League: FA Cup

King’s Lynn Town vs Ashington

By Brian Bennett  |  Photos: Rachel McDonald

Ashington’s dreams of bridging a gap of over 60 years in their FA Cup history were shattered on Saturday after they went down 3-1 against high flying King’s Lynn in their fourth qualifying round tie in Norfolk.

However there has been so much to admire about Ian Skinner’s side throughout this epic run which all began in early August with a thrilling 3-2 win over Newton Aycliffe at Woodhorn Lane.

In the last three rounds, the Wansbeck outfit have knocked out Ashton United, Bradford Park Avenue and Stocksbridge Park Steels – higher clubs in the non league footballing pyramid – and on Saturday, although the Colliers came up short against a side who are top of the National League North, they nevertheless left The Walks Stadium with their heads held high.

Afterwards King’s Lynn boss Tommy Widdrington showered praise on Skinner and his side – and deservedly so – after they had left everything out on the pitch.

It was a typical cup tie with flowing football at a premium but after Ben Stephens had given the home side the lead, plucky Ashington responded quickly and levelled through Luke Salmon.

Jordan Ponticelli’s fine volley restored the lead for the Linnets and when Adam Crowther swept the ball home twelve minutes from time, the goal effectively booked their passage into the first round proper.

In the fourth minute, Dan Maguire slipped the ball through for Lee Mason but his effort drifted wide of ‘keeper Paul Jones’s right hand post.

King’s Lynn made a swift counter attack and Joshua Barrett’s shot towards the near post forced ‘keeper Karl Dryden to save with his legs.

Barrett had an identical opportunity on the 12 minutes mark and the outcome was the same too, with Dryden keeping the ball out.

However on the quarter hour the home side went ahead when a side footed shot by Stephens from 14 yards, squirmed under Dryden’s body and went into the bottom corner of the net.

The Colliers hit back with Yannick Aziakonou having a shot from 20 yards charged down before the visitors drew level following a slick incisive move.

Dean Briggs placed the ball through for Salmon who coolly slotted wide of Jones and inside the far corner.

But Ashington’s joy was short-lived as only four minutes later, they were behind for a second time.

The finish from Ponticelli was top drawer as he took the ball down and volleyed wide of Dryden and inside the far post as Ashington looked towards the assistant for an offside flag which never came.

On the half hour, a snap shot by Barrett smacked against the post with Dryden rooted to the spot then the stopper fisted out an effort by Gold Omotayo.

Ashington – once again spurred on by a noisy following of over 150 supporters – came close on 36 minutes when Briggs darted into the box but shot just wide.

At the start of the second half, Mason fired narrowly over from 22 yards after a Maguire lay off and the Colliers were the better side in the opening 20 minutes.

Salmon won an aerial duel to head on for Ben Sampson but his shot was held by Jones then a clever pass by Maguire set up Sampson who was again denied by the home ’keeper.

With 20 minutes remaining, Dryden kept Ashington in the game. He thwarted Michael Clunan when he was clean through on the right but in the 78th minute, King’s Lynn broke Ashington hearts when Crowther struck a decisive third.

A free kick by Aaron Jones to the far post was headed back by substitute Joshua Coulson for Crowther who fired in.

Ashington kept going until the end – but the final whistle saw them bow out of the competition.

However, Colliers fans applauded their side who in return came over – along with the management team – to the section of the stand where the majority of their supporters were housed to show their appreciation amid emotional scenes.
15 October 2022 - King's Lynn Town FC v. Ashington AFC

Ashington vs Stocksbridge Park Steels

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.

Stocksbridge Park Steels vs Ashington

By Brian Bennett

Ashington and Stocksbridge Park Steels will meet on Tuesday night in a replay after their Emirates FA Cup third qualifying round tie finished all square at the Eco Power Stadium on Saturday.

The Colliers – spurred on by an army of around 200 fans who were magnificent and who got behind their side from start to finish which created a brilliant atmosphere – conceded a late goal which forced the replay but overall a draw was probably a fair result on the day.

The Wansbeck based club came up against an outfit that operate one division above in the Pitching In Northern Premier League and after knocking out higher status teams Ashton United and Bradford Park Avenue in previous rounds, came close to causing another cup upset.

It wasn’t the most entertaining of cup ties nor was there any real quality to shout about but Ian Skinner’s side more than matched their opponents and without a doubt, deserved another bite of the cherry.

All of the goals came in the final half hour of a match which never flowed but had plenty of endeavour.

However, after falling behind to a goal by Ross Goodwin, the Colliers turned the game around to lead 2-1 with 20 minutes to go following strikes from Lee Mason and Ben Harmison and will be disappointed not to have held onto their slender advantage with Mitch Langton hitting an 85th minute leveller for the hosts.

Ashington ‘keeper Karl Dryden was in action after only two minutes as he pushed out a header by Goodwin after a corner on the right by Kurtis Turner.

But Skinner’s side hit back and it was only a fine stop by home ‘keeper Harrison Davison-Hale which prevented an opener from Ben Sampson.

Robbie Dale found Sampson who moved across the area before looking on to see his venomous left footer from 12 yards turned away by the stopper.

And on the quarter hour, it was Sampson who turned provider as his pass bisected the home rearguard and sent Dan Maguire through.

However the ball just wouldn’t run kindly for the striker and the chance evaporated.

