By Brian Bennett
Ashington went to the top of the first division of the Ebac Northern League on Tuesday night after a hard fought win against West Allotment Celtic at the East Palmersville Sports Pavilion.
Dan Maguire fired the Colliers into an early lead but Allotment deservedly drew level through Michael Baxter. However five minutes later, Craig Spooner netted what proved to be the winner.
It was a below par performance from the Wansbeck outfit – but they nevertheless strung together their third win of the season to maintain their 100 per cent record.
The home side – who worked tirelessly – saw a lot of the ball in the second period and could have equalised in the dying seconds through Scott McCarthy.
Ashington boss Ian Skinner made four changes from the side which won 3-2 against Newton Aycliffe in their epic Emirates FA Cup extra preliminary round tie on Saturday handing starts to goalkeeper Kyle Hayes, Damen Mullen, Darren Lough and Adam Johnson.
And it was Lough who was the provider of a defence splitting pass which led to Ashington’s opener after only two minutes.
Maguire timed his run to perfection to go past a defender before unleashing a left footer which went wide of ‘keeper Dan Gladstone and into the corner of the net.
But ironically, the goal acted as a spur for the home side and shortly afterwards, Hayes was forced to tip over an effort from Michael Baxter.
Scott McCarthy then fed the ball through for Mikel Thompson but Hayes intercepted at the vital second.
At the other end, good work by Maguire saw him carve out a chance for himself but his shot was held by Gladstone.
Allotment continued to pose a threat and Baxter had two good opportunities but blazed one shot over then put the other wide.
However after knocking on the door, it was Baxter who levelled in the 24th minute, side footing home after McCarthy had unselfishly squared the ball to him.
But Ashington’s riposte was to regain the lead within five minutes when Spooner stabbed the ball home inside the post after a cross from Robbie Dale.
Right on the stroke of half time there was a bizarre incident which almost resulted in a third goal for the visitors.
Johnson closed down ‘keeper Gladstone’s clearance and the ball bounced in the six yards box, hit the bar and ran away to safety.
Ten minutes into the second half, Thompson drove wide then play switched and Gladstone held from Johnson.
Chances were at a premium until in the 79th minute, Dean Briggs played the ball to Dale whose right footer was deflected wide of the far post.
Then in the fifth minute of time added on, Ashington breathed a huge sign of relief when the ball fell to McCarthy but he screwed his effort off target.
By Brian Bennett
Stand-in skipper Karl Ross scored a dramatic equaliser deep into stoppage time to ensure Ashington a share of the spoils from a six goal thriller against West Allotment Celtic at a sun drenched East Palmersville Sports ground on Saturday.
Ross’s effort – in a game which see-sawed one way then the other – extended the Colliers’ unbeaten away run to four matches in the Ebac Northern League’s first division and although the visitors never reached any great heights in what was an average performance, it was nevertheless a point which they thoroughly deserved.
However, it was even more welcome with manager Ian Skinner only able to name three substitutes – including goalkeeper Adam McHugh – as he had to reckon without injured trio Max Emmerson, Bobby Taylor and Dean Briggs whilst Jordan Summerly and Curtis Coppen were unavailable.
Yannick Aziakonou returned to the starting line up in the centre of defence and made a superb tackle in the penalty area in the seventh minute to halt Guilherme Baltazar.
The game changed within the space of two minutes as Ashington ought to have gone in front but then found themselves a goal behind. In the 13th minute, a darting run by Brandon Slater, involving link up play with Ross and McGorrigan, gave the number seven a clear opening but his shot was held by goalkeeper Finn Hodgson.
Allotment countered and a through ball found Callum Larmouth who made no mistake, burying a left footer from eight yards inside Karl Dryden’s right hand post.
Midway through the period, a great ball down the right flank by Dominic Agnew found Slater but his cross was intercepted then a speculative effort from the left from all of 35 yards by Luke Salmon hit the frame of the goal with Hodgson well beaten.
In the 34th minute, Dryden had to be at his best to make a smart save diving to his left from Jacob Foster then right on the stroke of half time, a long diagonal ball by Tom Bramley found Slater but he blazed over.
Just short of the hour mark, Ashington got back on terms. Danny Anderson swung over a corner from the right and Bramley netted with a downward half volley from 12 yards.
Four minutes later, a great piece of skill by Ross saw him bamboozle two defenders and when he ventured into the box, he was brought down by Graham Williams. Ryan McGorrigan stepped up and sent Hodgson the wrong way from the spot to put the Colliers 2-1 up.
Dryden denied Baltazar then a shot on the turn from home substitute Dean Walker went just wide of the post.
But in another twist – and inside an eight minute period – Allotment turned a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 lead with their man of the moment Larmouth notching a hat-trick.
The centre forward had caused problems for the visiting rearguard and when the ball broke free to him, Larmouth hammered in the equaliser.
Then in the 86th minute, Anderson upended Baltazar in the area and Larmouth emphatically slotted home from the resultant penalty.
But there was still more action to come. In the fifth minute of time added on, Gilberto Chapim was sent off for a second yellow card then sixty seconds later, a drive by McGorrigan was blocked; substitute Max Cowburn touched the ball to Ross whose effort was flagged by the assistant to have crossed the line despite the efforts of the home defenders to keep it out.