By Brian Bennett
Ashington FC joint manager Steve Harmison heaped praise on his brother Ben for opting to switch sports - after a goal shortly before half time from the striker was enough for the Colliers to see off a challenge from Sunderland Ryhope CW and put them through to the next round of the Emirates FA Cup.
Harmison came up with the goods heading powerfully home from a Jay Hornsby corner but boss Steve outlined there was more to Ben’s performance than the all important strike: “Ben was like a performing seal for a lot of the game,” he said, “He got isolated but was excellent. I can’t always praise him because of his surname but his work rate; his hold up play; his fight and spirit typified what we needed to win 1-0 in an FA Cup game against a big strong Ryhope CW side. I appreciate what Ben did today because he is captain at Ashington Cricket Club and is a big figure at Langwell Crescent so we were very thankful that he played for us.” Harmison was more than happy with several other members of his squad: “I thought Callum Johnston had a good debut whilst left back Jay Hornsby - who started a bit nervously - handled himself excellently throughout the game. And people have got to remember that Ben Sampson is still only 18 years old. The lads in the middle of the park worked well and the tried and tested back four were terrific with captain Craig Scott leading by example.” Harmison was also delighted for his new co-manager Tom Wade: “It’s difficult when a new man comes in,” he said, “I took a backward step in pre season to allow the players to understand Tom’s voice. I took a little bit more control today because it was ‘needs must and mattered’ but the way Tom has operated pre season and drummed things into the players is why we got across the line today. We were organised and solid and I was pleased for Tom because he has worked tirelessly behind the scenes to get us into this position.” Harmison knew his side faced a difficult nut to crack against a Sunderland Ryhope CW side: “We had a very good pre season last year which was competitive,” he said, “We worked hard and got a great result in the game against a Newcastle United side before the start of the season and then we lost our opening game in the FA Cup at home to Nelson 2-1. We looked as if we had no direction and were poor. Today we knew it was going to be a battle against Ryhope. There manager Gary Pearson was a good player and we knew what to expect. Sure enough it was tough and they threw everything at us but I thought we handled it very, very well. The worry for us when we picked the team was that we were going to include three 18 year olds in Hornsby, Johnston and Sampson. Kyle Downey who has been very good in pre season, did his ankle in training and we couldn’t carry him today. That’s why we left him out - for him to try and get into the game with 20 minutes to go and it worked well.” Harmison who also complimented the groundstaff - Scott Robson, Stu Purvis and Graham Chambers – for the condition of the playing surface added: “If there were any negatives it was not having enough composure on the ball – as we could have got a second or third goal on the break - but that will come. Today’s performance showed there is a fighting spirit in this club. We want to ensure that players here are up for the challenge and stand up for the cause - and they did that today. Every one to a man did their job which worked perfectly and we are even in a position where we have got some seasonal campaigners on the bench now who didn’t get on today but who will be vital to the squad moving forward.”