Competition: Northern Premier League - East Division

3:00 pm

Hebburn Town vs Ashington

By Brian Bennett

For the best part of half an hour, Ashington turned in the perfect away performance in their game against Hebburn Town on Thursday night.

The Colliers survived an early scare before deservedly nudging ahead through Connor Thomson. However the Hornets hit back to secure a 4-1 win which as a result took them to the top of the Pitching In Northern Premier League East Division.

There was almost a dramatic start to proceedings as after 100 seconds, a punched out clearance by Ashington ‘keeper Karl Dryden landed at the feet of Liam Noble whose instinctive lob from 35 yards flashed narrowly wide of the upright.

That aside, Ian Skinner’s side threw recent abject displays against Grantham Town and Winterton Rangers out of the window as they turned on the style.

The Colliers – kicking into the teeth of a strong wind – showed calmness and confidence to be potential party poopers and when they went ahead in the seventh minute, the goal was fully deserved.

Thomson latched onto a pass played over the top of the home defence by Cyril Giraud with his pace allowing him to take the ball around advancing ‘keeper Kieran Hunter before he finished superbly well, slotting inside the far post.

Two minutes later there was almost a repeat as a through pass by skipper Karl Ross almost reached Thomson but Hunter got there first to clear.

Similarly on the quarter hour, Dryden was alert to intercept a forward ball intended for home skipper Amar Purewal.

However in the 31st minute, a huge turning point in the game arrived.

A long ball split the Hebburn defence and released Thomson in the inside left position with another one-on-one opportunity. The forward advanced but saw his effort well saved by the foot of Hunter.

Four minutes later, Hebburn drew level. Olly Martin cut inside then curled a low right footer wide of Dryden which went in off the post.

Minutes later, Martin again produced some neat skill down the left and when he rolled the ball sideways, Robbie Spence fired over.

However in the final minute of the 45, Ashington were dealt a cruel blow as the home side went in front.

Noble floated a free-kick towards the near post where Spence netted with a diving header.

Early in the second half, Paul Van-Zandvliet came within inches of what would have been a stunning equaliser but his effort from 25 yards drifted inches over the bar.

On the hour, the prolific Purewal increased his sides lead to 3-1. He wriggled past Si Jakab before firing a right footer past Dryden and inside the far corner.

Hebburn wrapped up the win with a fourth from Leo Robinson in the 73rd minute. The substitute had only been on the field two minutes when following a long clearance from Hunter, Ashington failed to clear. The ball fell to Robinson who struck a sweet half volley which rocketed into the net.

Five minutes later, the final opportunity – in a game which had limited chances – fell to the Wansbeck outfit.

Giraud skilfully slipped a defender on the left but when he squared the ball, Will Constantin’s goalbound shot was blocked by a defender.

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Ashington vs Winterton Rangers

By Brian Bennett

Saturday’s 1-0 defeat by Grantham was a game to forget for Ashington fans – but Tuesday’s goal-less clash at home against bottom of the league side Winterton Rangers was an equally hard watch.

There was an excuse for Saturday’s contest which was played in difficult windy conditions – but faced with perfect conditions on Tuesday, it was a surprising and disappointing dour struggle.

Yet the contrasting results for the two clubs at the weekend had suggested that it would be otherwise. The Colliers were looking to bounce back whilst the Scunthorpe based outfit had given their hopes of avoiding the drop a much needed boost with a 1-0 victory over league leaders Stockton Town.

It took ten minutes for the first chance to arrive and even then the 20 yarder from Charlie Clements was easily collected by home ‘keeper Ross Coombe.

Five minutes later, Wilson Kneeshaw reached the by line and cut the ball back but Connor Thomson tried to beat a defender inside the area and was foiled.

Just past the half way mark, a long searching pass from the back by Cam Gascoigne released Kneeshaw but his touch was just too heavy and his shot was taken by ‘keeper Nathan Popple.

Three minutes later Craig Spooner cleared an effort off the line then Will Constantin made a great surging run down the left. He passed the ball to Thomson who cut inside and his right footer took a deflection to go wide of the far post and behind for a corner.

In the second period, it was the visitors who missed out after having three gilt edged chances.

Adam Bartham charged through the middle but lashed over from 14 yards then following a raid down the left flank, the ball fell to the unmarked Clements who sliced his effort when well placed.

Midway through, only a brilliant stop by Coombe kept the scoreline blank as he denied Paul Grimes whilst at the other end, a 30 yarder by Paul Van-Zandvliet was taken by Popple.

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Ashington vs Grantham Town

By Brian Bennett

A finely executed strike in the second half by Grantham’s Elliot Walker settled a poor encounter against Ashington at Woodhorn Lane on Saturday.

