26 Nov 2018 in Post Match Interview
By Brian Bennett
Ashington FC’s utility player Tony Stephenson netted his first goal of the season with the equaliser in the last minute of normal time against Bishop Auckland on Saturday which secured his side a share of the spoils in a thrilling 3-3 draw.
And the Newcastle-born forward - asked to play in the back four - was determined to clear up any doubts about the leveller. When the Colliers were awarded a free-kick on the left, it appeared from the stands that Lee McAndrew’s restart had crept through a ruck of players before finding the corner – but Stephenson clarified the situation: “It was my goal - 100 per cent,” he said afterwards, “Lee (McAndrew) shanked the free kick and I got in front of the defender and back heeled it inside the far post. I don’t think the ball was heading for the net until I got the flick. It was my first 90 minutes after missing 13 games and naturally I was over the moon. We have conceded last minute goals so it was nice for the boot to be on the other foot for a change.” As for his switch from striker to defender, Ellington-based Stephenson said: “I enjoyed it to be fair. Glenn (Caygill) and Conor (Grant) helped me a lot and it could be a short term fix with Wayne Buchanan still on the sidelines. I was asked to play in defence before the game and when the team was announced it came as a surprise to the other lads. It took me five to ten minutes to get my bearings but I think I slotted in okay – and it is a lot easier than playing in midfield.” After only quarter of an hour, Stephenson was the first of six names to go into referee Jamie Cann’s notebook during the afternoon but the 30 year old – a Primary School PE teacher - believed the caution actually helped him: “From a defensive point of view I thought the Bishops lad was going to strike the ball and it was a silly challenge,” he said, “In a strange way, the booking calmed me down and made me not dive into challenges. I have now operated in a variety of positions – but to be honest I would play anywhere for sake of the team.” Stephenson believed Ashington’s draw on the day was totally merited: “We never gave up and I thought we deserved our point,” he said, “Last year we would have lost the game but we never put heads down. It is a weird position we are in because after what has happened over the past few weeks, the atmosphere feels different with everyone pulling in same direction. We should have taken some points from some of the games we have lost and our aim is to climb the league table. We have got nothing to lose and nothing to fear – but it’s the old cliché of taking one game at a time.”