By Scott Messenger
Ashington slumped to a third defeat in a row on Tuesday night, and a first defeat on home soil this season, as they went down to a narrow 2-1 defeat to local rivals Whitley Bay at Woodhorn Lane.
It could have been a different story with Ashington missing a penalty at 0-0 when Johnston, facing his former club, was denied by a brilliant save from Whitley Bay 'keeper Daniel Lister. Within a minute Whitley Bay would have the ball in the Ashington net.
Whitley Bay started brightly and Ashington stopper Dan Staples had to be on his toes to deny James Proctor early on. A ball through the Ashington defence put the Whitley winger in on goal, but a heavy touch allowed Staples to gather.
In the 24th minute Ashington were given a great chance to go ahead. A ball down the right by Karl Ross put Ashington attacker Dylan Williamson in on goal. Williamson outpaced the Whitley defender and was brought down in the penalty area by visitors keeper Lister. Callum Johnston, who signed for Ashington from Whitley Bay in the summer, fired his penalty low to the keepers right, but was denied by a great diving stop from Lister. This was the second penalty out of three that Ashington had missed so far this season.
Barely a minute later, Whitley Bay were in front. Proctor again out paced the Ashington defence and this time he was able to shoot low past Staples to put the visitors ahead.
Just before the half hour, a mix-up in the Ashington defence allowed Hird in on goal, but his effort was well blocked by Staples. Shortly after Ashington had a couple of half chances. First, Ashington forward Stevens was denied by a good block after some tidy work out wide from Williamson, before Williamson saw a 20 yard strike fly just over the bar.
With 41 minutes on the clock, Whitley missed a great chance to increase the lead. Again Hird got in behind the Ashington backline, but he was again denied by a good stop low down from Staples, who managed to push the effort wide of the post.
In the dying minutes of the first half Ashington had two good chances to level, but were unable to take them. On 44 minutes, Callum Johnston was desperately unlucky not to score when his thunderous 25 yard free-kick cannoned off the cross bar with Lister well beaten. Just a minute later Johnston fired wide of goal from a good position after some fine work down the right by Stevens. The first half ended 1-0 to the visitors, who thoroughly deserved their lead.
Ashington started the second half well, but it took until the hour mark before the Colliers managed to create a good chance. Good work down the right from Lowery put substitute Thomas Kalthoeber in space on the edge of the penalty area. He fired in a low effort, but Lister did well to parry it away from goal.
A couple of minutes later Ashington skipper Curtis Coppen almost levelled when his cross-cum-shot from out on the right wing was well tipped over the bar from Lister.
Whitley Bay always looked dangerous on the counter attack and their pace continued to cause Ashington problems.
On 72 minutes the visitors extended their lead. A corner was whipped in that Staples did well to half clear under pressure from the Whitley Bay forward. The loose ball fell to Whitely Bay substitute Nathan Stephenson just inside the penalty area, and his stunning volley found the top corner of the Ashington goal via the post to increase the visitors advantage.
In the 76th minute Ashington were back in the game via the penalty spot, after a hand ball offence that would have been more suited to the Harlem Globetrotters, not the Northern League. A corner from the left was incredibly punched clear by Whitley Bay defender Graham-Bage. The referee, despite giving the penalty, only managed to produce a yellow card. Substitute Kyle Downey made no mistake from the penalty spot, sending Lister the wrong way to make it 2-1.
Ashington continued to press for an equaliser, but only managed a few half chances in the closing stages. On 80 minutes Scott Lowery headed wide at the far post, before Damien Stevens volley flew wide of goal after a long throw form the right side line. In between both chances, Ashington captain Coppen was sin-binned after a disagreement with both referee and linesman.
Whitley Bay held on and left Woodhorn Lane with a hard-earned 3 points. Ashington's focus now turns to the FA Cup on Saturday. Northern Premier League side Marske United make the trip to Woodhorn Lane. Kick off is 3pm.
Ashington: Staples, Gibson, Lancaster, Herron, Caines (Kalthoeber), Coppen, Johnston, Lowery (Price), Williamson, Stevens, Ross (Downey). Subs not used: D Anderson, McHugh.
Whitley Bay: Lister, Bexton, Salmon, Bott, Anderson, Graham-Bage, Proctor (Stephenson, Taylor), Orrell, Hird (Annang-Colquoun), McFarlane, Martin. Subs not used: Brennan, Kerr.