By Brian Bennett
A sensational goal by striker Ryan McGorrigan in the second minute of stoppage time sent Ashington through to the next round of the Techflow Marine Northumberland Senior Cup – and at the same time broke Blyth Town hearts – after a pulsating and breathtaking first round tie at The dwmedia Stadium on Tuesday night.
It appears that the fictitious comic strip character ‘Roy of the Rovers’ is hovering over the Ashington camp these days. A couple of weeks ago in their Buildbase FA Vase game at Newcastle Benfield, the home side were trailing 2-0 before leaving the Wansbeck side devastated as they fought back to win 3-2.
On Tuesday the tables were turned – on this occasion in favour of the Colliers. Two-nil behind to the Ebac Northern League second division outfit and with a shock result on the cards, Ian Skinner’s men rallied in a barnstorming finish to score three in the final quarter hour.
And on an inclement evening with a cross field wind and swerling and driving rain – the two teams put on an outstanding show which thrilled the brilliant turn out of 281 supporters.
The Woodhorn Lane surface certainly stood the test after being battered by hours of incessant rain and was in pristine condition thanks to the sterling efforts of groundsman Scott Robson.
Ashington made an early inroad when in the second minute, Karl Ross got a toe onto a low ball whipped into the middle by Ben Sampson but it went straight to ‘keeper Callum Corkhill.
However in the fifth minute, Adam Johnson raided down the right before he was upended by Yannick Aziakonou and Ashington scrambled the resultant free kick clear.
The home side hit back. Dean Briggs rolled a short free-kick to Damen Mullen whose 25 yarder was tipped away for a corner by Corkhill – and that was the start of a magnificent performance by the young stopper who in the next minute also foiled McGorrigan and repeatedly denied the Colliers.
But the ENL first division side found themselves trailing after 18 minutes when out of the blue, Blyth Town striker Johnson netted the first of a notable brace on the night, curling a superb left footer inside the stanchion from 22 yards.
Ashington continued to press and probe but the visitors stood firm and apart from the efforts of Corkhill, defended resolutely restricting Ashington to two chances both of which fell to Briggs.
The home skipper fired over with the first and on the stroke of half time, went even closer with the second.
After the break, a 30 yarder from Briggs was pushed away by Corkhill then a shot from Mullen was held by the custodian.
Ashington continued to pile on the pressure and the visitors goal led a charmed life. Inside a ten minutes spell, Briggs sliced over; a cross from Luke Salmon – who was outstanding on the night down the left – was just missed by the incoming McGorrigan; Salmon charged through but was blocked by Corkhill; Briggs fed Salmon who was blocked by a defender then Blyth cleared off the line following a Danny Anderson corner on the left.
And when Johnson pounced on an under hit back pass by Aziakonou to drive a crisp right footer past Adam McHugh to double Blyth’s lead, home supporters were stunned into silence.
Salmon glanced a header narrowly wide but midway through the half, a key turning point arrived when McHugh made a superb save to prevent a third, as he turned the ball around for a corner to deny Kurtis Dodds.
Back came Ashington and after a last ditch tackle had denied McGorrigan, Sampson got on the end of a cross by Liam Doyle but saw his header pushed away by Corkhill.
Ashington’s pressure was relentless and in the 76th minute, they eventually found a way through.
Mullen – who was dynamic in the Ashington midfield – sprayed the ball out wide to Salmon and when he crossed into the middle, Ross applied the finish.
Now it was game on – but after Jordan Summerly had flashed a drive from 30 yards just wide; Briggs had curled an effort inches past the far post and McGorrigan had gone close, it appeared as if Ashington were running out of time and heading for the exit door.
But they got back on terms in the 88th minute when Sampson’s cross was played on by Briggs for Salmon to blast in.
If the scores were level at full time, the match was to be decided by a penalty shoot out and consequently, all eyes were on referee Kirk Freeth as to how much time was left on the clock.
On 90 minutes, who else but Corkhill finger-tipped an effort from substitute Craig Spooner around – but two minutes later Summerly’s cross from the left found McGorrigan who rifled the ball into the roof of the net for a dramatic winner.