3

Bishop Auckland

v

3

Ashington AFC

Sat 24 Nov 2018 | Ebac Northern League Division One | Away

Stadium

Heritage Park

Attendance

289

Referee

Jamie Cann

Kick-Off

15:00

By Brian Bennett

Striker-turned-defender Tony Stephenson was Ashington’s hero of the hour on Saturday. His goal in the last minute of normal time secured a deserved draw for his side – their fourth from their last six league matches - after a six goal thriller against Bishop Auckland at Heritage Park.

Stephenson – handed a role in the back four less than an hour before kick-off – popped up in the right place at the right time to flick home Lee McAndrew’s free-kick much to the delight of the travelling army of fans. On chances, Bishop Auckland were wasteful and ought to have had the game sewn up but in terms of possession, Ashington were a match for their high flying opponents and were worthy of a share of the spoils. In Conor Grant, they had a stopper who kept them in the game with some timely saves and up front Jack Butler was a threat to the home outfit throughout with his meandering runs. The pair were the stand out performers for the Colliers – but the other ten – including young Matthew Smith from the under 17’s team who came on towards the end, all played their part in a commendable team performance.

Smith it was whose pace in the 90th minute saw him get to the ball ahead of Chris Salmon just outside the area resulting in the award of the free-kick which led to Stephenson’s last ditch equaliser. Smith was partnered on the bench alongside Joseph Bell from the youth team and also new signing Jack Malone with manager Steve Bowey’s squad being wafer thin especially after Jake Turnbull and Karl Ross picked up injuries against Hebburn Town in midweek.

But for all that, Bowey’s side had team spirit in abundance - typified by their refusal to lie down as they trailed on three occasions yet fought back like lions. They made a positive start too knocking the ball around with purpose and had the first chance of the game after ten minutes when home ‘keeper Nicky Liversedge clutched a header from David Edwards following an in-swinging corner by Bowey. Sixty seconds later, Butler delayed his shot and when the ball was blocked, it ran free to Bowey who skied over.

However on the quarter hour, Bishops went in front. Stephenson committed a needless foul and after Michael Hoganson’s restart had taken a deflection to roll behind for a corner, the Colliers switched off. Hoganson and Shaun Ryder worked a short corner with the latter toe poking the ball – via a deflection - wide of Grant from the edge of the area. Grant blocked from Fryatt then when play switched immediately to the other end, Bowey and Edwards combined to set up Chris Youldon whose effort was tipped around by Liversedge. The pace of the game was frantic and when Bishops broke from Ashington’s flag kick, Andrew Johnson’s shot was pushed away by Grant. Johnson had another opportunity flicking a cross by Ryder wide before the away side levelled – against the run of play – in the 32nd minute.

The skill and pace of Butler proved too much for Bishops with the youngster skipping past a challenge which put him clear then driving left footed across Liversedge and inside the corner from seven yards.

Six minutes into the second period, Bishops restored their lead when Salmon rifled in across Grant but the visitors responded with Stephenson nodding over from a Bowey corner then Liversedge tipping over a 25 yarder from Edwards.

A rasping drive from Fryatt shaved the crossbar and Chris Winn headed narrowly wide then midway through the half, Zak Atkinson levelled with a breathtaking and magnificent header. McAndrew swung a cross into the danger zone where Atkinson strained every sinew to meet the ball and guide it wide of Liversedge and inside the far corner.

But the joy was short-lived as two minutes later Bishops regained the lead after shoddy defending. Hoganson’s inviting corner on the right was met by Callum Munro who powered a header home from close range. Liversedge held a shot from Butler but five minutes later, Johnson missed a glorious opportunity sliding the ball wide of Grant and the far post then the ‘keeper came out to deny substitute Morghan Claydon.

As the game moved from end to end, Salmon had a goal disallowed for offside for Bishops and Atkinson stroked wide for the visitors before McAndrew and Stephenson conjured up Ashington’s dramatic equaliser.

Ashington: Grant, McAndrew, Hornsby, Henderson, Caygill, Stephenson, Youldon, Bowey (Smith 87 minutes), Atkinson, Edwards, Butler

Subs not used: Richardson, Buchanan, Malone, J Bell

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