By Brian Bennett
Ashington went nap against Bishop Auckland at the Voneus Broadband Stadium – on a day when they created a hatful of chances and incredibly should have put the game to bed inside the opening quarter of the game!
Players don’t miss opportunities on purpose – but in Ashington’s case, their failure to convert a fair percentage during the first half, almost came back to haunt them in the second period when they were 3-0 ahead.
After leading in recent games, Ian Skinner’s side have gone on to lose and Colliers supporters must have had thoughts of deja vu when the Two Blues pulled the game back to 3-2 with 15 minutes of normal time remaining.
However two crucial strikes in as many minutes from substitute Liam Doyle and skipper Dean Briggs not only knocked the stuffing out of the home outfit but gave the Wansbeck side valuable breathing space.
Ashington – looking to bounce back after being dumped out of the Buildbase FA Vase by Newcastle Benfield the previous week – made a great start by taking the lead in the third minute courtesy of Paul Robinson – only they ought to have already been in front!
There were only 58 seconds on the clock when Briggs went through but lifted his effort over the bar with only ‘keeper Niall Frampton to beat.
However, Briggs turned creator shortly afterwards when he burst down the right and pulled the ball square for Robinson who skipped past a defender then side footed wide of Frampton.
The procession of chances continued when play switched to the other end as twice within a minute, Josh Gilchrist and Lewis Murphy both fired wide gilt edged chances.
Back came Ashington and Robinson linked well with Jordan Summerly but when the latter crossed, Brandon Slater completely missed his kick in front of goal.
It was all Ashington and after Ben Sampson’s pass had released Briggs, the visiting midfielder waltzed through but dragged his shot wide.
In the next minute from a Karl Ross free kick, Ben Harmison headed the ball back for Slater whose acrobatic overhead kick smacked against the post, ran along the line and was cleared.
In the 18th minute. Briggs found David Luke who had a shot blocked by Frampton and when Bishops retaliated, Murphy had an effort held by the diving Karl Dryden following a right wing cross.
The glut of opportunities continued as Danny Anderson shaved the post with a drive from the edge of the area – before Briggs doubled the lead in the 25th minute as Ashington went route one.
A long ball out of defence by Tom Bramley found Briggs in space in the inside left channel and the skipper went through and coolly slotted right footed inside the bottom corner.
Matty Waters had a shot fielded by Dryden and Gilchrist smashed a drive just wide of the upright before on the stroke of half time, a shot from Ashington’s Anderson thudded against the bar.
The pattern continued after the interval with Robinson swinging over two corners. From the first, Briggs had a shot blocked by Ross Gardner then Bramley headed wide.
For the start of the second half, Zannick Aziakonou replaced Anderson and seven minutes in, the substitute made it 3-0.
Robinson rolled a corner for Aziakonou whose low right footer from 18 yards crept inside the post wide of Frampton.
However within three minutes Bishops struck back when Waters ghosted in at the near post to head in a corner by Lewis Suddick then the latter saw a low free-kick from 20 yards turned around by Dryden’s fingertips.
The final 20 minutes was also action packed. A snapshot from Suddick flashed just wide with Dryden rooted to the spot but in the 76th minute, Gilchrist got a second for the home side, whipping a low drive from 12 yards under Dryden’s body.
Bishops thought they had levelled when Luke Chapman netted but the effort was ruled out for offside before quickfire goals from Doyle and Briggs made the game safe for the Colliers.
Doyle – looking lively and showing plenty of endeavour – latched onto a pass from Briggs to steer the ball wide of Frampton and just inside the corner from seven yards.
But Briggs stole the show with a super solo effort in the next minute after receiving from Luke. The midfielder burst through from inside his own half, shrugged aside two defenders and then slotted wide of Frampton.
The Colliers had made hard work of the victory – but in the last minute of the 90, they could have made it six.
Ross struck the post from a cross by substitute Luke Salmon and from the rebound, Briggs side stepped Frampton and fired goalwards where his shot was handled on the line.
The assistant raised his flag – but the referee over-ruled him turning down shouts for a penalty.