By Brian Bennett
Ashington’s winless record against Stockton Town continued on Saturday when Kev Hayes scored the winner for the Anchors seven minutes into stoppage time to send his side into the first qualifying round of the Emirates FA Cup.
It was heartbreaking for the Colliers who turned in their best display – and led through Jordan Summerly early in the second period – on the all weather pitch at the Map Group UK Stadium.
The home side levelled through skipper Adam Nicholson and after Ashington’s sub Scott Heslop had been sent off towards the end of normal time, the Wansbeck side were dealt a cruel blow when Hayes blasted in the clincher deep into time added on.
It was a game which ebbed and flowed and one where the Colliers started off on the front foot. Inside two minutes, a cross from the left by new signing Dylan Archer was returned into the middle by Cameron Gascoigne but Summerly’s strike was parried away by ‘keeper Callum Roberts.
Stockton’s first effort was an effort from distance by Cameron Painter which drifted wide but it was quickly followed by a move downfield by Ashington and after Dan Maguire’s shot was blocked, Kyle Errington placed a header wide.
The home side were a threat from set plays with the tall Nicholson winning everything in the air and after Darren Lough had charged down a shot by former Collier Lewis King, a header by Nicholson was blocked from the resultant corner.
The best opening arrived in the 26th minute when the home side built neatly down the left but from the cross, Painter missed a great chance, sending his header wide from six yards.
Within the space of a couple of minutes, Maguire was denied by Roberts at one end then at the other, a shot from Michael Sweet stung the palms of Dryden.
In the final action of the first half, Ben Sampson found Archer whose deflected effort was turned over by Roberts.
Six minutes into the second half, Ashington went ahead when an in-swinging corner from the right by Summerly went through a few legs and inside the far post.
Shortly afterwards, Maguire had a shot from 22 yards which went over then on the hour, Nicholson set up King whose effort was pushed out by Dryden.
The visiting ‘keeper excelled again three minutes later denying Michael Fowler then midway through the period, a header from Sweet thudded against the post.
Play immediately switched and Archer had an opening but his effort was pushed over by Roberts which was followed by Heslop hitting a low shot narrowly wide.
In the 70th minute, another in-swinging flag kick by Summerly caused problems for the home defence but Yannick Aziakonou headed wide.
Three minutes later, the Anchors equalised when a corner from the left was met by Nicholson whose effort was judged to have crossed the line.
Home sub Michael Roberts placed a glorious chance into the side netting but Ashington’s response saw Heslop – who had made an impact after coming on at half time – curl a shot which was pushed wide by Roberts.
In Ashington’s next move, Wilson Kneeshaw found Lough and from his cross Heslop hit the side netting.
Then a key turning point arrived in the 87th minute when Heslop contested a 50-50 ball with Painter in the centre circle and the referee showed the Ashington striker a red card.
Stockton came on strong against the ten men and Dryden – who had had an outstanding game – thwarted Nicholson.
But the home side raided again and when Hayes cut inside from the right and fired a left footer, it gave Dryden no chance at his near post to sink Ashington hearts.