By Brian Bennett
Ashington are through to the fourth qualifying round of this season’s Emirates FA Cup following a 3-0 victory over Stocksbridge Park Steels in their replay on a record breaking night at Woodhorn Lane.
The bumper attendance of 1,424 set a new record at the ground and supporters were treated to a pulsating cup tie on a mild evening in Wansbeck as the Colliers continued their glorious run in the competition.
Ashington will now travel to face National League North league leaders Kings Lynn on Saturday week (October 15).
The replay came about after Ian Skinner’s side conceded a late goal in a 2-2 draw in Sheffield on Saturday – but in the rematch, the Colliers roared into a two goal lead inside the opening eight minutes through Yannick Aziakonou and Paul Robinson.
They withstood pressure from the visitors but when Ben Sampson added a crucial third ten minutes into the second half, it was going to take a comeback of monumental proportions and as the match became stretched with The Steels chasing the game, Ashington could have added to their tally.
Not once, not twice but three times this season, Ashington have caused an upset in the competition after delivering knock out blows to Ashton United, Bradford Park Avenue and now Stocksbridge Park Steels – the trio of clubs who all operate higher up the footballing pyramid.
The Ashington fans continued where they left off at the weekend as they got behind their team from minute one giving plenty of vocal support.
Manager Skinner had said in his postmatch interview on Saturday ‘hopefully we can give them (the supporters) something else to shout about in the replay’ – and his side certainly did that as they made an unbelievable start.
With only four minutes on the clock, a corner on the left was partially cleared by a Stocksbridge defender and the ball fell invitingly into the path of Aziakonou who from 30 yards, struck a sweet low right footed effort on the half volley into the back of the net with ‘keeper Harrison Davison-Hale rooted to the spot.
And it got better for the Colliers when Robinson added the second. The midfielder’s initial shot was parried by Davison-Hale to his left then an effort from Dean Briggs was cleared off the line by Mitchell Langton but the ball looped up into the air where Robinson headed home.
Midway through the half, Maguire had a shot blocked then Ashington had claims for a penalty turned down when Luke Salmon went to ground inside the area.
Thomas Poole went close with a free-kick from 25 yards before Stocksbridge full back Jack Tinker was yellow carded for a foul on Aziakonou.
Home stopper Karl Dryden blocked an effort from Poole then three minutes before the break, skipper Ben Harmison flashed a header wide from an Andrew Cartwright corner on the right.
The start of the second period was action packed as Luke Rawson accelerated down the right flank and his shot was saved by Dryden’s legs.
Robinson had a low drive held by Davison-Hale and seconds later, Dryden magnificently tipped over from an 18 yarder by Ify Ofoegbu.
The visitors were desperately trying to find a way through and in the 53rd minute, substitute Lewis Macaskill cut inside from the left but his shot was held low by Dryden.
Ashington responded having shouts for handball in the area waved aside – but in the 55th minute, Sampson added a third, firing in the loose ball after Davison-Hale had spilled a free-kick.
Woodhorn Lane was bouncing but just past the hour mark, the visitors served notice that the tie was far from finished when Macaskill headed over a glorious opportunity following a free-kick.
With 20 minutes remaining, Sampson came within inches of his second when after a mix up in the Stocksbridge defence, his low right footer from 20 yards went agonisingly inches past the post.
As the visitors tried to pierce a home back line which had once again been magnificent, Ashington had chances on the break to add a fourth with Briggs twice going close before a free kick by Cartwright was well held by Davison-Hale.
Stocksbridge’s night was compounded when after using all three substitutes, they had to play out the final minutes with ten men after their skipper Ross Goodwin was forced to leave the field with a shoulder injury following a collision with Dryden.