The goal kept the Gingerbreads’ hopes of avoiding relegation alive with this victory lifting them out of the bottom two whilst for the Colliers it was back to back defeats following last weekend’s 2-0 reverse at Carlton.

Although Walker’s goal was enough to give his side the three points, without doubt the real winner on the day was the strong wind which blew down the ground and on occasions made football almost impossible.

Ashington – with the elements on their backs in the first period – were the first to show in the ninth minute when Wilson Kneeshaw put the ball through for Connor Thomson but his effort was held by ‘keeper Curtis Hall.

Thomson then latched onto a pass from Ben Sampson and netted but the assistant raised his flag for offside and the ‘goal’ was disallowed.

After 25 minutes, the best chance fell to Ashington when Thomson was the supplier of a cross from the right. Sampson met the ball and headed downwards but the ball bounced over the bar.

Minutes later following a centre from the left, Darren Lough made a great block at the back post to deny Walker then when play switched, Craig Spooner cut inside but shot wide of the upright.

Eight minutes into the second period, Bradley Munns glanced a long throw in by Sisa Tuntulwana past the post before the home side missed another opportunity.

Thomson raided down the right and when his cross was blocked the ball ran to James McGeorge – who was making his full debut – but he fired over.

Five minutes later, the same two players combined again but on this occasion, Hall dived to smother from McGeorge.

On the 70 minutes mark, only a stunning stop by Ross Coombe kept the scoreline blank. Tuntulwana found Munns whose goalbound effort was turned aside by the home stopper.

However, within minutes, there was nothing Coombe could do to prevent Walker’s right footer following a corner from finding the back of the net to put the visitors ahead.

The nearest Ashington came to rescuing a point involved Spooner on two occasions.

The midfielder connected on the volley from a cross by Darren Lough but his shot was deflected behind then the number seven struck a low free-kick from 25 yards which flashed just wide.

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Carlton Town vs Ashington

By Brian Bennett

Two goals in the second half from skipper Niall Davie and substitute Alex Hardwick sewed up a 2-0 win for play off chasers Carlton Town over Ashington on Saturday.

Conditions from the start at the Stoke Lane ground – a difficult playing surface coupled with a strong diagonal wind – suggested that this contest in Nottinghamshire was never going to be a classic and that’s exactly how things panned out.

Ashington – with the aid of the wind on their backs in the first half – enjoyed more possession but it was the 11th minute before the game woke up.

That was when the Colliers pieced together an intricate move down the left which culminated in a shot from Wilson Kneeshaw taking a deflection before hitting the side netting and bouncing behind for a corner.

On the quarter hour, Will Constantin tried his luck with an effort from 30 yards which went well wide of the target and only a few minutes later – with their first threat on the Ashington goal – Carlton’s Lamin Manneh headed home following a cross from the left but the assistant had his flag raised for offside and the score was ruled out.

Ashington tried to make inroads again with Gary Ormston and Craig Spooner linking well to find Kneeshaw but his centre was intercepted at the near post.

The Colliers then tried a route one move with a long clearance by ‘keeper Karl Dryden going over the top of the home defence and putting Kneeshaw through but Khyle Sargent got back to make a superb and potential goal-saving challenge.

Paul Van-Zandvliet – who had replaced Dan Maguire midway through the half – headed a corner by Spooner wide then a flag kick taken from the opposite side by Charlie Exley was cleared off the line.

Kneeshaw found himself through on goal again but for the second time, Sargent came to his sides’ rescue with another timely tackle.

Carlton took the lead eight minutes into the second half. Dryden failed to collect a corner played into the danger area from the left and Davie bundled the ball home from close range.

Ashington hit back in the next minute but a shot by Van-Zandvliet was easily held by ‘keeper Felix Annan.

Lewis Durow headed narrowly over for the Millers then Dryden pushed a corner by Manneh onto the top of the bar.

Twenty minutes into the period a cross by Charlie Exley fell to Spooner whose shot was blocked.

In quick succession, Dryden saved from Manneh and Alex Howes but Ashington’s afternoon got worse eight minutes from time when having used all three substitutes, they were forced to play the remainder of the game a man short after Constantin was forced off with an injury.

But incredibly, the ten men rallied and ought to have equalised in the closing stages as substitutes Connor Thomson and James McGeorge combined on two occasions.

The first in the 86th minute saw Thomson pass to McGeorge whose shot was tipped around by Annan.

Then in time added on, the Colliers carved out a glorious chance. McGeorge was the supplier of a ball played out wide to Thomson but the striker’s right footer was deflected away by Annan.

