By Brian Bennett
Ashington produced one of their best performances of the season to comfortably brush Redcar Athletic aside at Green Lane on Saturday.
Goals from Dan Maguire, Darren Lough and substitute Lee Mason accounted for the Steelmen who went into the clash with four consecutive wins behind them.
Newton Aycliffe – who topped the division beforehand – saw their match at home to West Allotment Celtic subject of a late call off after torrential rain and consequently Ashington’s victory saw the Colliers go joint top of the division, only separated by goal difference.
However, whilst the Wansbeck outfit have no fixture in midweek, third placed Bishop Auckland who are one point behind, are at home to Whickham on Tuesday and Aycliffe travel to face Crook Town the following night so the situation could change again!
Nevertheless, Ashington’s home clash against Newton Aycliffe on Saturday (March 25) promises to be a real humdinger with a bumper crowd expected at Woodhorn Lane on Non League Day.
On a mild afternoon on the Yorkshire coast, Ian Skinner’s side started well. With only 90 seconds on the clock, Dean Briggs fed the over lapping Jordan Summerly down the left and the full back put over a first time ball which went begging after flashing across the face of goal.
Minutes later, it was Summerly again who provided a deep cross which was well defended by James Paylor at the far post, who headed the ball behind for a corner with Ben Harmison ready to pounce.
In the ninth minute, the visitors deservedly opened the scoring. Home ‘keeper Jack Norton made a hash of a clearance which fell to Briggs. He passed forward to Maguire and the striker advanced before curling a sweet right footer from the edge of the area into the corner of the net.
Ashington continued to have the upper hand and it was past the half hour mark before Redcar had their first shot at goal with Craig Hutchinson clipping a left foot effort wide from 20 yards.
Ahead of the break, Maguire played Craig Spooner through but his effort was turned over by Norton.
Ashington began the second half in identical fashion to the first. Within the opening minute, Harmison hooked on a throw in by Andrew Cartwright which released Briggs but after cutting inside, his effort was held by Norton.
Seven minutes in, Redcar were reduced to ten men when midfielder Reece Kenney – who had been booked in the first period – stopped a promising attack on the half way line as he fouled Briggs and was shown a second yellow card followed by a red by referee Barry Tones.
Ashington tried to press home their advantage which started when Robbie Dale’s through pass found Maguire who crossed but Harmison missed connecting by millimetres. After that, Briggs had an effort deflected whilst Lough, Maguire and Cartwright all narrowly missed the target.
Midway through, Ashington almost pressed the self destruct button as they tried to play out from the back.
They lost possession and ‘keeper Karl Dryden – after initially parrying a shot from Hutchinson – moved swiftly to brilliantly block the follow up effort from Brandon Holdsworth.
Norton denied Maguire and Briggs but there was nothing the stopper could do in the 74th minute as Lough gave the Colliers a two goals cushion.
Harmison glanced on a corner from the right by Cartwright and Lough – at the far post – headed home.
And things just got better and better as ten minutes later, Mason finished off an excellent team goal.
Cartwright and Spooner were involved at the beginning of the move before Sampson played the ball through for Spooner whose cross from near the by line saw Mason apply the finishing touch.
In stoppage time, Norton blocked from Mason then the ‘keeper saved in spectacular fashion to deny substitute Karl Ross.