn Lane side hanging on to a 2-1 score line, Salmon’s red card was the pivotal development in this cup tie. Within three minutes, the visitors were level through Connor Walker and shortly afterwards the Lions thought they had wrapped the game up with further goals from Abubaker Salim and Dennis Knight. However, Tom Bramley netted his second of the game for the home side and in the dying seconds, sub Bobby Taylor drove agonisingly wide of the post.
Yet two minutes before his indiscretion, Salmon had also been the focal point in a controversial incident.
On a swift counter attack, Ryan McGorrigan advanced down the right flank and crossed but Salmon – who was charging through the middle at full speed to meet it and would have only had ‘keeper Andrew Grainger to beat – had his shirt cynically pulled back by a defender – only the offence was not spotted by the officials.
The game brought together two unbeaten sides after their opening league games and although it developed into a mistake-ridden affair, the first half was pretty even.
Ashington started the brighter and Max Cowburn – who had scored twice on Tuesday against West Auckland with executed free-kicks – was presented with another opportunity from similar range after six minutes but on this occasion, his whipped right footer landed on top of the netting.
Then Cowburn, Dean Briggs and McGorrigan linked neatly and the latter’s shot on the turn was superbly blocked by Bradley Varga.
However in the 12th minute, Cowburn scored the opener following a great move down the left flank involving Salmon and Briggs.
Briggs’s effort was blocked but the rebound fell into the path of Cowburn who steadied himself then hammered home.
Three minutes later, Benfield’s Cameron Gascoigne cut inside but dragged wide before McGorrigan, after receiving from Cowburn, smacked a shot against the post with Grainger rooted to the spot.
Two minutes on and former Colliers midfielder Ritchie Slaughter levelled the scores.
Benfield’s captain had time to look up and fire into the top corner from 25 yards.
And before the half hour mark, another ex Ashington player – Jake Turnbull – saw his effort turned over by home stopper Adam McHugh.
With the period drifting towards a stalemate, Tom Bramley edged the Wansbeck side ahead for a second time when he was first to the ball to poke home a Danny Anderson corner from the left.
However, the Lions certainly roared from the first whistle after the break and the home goal led a charmed life.
On 53 minutes, Bramley – with no room for error – timed his tackle to perfection inside the box to thwart Salim then Gascoigne fired wide from distance.
Benfield were dominating the midfield and after Gascoigne had blazed over and McHugh had parried from Aiden Haley, Lewis Scorgie headed over a cross from Slaughter.
With Ashington struggling to piece anything together, Benfield continued to be in the ascendancy with substitute Knight stabbing wide before he had another effort fisted out by McHugh.
It seemed only a matter of time before Benfield would draw level but in a quick sorte by Ashington on the counter, the controversial incident involving the pulled shirt on Salmon which was missed by the officials, led to vociferous shouts from home supporters.
It was quickly followed with Paul Brayson finding the net but the veteran striker was ruled offside then came the explosive moment where Salmon completely lost his discipline and was ordered off.
In the 82nd minute, Walker latched onto a cross from Brayson to slam in the equaliser
then four minutes later, Salim headed across McHugh and inside the post from another delivery from the right flank.
Home sub Bobby Taylor went close with a sizzling half volley from the edge of the area but in the 90th minute, Knight unleashed a 25 yarder which bounced over McHugh and into the roof of the net for Benfield’s fourth.
Surely that would be the final action – but in the second minute of stoppage time, Bramley went up front and got on the end of a cross by Anderson to clip past Grainger.
Taylor was not far away – then came the final whistle with Benfield marching off as deserved winners.