Three minutes later, the home side wrapped up the points. Manneh went to ground inside the area and after the referee had pointed for a penalty, substitute Hardwick netted from the spot even though Dryden dived the right way.

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Ashington vs Bridlington Town AFC

By Mark Fitton

With only a handful of games remaining Ashington started this match having failed to beat any of the sides below them in the table at Woodhorn Lane. That particular record was blown away in some style as the Collier’s went nap with a commanding performance over the East Riding side.

After a heavy shower on Friday afternoon had left the pitch with significant areas of standing water there was concern amongst officials as to whether the game would even go ahead. A precautionary pitch inspection at 8am settled any nerves of another postponement and by the time the sides kicked off they did so in sunshine under a bright blue Northumbrian sky.

Ashington started brightly and crafted a number of early opportunities. The best of which came when Ben Sampson began a sweeping move with Karl Ross releasing Craig Spooner down the right. His centre found Sampson who almost ended the move he had begun with only a last ditch tackle keeping the scoresheet clean. On 10 minutes however, the Colliers’ dominance was rewarded with a good goal from Dan Maguire.

Another good move from the Colliers began with Ben Sampson picking up the ball in his own half. He again fed Karl Ross who in turn sent Craig Spooner down the right. The tricky attacker cut inside his man and played the ball into Sampson who’s inch perfect pass found Dan Maguire in between two defenders with the front man finishing with aplomb.

The Colliers continued to press and a Kneeshaw strike sailed over after more good work on the right by Spooner.

On 18 minutes home supporters began to think that history was once again repeating itself when Bridlington equalised through Lewis Dennison. The Colliers knocking the ball around with confidence played it back to Ben Williams but a rare mistake from the impressive youngster saw his back pass to Coombe come up short and Dennison finished well leaving the keeper with no chance.

Nerves were settled only a few minutes later however when Dan Maguire grabbed his second of the game. Another sweeping move from the home side saw Exley released on the left. The full back then threaded the ball through two Bridlington defenders to find Kneeshaw on the left side of the box and his pass across the face of the goal was met and side footed home by the unmarked frontman.

The Colliers continued to exert their dominance and skipper Karl Ross extended the Colliers’ lead on 33 minutes. Maguire and Kneeshaw combined through the middle with the later laying off the ball to Karl Ross cutting in from the right. Twisting and turning his way into the box Ross bamboozled the Bridlington defence before driving the ball, from a tight angle, past the helpless goalkeeper.

The game was put beyond the visitors on 37 minutes when Charlie Exley grabbed Ashington’s fourth goal of the afternoon. Spooner who was to be a thorn in Bridlington’s side all afternoon drove with purpose down the right and played an excellent one two with Kneeshaw and his cross, hurdled by Kneeshaw found Exley at the back post. The left full back again showed calm firing the ball between the sticks.

Half time 4-1

Ashington began the second half the way they had ended the first and put the game beyond any doubt four minutes after the restart. A high press from Maguire and Kneeshaw forced a minor error from the Bridlington Keeper. His ball out was met by Spooner who drove at the defence playing a perfectly weighted ball into Wilson Kneeshaw who deftly chipped the keeper under pressure from a tight angle.

Bridlington, who never gave up throughout, grabbed another consolation on 60 minutes. Lewis Dennison who had scored the earlier equaliser grabbed a second after good work down the right saw the ball played into him. Never breaking stride he hit the ball neatly on the half volley leaving Coombe stranded.

Whilst both sides had chances in the remaining half hour, the truth was the game had effectively ended with the Colliers’ fifth goal. Ashington managed the remainder of the game with little in the way of excitement but no doubt with an eye on Monday’s trip to Hebburn Town.

When the final whistle blew the vast majority of an excellent 520 crowd went home happy, knowing that an unwanted record had been broken on Easter Saturday.

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Ashington vs Grimsby Borough

By Brian Bennett

Ashington FC manager Ian Skinner asked his players to address their indifferent home form before Saturday’s clash with Grimsby Borough – but the mystery continues after the visitors came from behind to take all three points.

It had looked so good for the Colliers when Dan Maguire nudged them ahead but a performance which Skinner labelled afterwards as being ‘unacceptable’ was about to unfold.

Ten minutes before half time, ‘The Wilderness Boys’ drew level through Lewis Collins and just past the midway point in the second period, Adam Drury slotted home what proved to be their winner.

On non-league day, the game attracted a bumper crowd in excess of 700 but it was never going to be a classic with a strong wind blowing down the ground.

Ashington – kicking against the elements in the first period – went ahead on the quarter hour. Ben Sampson played the ball down the right to Wilson Kneeshaw and after cutting inside, he pulled it back for Maguire whose shot crept inside the far corner from nine yards.

