By Brian Bennett
A poor and disjointed second half performance by Ashington culminated in a defeat against a rejuvenated Whickham side at a windy First Mortgage Glebe ground on Saturday.
There is no doubt that the Newcastle based outfit – under recently appointed manager Tony Fawcett – had more hunger than the Colliers after the break and deserved the victory yet for the Colliers it was an afternoon of sheer frustration as they led three times during the contest before crumbling in the latter stages.
Overall, for the neutral, it was an eight goal thriller played out on an afternoon where the wind played a part – only Ashington manager Ian Skinner point blankly stated afterwards that conditions had no bearing on what was an under par performance by his side.
There was little to enthuse for supporters in the early stages. Paul Robinson curled a right footer wide then Whickham responded with a cross by Nathan Greenwood being intercepted by skipper Ben Harmison which was followed by a good tackle inside the area by Curtis Coppen.
At one end, a run down the right flank by Liam Doyle ended with his low cross eluding everybody at the far post then when play switched, Scott Robson was through one-on-one but saw his effort superbly blocked by Ashington ‘keeper Karl Dryden.
The first half had been pretty even but five minutes before half time, the visitors took the lead with a superb goal from Harmison.
They forced a flag kick on the left and when Danny Anderson floated the ball over, Harmison sent a bullet-like header wide of ‘keeper David Hanson and inside the far corner.
The second period again saw little action – until just before the hour mark when Whickham drew level as Kaleb Young’s sweetly struck free-kick from the right from 35 yards went across Dryden and into the net.
But a game which had been devoid of thrills and spills suddenly sprung to life with six goals crammed into the final 25 minutes.
Ashington regained the lead in the 65th minute when Anderson and Lewis Suddick combined down the right and when the latter played the ball across, Craig Spooner applied an exquisite low finish, side footing wide of Hanson and just inside the post.
But two minutes later it was all square at 2-2 when Scott Robson buried the ball past Dryden.
With quarter of an hour remaining, the Colliers pieced together another good move when Spooner found Doyle whose rasping right footer was touched onto the bar by Hanson but the rebound fell straight into the path of Dean Briggs who put the ball into an empty net.
Four minutes on and the game was back in the melting pot at 3-3 following a free-kick which saw Daniel Barlow fire home.
Incredibly Whickham – the stronger side in the period – edged ahead in the 82nd minute in fortuitous circumstances as Coppen’s attempted clearance rebounded off Barlow and into the goal.
And in their next sorte upfield, the home side forced a corner which was swung over by Young and was cleared off the line by Doyle.
Ashington pushed Harmison upfront to try and salvage a point – but two minutes from the 90, Greenwood sealed the points for Whickham when he waltzed straight through and drove past Dryden.