MOM Bicknell sets the tempo
Cougars edge top of the table clash
In what proved to be their toughest league game of the season so far, Ashington travelled away to Crawley Utd. Ashington started the day in first position with Crawley breathing down their necks in Second.
Angus Alcott attended the game in support of his teammates. Although not selected to play he had a very positive influence as assistant manager for the day. Top lad Angus and thank you for your help on the day.
Formation 3-4-1 Wheatley (GK) Bicknell, Lowdell, Mace (DEF) Easdale (c), Booth, Gorman, Brockhurst (MID) Hanley (FWD) Subs Blackburn & Morgan
The game began at a Furious pace with each side exchanging chances. It was clear from the opening exchanges that it would be a tough test for the side and the side would have to be at their best to get a result.
Ashington were struggling to control the intelligent link play of the Crawley forward. He came short into the space between midfield and defence and looked to lay the ball off wide as his first option. Twice Wheatley saved well from the Crawley wide players when they broke free.
After one of these saves, Wheatley broke the box quickly and played a chopped kick from hand directly over the Crawley defence. The spin on the ball held it up and Hanley, ever alert, raced onto the ball and took and early low shot. The Crawley keeper denied him with a fine save.
The game was real end to end action.
Another chance resulted from fine defensive work from Mace. He regained possession on the half way line and played a calm right footed pass to Gorman on the right, who beat his marker and whipped in a cross to the far post. Hanley rose above his marker but headed narrowly wide.
As the game progressed it was clear the result would only be achieved by the side who wanted it most. Ashington did not fail this gut check.
One player in particular set a magnificent example for his team mates: Theo Bicknell put in a Man of the match display. To go with his undoubted ability, Theo has a real hunger and desire to compete and throws himself into every challenge with 100% commitment. Throughout the game he didn’t lose a footrace or tackle. He is assured in possession and is a great asset to the side. Great effort today Theo.
Crawley proved to be a very competitive team and were able to disrupt Ashington’s normal passing game. However, to a man, the team dug in and battled their way into the game. Although the side did lose some of their shape in their eagerness to win possession.
The team got their reward for the efforts. The Deadlock was broken by Hanley. After a pass from Easdale he hit a right footed shot the able Crawley Keeper couldn’t hold. 1-0 Ashington. Well done to Tom for adding his 17th assist of the season (in all games).
Morgan and Blackburn came on. Trusted to control the right side of the pitch they did well. Blackburn timing some tackles and Morgan proving as elusive as ever. Morgan tricked his way behind the defence on two occasions and was unlucky not to find the final pass for Ashington to score.
At Half time, Booth and Gorman, were asked to try and sit deeper when required to close down the space between the defence and midfield. Hopefully, with the aim of preventing the Crawley Forward from linking play. Both took this on board and were very effective in winning possession and closing down the space. This was a real help to Lowdell who was facing the most intelligent player he has come up against this season. He could not match Ollie for pace and Ollie did very well to shut down many balls played in behind. But, with help from either Ewan or Ashton, Crawley’s best attacking weapon was nullified. Well done.
Also, a great effort from Ashton to complete the game when playing with a heavily strapped knee.
Bicknell was again setting the standard. When the game was running against the side, after a short footrace against the winger he launched a thunderous left footed tackle, it was hard but fair and won back possession giving the side a lift.
It has been a quiet season for the teams goalkeeper Sam Wheatley. Often cutting a lonely figure during some dominant wins. During these games he has demonstrated his footballing skill when retaining possession and distributing assuredly. However, the many lonely hours of training he puts in were to bear fruit today. He is an outstanding shot stopper and proved how valuable he is to the side.
They say games can turn in a moment. I would say that seasons can as well. A win today would push the side 5 points clear in first and put them in pole position to be promoted. An achievement the side are desperate to complete.
The game was finely balanced at 1-0 and Crawley had forced a corner on the left hand side. The ball was lifted high into the box and the Ashington defence cleared the ball to the edge of the box. Crawley’s centre half, their stand out player. lashed a vicious low right footed drive through traffic towards the bottom left hand corner. Unsighted and then showing exceptional reflexes, Wheatley, dove at full stretch to his right and made a magnificent one handed save pushing the ball to safety.
Goalkeepers pride themselves on clean sheets and Wheatley had preserved the sides lead. Well done.
The game continued to ebb and flow.
Matt Brockhurst was moved into central midfield in an effort for the side to retain possession, build play and cover the defence.
Shortly after he collected possession on the edge of his own penalty area. He carried the ball to the half way line and released Hanley to race away and score a second. An excellent breakaway goal the whole side had ground away for.
2-0 to Ashington.
Well done to the side for reaching the halfway point of the season unbeaten with a 100% record.
Captain: Tom Easdale
MOM: Theo Bicknell