Article: Brian Bennett
Ashington chalked up their first league win of the season with a 3-1 victory against Billingham Synthonia on Tuesday night to help lift the gloom which has hovered over the Woodhorn Lane outfit in recent weeks. A double from Marc Walton and a strike from Glen Taylor not only brought a deserved three points but also helped put smiles back on the faces of the playing and managerial staff as well as supporters. Admittedly, the win came amid unbelievable scenes as the visitors – fresh from their 7-0 victory over Crook Town on Saturday – played the final quarter hour with only eight men after having three players sent off during the second period by Denton Burn referee Mick McDonough. The red mist descended as Synners lost their discipline – but Colliers boss Gary Middleton and his assistant Perry Briggs will be delighted that three days after their side hit rock bottom in Saturday’s 2-0 defeat at the hands of neighbours Morpeth Town, they got a much needed and positive response from the players. Yet as early as the fourth minute, the home side could have been trailing as a snap shot from Michael Sweet hit the angle of post and crossbar and went behind. But if not already fired up, the close call spurred Middleton’s side on even further and only an inspired display from former Whitley Bay ‘keeper Jonathan Ball kept the score line blank. The stopper began his heroics in the tenth minute after Walton had threaded a defence splitting pass through for Glen Taylor but his right footer was blocked by the sprawling Ball who similarly denied a blockbuster effort from Kyle Oliver. From the resultant corner on the right by James Novak, Richard Flynn glanced the ball forward for Walton whose header skimmed the bar. On the quarter hour, Ben Christensen played the ball over the top for Glen Taylor but Stephen Gibson averted the danger with a timely interception. The Colliers looked a completely transformed outfit from Saturday’s debacle, showing enthusiasm and determination as well as playing some slick and superb football which brought warm applause from their fans. And they threatened again in the 20th minute. Walton, showing some delicate touches, featured in another move as he set up Kyle Downey whose left footed effort was deflected behind for a corner. Downey then turned provider as he found Glen Taylor down the left. The striker jinked past a defender only to see his powerfully struck drive thud against the post. In their next attack, Walton and Glen Taylor combined with the latter again warming the palms of Ball before in a rare attack, Sweet had an opportunity but his shot was blocked by ‘keeper Conor Grant. Ashington were continually knocking on the door and on the half hour, they finally – and deservedly – broke the deadlock. Richie Slaughter glanced on a corner from the left by Oliver for Walton to masterfully hook the ball into the net wide of Ball. What was going to be a busy night for Mr McDonough then began to unfold as he gave yellow cards to Synners pair, Matthew Osmond and Daniel Dillon and in first half stoppage time, Ashington’s Lewis Davison joined them in the book following a foul. The home side clearly didn’t want the first half to end – but two minutes into the second period they were playing against a Billingham side reduced to ten men as Dillon went for an early bath following a tackle on Kyle Oliver. Incredibly Synners stepped up their game and equalised on 55 minutes. A shot from Jack Bradbury was touched behind by Grant and following the corner on the right, a low cross-cum-shot from the right by Nathan Porritt evaded several legs in the area and crept inside the far post. But within a minute, the drama cranked up another notch as the Colliers regained the lead – courtesy of an excellent finish from Walton. Davison’s exquisite side footed pass put the ball on a plate for the striker who stroked the ball home right footed giving Ball no chance. Synners refused to throw the towel in and indeed were on top as the home side were forced to dig deep and absorb a lot of pressure. However, in the 73rd minute, Walton rolled the ball left for Glen Taylor who drilled a low left footer wide of Ball and into the net for Ashington’s third. Before the game had restarted, Kristopher Hughes was shown a straight red card for dissent and a couple of minutes later, Osmond followed him down the tunnel after receiving a second yellow. Substitute Kieran Egen headed narrowly wide from a Novak through pass before the final action saw Glen Taylor chip wide of the advancing Ball and past the upright after being put clean through on goal.
Ashington: Grant, Christensen, Novak, Slaughter, Flynn, J Taylor, Oliver (Egen 48 minutes), Downey, Walton (Elliott 75 minutes), G Taylor, Davison (Gibson 78 minutes). Subs not used: B Middleton, Bannon (gk)
Referee: Mick McDonough (Denton Burn)