By Brian Bennett
Jordan Blinco notched a hat-trick as West Auckland went nap against Ashington at the Wanted Stadium on Saturday.
The treble strike propelled the Auckland striker up to second place in the list of leading scorers in the first division of the Ebac Northern League and in fairness, Blinco didn’t have to work too hard on the day to achieve the feat.
Ashington were punished for almost every mistake they made with ‘keeper Karl Dryden having an uncharacteristically out-of-sorts afternoon in Durham which he will quickly want to forget.
The eagerly anticipated clash between two in-form sides near the summit of the league got off to a cautious start with chances at an absolute premium.
In the second minute, a free kick from 25 yards by Craig Spooner flashed just wide of home ‘keeper Sam Guthrie’s upright – but it was a full quarter hour before the next threat.
On this occasion, it was a quick break by the hosts led by Corey Nicholson who bore down the right flank but his cross was headed clear by Curtis Coppen.
Midway through, a chance was fashioned at either end. Ashington went route one with Paul Robinson flicking on a goal kick by Dryden to Dean Briggs who fired wide on the half volley. West retaliated and Leon Scott found Anthony Bell who blasted over from distance.
Ashington had marginally looked the better side of the two and had been defensively solid – but the game chanced completely as West scored three times in a 20 minutes period.
In the 23rd minute, Blinco was allowed a half a yard of space on the edge of the area and his half hit effort saw Dryden get a hand to it but only help it on its way into the net.
In their next sorte upfield, Damen Mullen found Ben Sampson and when he crossed, a header from Briggs was not far away from creeping inside the far post.
But on 36 minutes, the home side doubled their lead when Ashington lost the ball after an advantage played by referee Sam Packer.
Coppen was clearly fouled deep in his own half but when the Colliers conceded possession, West picked it up and a superb cross from the right by Andre Bennett was met by Blinco who steered a downward header wide of Dryden.
With half time just around the corner, Liam Doyle had a free kick deflected wide then a 22 yards restart by Robinson clipped the bar and went over.
However, three minutes before the break, Ashington were hit by a cruel piece of luck which culminated in West’s third as a shot from 25 yards by substitute Kieron Parnaby took a massive deflection and wrong footed Dryden before finding the net.
With seconds remaining, Bennett headed a Robinson corner off the line and an effort by Ben Harmison was held by Guthrie before a brilliant low cross by Sampson went across the face of the home goal.
Ashington made a positive start to the second period with an early cross by Luke Salmon being pouched at the near post by Guthrie and Mullen having an 18 yarder following a corner, deflected just over the bar.
But in the 56th minute, Parnaby pounced on another mistake to waltz through the defence before unleashing a right footer which Dryden got a hand too but couldn’t keep out.
Dryden pushed away from Parnaby then in the 63rd minute, Salmon latched onto a Robinson free-kick played to the back post to head goalwards but home skipper Gary Brown cleared off the line.
Spooner curled just wide whilst at the other end, an effort by Bell was tipped over by Dryden.
In the 81st minute, West added a fifth. David Dowson closed down Dryden and when the ‘keeper tried to play the ball out, it was intercepted by the substitute who rolled it across for Blinco who in acres of space, walked it into an empty net.