30 Jul 2018 in General News
By Brian Bennett
Ashington FC’s new club captain Wayne Buchanan as well as striker Damien Stevens are both locked in fitness battles ahead of the Colliers opening game of the Ebac Northern League season against Blyth AFC at Woodhorn Lane on Saturday (August 4). Manager Steve Bowey said he is prepared to wait until the 11th hour and give both players ‘every chance’ of lining up against ‘The Braves’ who will be making their first division bow after clinching promotion last term.
However before finalising his side, the boss will listen carefully to the observations from club physiotherapist Gary Neasham who will be monitoring the progress of both Buchanan and Stevens this week. Consett-born Neasham said on Sunday: “Buchanan has a niggling calf injury and I reckon his chances are 50-50. Before last weekend’s game with Esh Winning, he got through the warm up without any problem but we took the view that because he had had no real training behind him, to err on the side of caution and consequently he didn’t play. We have two training sessions this week and we’ll put Wayne through his paces and see how he reacts - at best he may be ok for the bench.”
Stevens broke his arm in the Colliers first friendly at Gretna and Chopwell-based Neasham added: “Damien played a small part against Esh then got an elbow in the face and has had to have stitches in his lip. His arm is fine and his physical fitness should be sound so really it all boils down to the facial side of things. I would say Damien’s chances are rated at 70-30 in his favour – but even then, we’ll be keeping our fingers crossed.”
Boss Bowey – who cannot wait for the curtain raiser - said: “I will give Wayne and Damien every chance but both will have to participate and do some part of the workout at training on Thursday if they are to have any chance of being included in the squad for Saturday. I’m upbeat and for me, the game cannot come quick enough. It will be a good test; it’s a local derby and my lads will be going all out with all guns blazing that’s for sure.” Meanwhile Bowey is facing a busy countdown ahead of Saturday: “I have got irons in the fire and am hoping to sign another three players during the week,” he said, “Against Esh Winning, we were without Kyle Downey Sam Norris, Shaun Vipond, Tony Stephenson and Buchanan but I still had 20 players to select from. That pool also included trialists who I am hoping will be putting pen to paper - but apart from the injuries and things being hectic, I’ve got to say that everything else has gone well.”
He continued: “The friendlies against Seaton Delaval and Esh Winning last week were good with lots of positives for us to work on -and credit to both outfits who made the games competitive. Playing against higher opposition, it’s human nature that players raise their game and give an extra ten to fifteen per cent. We have played some good football throughout the pre season programme but the true test will be on Saturday.”
He went on: “Matches will be coming thick and fast from now on and from past experience the first five or six will be difficult. The tempo for instance will be completely different from the pre season games with players now having something to play for and there will be a lot more desire from them because this is their bread and butter. The opener against Blyth AFC is massive and we have got to be ready. Both Gareth McAlindon (assistant manager) and myself have been in the professional game and know how things work; how to act and are looking forward to it.”
Gateshead-based official Stephen Dial will be the referee for Saturday’s contest which has a 3pm kick-off.