By Brian Bennett
Three crackling goals – two from Paul Van-Zandvliet on his home debut and a trademark free kick from Craig Spooner – secured Ashington their first home win of the season in a match which was full of incident against Dunston UTS on Saturday.
In total, the contest lasted 102 minutes and supporters witnessed another first at Woodhorn Lane as referee Scott Henry dished out no fewer than 12 yellow cards – six to each side – as well as two reds.
For the second game in a row, the Colliers finished the clash with nine men after Simon Yakab and skipper Nathan Buddle were both sent off in the 64th minute – the former for denying an obvious goalscoring opportunity whilst Buddle – already on a yellow – got his marching orders for dissent.
Nevertheless, Ashington were full value for their success. In what was a good game of football and never a feisty or dirty encounter as the card count suggests, they were 3-1 ahead before the red mist descended then defended manfully for the remainder of the game and showed more than a hint of a threat on the break.
A Wansbeck side that went into the game on the back of four consecutive defeats as well as failing to score in all those encounters came out of the traps looking sharp and immediately put pressure onto the Dunston defence.
Buddle lashed over; Spooner had a drive held by ‘keeper Dan Staples; Ben Sampson chipped over from 35 yards and Oli Thompson played Jordan Summerly in but he was foiled by a superb tackle by Jack Walker.
However the pressure paid off in the ninth minute. Jakab found Matty Dopson who played the ball through for Van-Zandvliet and the midfielder fired home right footed from just inside the area.
Dunston grew into the contest and on the break – after Ashington had lost possession – a shot from David Robinson was taken at the foot of the post by home ‘keeper Karl Dryden.
Thompson had a shot blocked just past the half hour mark following a corner on the left by Spooner then Jakab fired over after being set up by Summerly.
Dunston drew level in the 36th minute. Sado Djalo passed inside to Robinson who advanced down the right flank and when he crossed, Jordan Lamb hammered the ball home at the far post.
Within a minute, the visitors had a chance to go ahead when Djalo was through but his effort was superbly blocked by Dryden then when play switched to the other end, Spooner had a 20 yarder pushed away by Staples to his right.
At the beginning of the second half, Ashington took the game to their visitors as they had done in the first – and they scored two spectacular goals from Spooner and Van-Zandvliet in a little over five minutes.
The first in the 48th minute was created by a ball played by Darren Lough which saw Scott Heslop charge towards the area before he was upended.
Spooner took the resultant free-kick 20 yards out and curled the ball expertly around the defensive wall and into the roof of the net.
Heslop headed narrowly over from a Spooner corner before Sampson teed the ball up for Van-Zandvliet who scored a screamer from distance arcing his effort into the top corner which left Staples helpless.
Then came the double sending off as Yakab saw red for impeding Lamb midway inside the Ashington half and within seconds he was followed to the dressing room by Buddle.
Midway through the period, Dryden made a crucial save diving to his right to divert a free-kick by Luke Carr and the same player had a golden opportunity but fired wide of the upright.
In the 82nd minute, a header from Dunston substitute Jack Maskell struck the post then in an Ashington raid, Staples pushed out an effort from Ross and Kneeshaw netted but the goal was ruled out for offside.
Home supporters were already drained and exhausted when the board went up to indicate a minimum of ten added minutes – but the only scare Ashington had to survive saw Dryden push around a right footer from sub Liam Thear.