By Brian Bennett
Ashington advanced into the next round of the Emirates FA Cup after a thrilling tie against fellow Ebac Northern League first division side Newton Aycliffe at Woodhorn Lane on Saturday.
But for the Colliers, it was a case of de javu as for the second time this season – the other which saw them lift the Cleator Cup over North Shields – the Wansbeck outfit came back to win the clash having been two goals behind.
After Lee Mason had initiated the comeback in the first half, Lewis Suddick equalised shortly before the hour mark then skipper Dean Briggs fired in a superlative winner with 20 minutes remaining.
Both sides went into the tussle with identical records having won both of their opening two league fixtures and Ashington were up against it early doors as a quickfire double by the visitors had them reeling.
Yet for all they appeared to be off key in the opening stages, Ian Skinner’s side nevertheless manufactured two chances.
The visitors had Ashington’s former ‘keeper Adam McHugh between the posts and it was the stopper who denied Briggs in the fifth and 11th minutes, the second save where he pushed a shot from distance away to his left.
Sandwiched in-between, Aycliffe’s Liam Jarvie tested home ‘keeper Karl Dryden with an effort which the custodian finger-tipped around at the foot of the post.
But in the 14th minute, Aycliffe took the lead in bizarre circumstances. Dryden was caught out by a cross from the right from Callum Munro which deviated with the wind, hit the far post and went in off Yannick Aziakonou.
Barely sixty seconds later Aycliffe sliced Ashington open again with Benjamin Reay slotting the ball through for Jamie Owens but the striker’s tame shot was gratefully held by Dryden.
However, three minutes after Munro had scored the opener, the same player added a second. Jarvie was found in space down the right hand flank and after he played the ball inside, Munro’s initial shot was partially blocked by a defender but the full back bundled the ball home from the rebound.
However five minutes later the Colliers halved the deficit after a superb run from Jordan Summerly.
The full back played a smart one-two with Dan Maguire before advancing to the by line and when he pulled the ball back, Mason applied the finishing touch from close range.
Before the half hour mark, the home side pieced together a nice move involving Briggs and Suddick but the latter’s shot was saved by McHugh.
Two minutes later, Suddick had a glorious opportunity to level. Maguire and Mason combined to unlock the visitors defence but Suddick sliced his effort on the half volley which went wide.
Joe Ferguson had a 30 yarder fielded by Dryden but Ashington finished the half strongly and when Mason glanced on a free kick by Robbie Dale, Maguire’s shot on the turn went agonisingly wide.
It was a half which the home side didn’t want to end – but they continued where they left off from the first whistle after the break and in the 56th minute, drew level through Suddick.
Craig Spooner swung the ball into the area which a defender tried to clear but it ran invitingly for Suddick who made no mistake hammering the ball across McHugh and into the net.
It was just the start the Colliers wanted – and it led to them bossing the half.
Suddick curled over after Dale and Andrew Cartwright had worked a short corner on the left then five minutes later, an instinctive lob from all of 40 yards by Briggs sailed over the advanced McHugh but dropped narrowly wide.
After a great move, McHugh denied Suddick but the ‘keeper had no chance 45 seconds later when a move which began with a Cartwright throw in on the right saw Briggs hammer a sumptuous left footer on the half volley from 12 yards which rocketed into the far corner.
With five minutes remaining, McHugh kept his side in the contest as he pushed out a blockbuster from substitute Paul Robinson. It was a pivotal moment as when play switched to the other end, Aycliffe ought to have levelled with their only realistic chance of the period.
Jack Oliver’s shot smacked against the base of the post and the ball ran into the path of fellow sub Oscar Taylor who somehow skied his effort over the bar from close range.
Then in the 88th minute, Ashington had an opportunity to put the result beyond doubt.
Maguire slotted the ball through for Robinson who cut inside two defenders but saw his effort superbly cleared off the line by the retrieving Jake Petitjean.
That was the final piece of action – even though the home contingent had to endure a nail-biting seven minutes of time added on.