By Brian Bennett
Ashington rose to the tough challenge of facing Ashton United in the Emirates FA Cup first qualifying round on Saturday – and came away from their visit to Hurst Cross in Greater Manchester with a deserved replay following a blank score line.
Indeed, whilst the Colliers were delighted with the result, they could so easily have emerged as winners after being the better side – and having chances – in the second half.
Overall manager Ian Skinner was pleased with his players who all put in excellent performances in a contest where the limited amount of chances – with the exception of one – fell Ashington’s way.
The opening 20 minutes produced little in the way of a threat on either goal.
In the seventh minute, Craig Spooner was penalised for a foul but the free kick from 25 yards, taken by home skipper Michael Brewster was blocked.
Ashington’s first sniff came on the quarter hour when Jordan Summerly played the ball over the top to Dan Maguire who forced a corner.
Although Ashton had more possession, it was the Wansbeck outfit who looked the more likely to break the deadlock.
Maguire, Lee Mason and Paul Robinson combined from a throw in which ended with the latter firing over.
Then five minutes later, Ben Sampson glided past three defenders and found Spooner who also cleared the bar.
In the closing stages of the first half, the Colliers came closer.
When home ‘keeper Gregory Hartley fisted a shot by Spooner up into the air, the ball fell to Robinson whose effort was cleared off the line by Matty Regan.
Two minutes from the break, Ashington had shouts for a penalty turned down.
Thomas Kalthoeber supplied the pass which released Maguire and the centre forward appeared to have his shirt tugged back just before he was about to shoot but the referee remained unmoved.
What was to be the best opportunity of the game arrived in the 50th minute.
Robinson’s pass bisected the home defence and released Maguire but the striker had a heavy first touch and lobbed just over the bar from the edge of the area as Hartley advanced.
On the hour, Spooner drove wide then in the middle of what was a good spell from the visitors, Maguire curled an effort wide.
Minutes later, Robbie Dale produced a surging run from inside his own half and fed Mason but the forward blazed over.
In the closing stages, a shot by Ashton substitute James Baillie was deflected wide but the game ended with Ashington having another chance.
Substitute Luke Salmon crossed for Spooner but his shot was partially blocked by Hartley and cleared to safety.
The two sides meet in the replay at Woodhorn Lane on Tuesday (September 6) where kick off is 7.45pm.