Grimsby’s response was a free-kick from 20 yards by Reece York which was held by home ‘keeper Ross Coombe then within seconds, play switched and Kneeshaw wriggled into the box but when he found Cam Gascoigne, the midfielder fired over.

Then on 22 minutes, Kneeshaw missed a glorious opportunity to double his sides lead with Sampson again the provider.

The striker who was through on goal with only ‘keeper Liam Higton to beat lashed the ball over from seven yards.

Ashington had a lucky escape on the half hour following a throw in when a Grimsby player poked the ball wide but in the 35th minute the visitors equalised.

Ashington cast an eye towards the referee looking for a free kick which never materialised and after the visitors had advanced, Collins poked home from close range.

The Colliers were creating their own problems and had certainly not fired on all cylinders in the first half. But after the break – in a 45 minutes which was devoid of chances – their performance plummeted drastically and was abysmal.

They did carve out the first opening in the 68th minute when Kneeshaw found Sampson who crossed where Charlie Exley hit a half volley into the ground which was taken by Higton.

A minute later the home side were on the end of a classic sucker punch when they were caught out on the break. Drury charged through the middle shrugging off a challenge from Gary Ormston before slotting wide of Coombe.

In the first minute of time added on following a long clearance by Coombe, Kneeshaw passed to substitute Connor Thomson who cut inside but saw his effort blocked by Higton.

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Belper Town vs Ashington

By Brian Bennett

Those in the know often say that a week can be a long time in football. Try stretching the period from a week to a couple of months!

Recap to a Tuesday night in early January when Ashington took on promotion chasing Belper Town at Woodhorn Lane. The clash which ensued between two evenly matched sides was decided in the Colliers’ favour by a sensational strike from Wilson Kneeshaw.

Back to real time and Saturday’s contest was equally well fought.

After trailing, the Wansbeck side turned it around with excellent goals from Cam Gascoigne and Kneeshaw and furthermore Ian Skinner’s depleted outfit deserved another win after totally dominating the second half and playing some superb football.

But the visitors were left totally deflated when Sidik Atcha netted his second of the game with a sublime equaliser for The Nailers two minutes into time added on.

Afterwards Belper celebrated the point as if it was a win whereas Ashington looked on it as being two points dropped.

Skinner travelled with a mere squad of 13 players due to a number of reasons which included a sickness bug in the camp.

The rain which fell an hour before kick off made the pitch at the Raygar Stadium have a bit of zip to it and it was the home outfit who started the better and who took the lead just past the quarter hour mark.

Charlie Exley – who was making his first full start after coming on as a second half substitute and scoring in the 3-2 win at Consett the previous week – had just had a shot pushed out by ‘keeper Daniel Moore following a corner.

But sixty seconds later, the hosts forced a flag kick of their own on the left and when the ball fell to Atcha, he slotted it into the far corner wide of ‘keeper Karl Dryden.

Ashington’s response was positive. Gascoigne passed to Kneeshaw and the striker’s effort was deflected behind.

On the half hour, the Colliers got back on terms.

Ben Sampson floated the ball into the area and when it was headed out, Gascoigne struck a venomous right footer from 16 yards into the roof of the net.

After that, the Colliers pulled the strings and in the 38th minute, it was Belper ‘keeper Moore who denied them the lead when he tipped a right footer from Sampson onto the bar. The rebound fell to Exley who crossed but Paul Van-Zandvliet headed over.

Then on the stroke of half time, Ben Williams found Kneeshaw who played a one-two with Maguire but Moore again intervened to snuff out the danger.

Early doors in the second period, Sampson and Maguire combined to set up Kneeshaw who took the ball past Moore but Belper recovered to block.

In Ashington’s next move, Maguire released Kneeshaw whose shot was cleared off the line but in the 57th minute, they went in front.

Kneeshaw latched onto a through ball played down the left flank and after heading towards goal, expertly side footed wide of Moore and inside the far corner.

On 70 minutes a full blooded drive by Gary Ormston from 20 yards was goalbound until it took a deflection and went behind for a corner then at the other end a strike by Mason Warren flashed wide.

Inside the final ten minutes of the 90 and Ashington – who were spurred on by their supporters who never stopped singing all afternoon – had chances to add a third.

Moore got a touch onto a shot by Kneeshaw which struck the post and bounced out then Gascoigne went through but his effort was blocked by the home stopper.

As the game entered stoppage time, substitute David Gbehe fired wide following a throw in before Atcha curled the ball with the outside of his right foot from just inside the area past the despairing hands of Dryden and into the top corner which left Ashington completely crestfallen.

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