There was little in the way of goalmouth action until the 33rd minute when Mason fed Dean Briggs whose cross was blocked then the latter whipped the ball over from the left which went across the face of the goal.

Three minutes later, Mason cleared off the line following a Stocksbridge corner on the left but it was Ashington who had the final chance of the half when Dale slipped the ball through for Mason but his effort was held by Davison-Hale.

Ashington started the second half well and after three minutes, Maguire and Briggs combined to set up Sampson but the midfielder’s shot was blocked.

Briggs then curled just over before the hosts took the lead in the 63rd minute with a goal against the run of play.

From Tomas Poole’s delivery on the left, home skipper Goodwin – at the far post – netted with a fine header which he put into the opposite side of the net.

 Ashington’s response came two minutes later – when they drew level.

Sampson crossed inside the area where Mason finished with aplomb, scoring with a rasping right footed half volley which rocketed just inside the upright.

Seven minutes later, Ashington went ahead when Briggs curled a free-kick into the danger zone and Harmison stretched to stab the ball home from six yards.

With quarter of an hour remaining, a shot from Luke Rawson brought a finger-tip save out of Dryden and from the resultant corner, the Colliers had a fortuitous escape when they failed to close down Alex O’Connor whose 25 yarder smacked against the post.

But five minutes later, the visitors – and Lee Mason – came within inches of netting a third which arguably would have put the tie to bed.

Thomas Kalthoeber played the ball forward to Dale whose clipped first time pass was flicked on by Maguire which put Mason through.

The striker lobbed the advancing Davison-Hale – but agonisingly the ball landed on the top of the crossbar and went straight into the ‘keeper’s arms.

And in the 85th minute following a corner by Poole, the ball was not cleared and ricocheted into the path of Langton who slotted home from close range.

Sixty seconds later, an effort by Maguire forced Davison-Hale to clutch the ball to his right – but with the scores locked at 2-2 at the final whistle, apart from a replay, both teams will go into the hat for Monday’s fourth qualifying round draw.

01 October 2022 - Stocksbridge Park Steels FC v. Ashington AFC

Ashington vs Bradford (Park Avenue)

By Brian Bennett

They talk long and hard about the magic and romance of the FA Cup and on Saturday, Ashington again experienced a day which will be embedded in their history.

The Colliers caused a major cup upset – this time with a 2-1 win over Bradford Park Avenue – and what’s more, the Colliers enjoyed and fully deserved another slice of success.

The visitors who play three divisions higher in the National League North, the same as Blyth Spartans, languish near the basement of the table – but that was irrelevant to Ian Skinner’s side who gave it their all and went toe to toe with their opponents from West Yorkshire in what was a thrilling tie.

Ashington – who saw off Northern Premier League, Premier Division outfit Ashton United in the last round via a replay in Wansbeck in front of a crowd of 671 – even had the added satisfaction of boasting an attendance in excess of 700 with Woodhorn Lane rocking from the first whistle until the last.

Before kick off an impeccable minutes silence was observed by players, officials and supporters following the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

When the game got under way, home supporters got a taste of what was to come in the fourth minute when Dan Maguire had an effort on target which cannoned off Reece Staunton on the six yards line.

Sixty seconds later when Ashington took the lead, it may have been courtesy of an own goal but nevertheless typified their high tempo start.

Andrew Cartwright picked out Dean Briggs with a superb cross field pass from right to left and after skipping past his man, the midfielder whipped over a cross into the danger zone which Staunton sliced past his own ‘keeper George Sykes-Kenworthy.

Ashington continued to go full throttle at their visitors and on the quarter hour after receiving from Briggs, Craig Spooner had Sykes-Kenworthy scampering across his line with a 25 yarder which went narrowly wide.

In the 18th minute, the visitors thought they had levelled through Jacob Blyth following a free-kick but the goal was disallowed for offside then Maguire found Lee Mason but a timely tackle by Staunton thwarted him.

Bradford had a lot of possession from the start of the second half and in the 53rd minute, a shot from Jamie Spencer was tipped around by home ‘keeper Karl Dryden.

But after digging deep and repelling the pressure, Mason had a great chance following a move which was initiated by Cartwright and also involved Maguire but drove his shot straight at the ‘keeper.

However midway through the period, Mason was cruelly denied by the woodwork after a piece of inspirational magic.

He latched onto a cross from Spooner and acrobatically volleyed a scissors kick with his right foot which rattled against the bar.

A minute later, Maguire played the ball across looking for Mason again but on this occasion, defender Mitch Lund made a great interception.

With a little over quarter of an hour remaining, Ashington withdrew Mason introducing Adam Johnson – and within three minutes and following a good move, the substitute saw his left foot effort deflected behind.

Briggs swung over a pinpoint cross from the resultant flag kick where skipper Ben Harmison towered above defenders to send a header into the net past Sykes-Kenworthy who was rooted to the spot.

The home fans erupted – but six minutes later, they were left to face an anxious finale after the visitors halved the deficit through Will Longbottom, the substitute heading just inside the upright after a cross from the left had been partially cleared at the near post.

Three minutes later, sub Eddie Church thought he had levelled the tie – but the assistant’s flag was raised for offside.

Then came the final whistle …… which sparked off jubilant scenes for the Wansbeck outfit.

On Saturday (September 24), Ashington return to league duty with a trip across to Cumbria where they face Penrith.

17 September 2022 - Ashington AFC v. Bradford (Park Avenue) AFC