Atkinson calls on Whitley Bay players to start a winning run

Action from Whitley Bay's game with Ashington earlier this season, which the Colliers won at the death 2-1.

Action from Whitley Bay's game with Ashington earlier this season, which the Colliers won at the death 2-1.

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Whitley Bay will be looking to start the new year with a win over local rivals Ashington.

The sides meet at Woodhorn Lane on Saturday after both were left kicking their heels over Christmas following postponements.

Bay’s Boxing Day game at Hillheads against West Allotment was victim of the heavy rain, as was Ashington’s derby at Bedlington Terriers.

And Whitley boss Paddy Atkinson expects a tough encounter as his side make the short trip into south east Northumberland.

He said: “Obviously we are similar to Ashington in as much as we are in a rebuilding period and are trying to get players who want to play and win games.

“Although we have got eight games in hand on some teams, the table doesn’t lie and the impact of the FA Cup run is having an effect as teams are putting up a good fight against us.

“We need to go on a run, and if we win three or four games it will take us into top six.

“But all matches in this league are tough and Saturday’s contest will be no different.”

Ashington boss Steve Harmison said: “Whitley Bay have played a lot less games after enjoying a good run in the FA Cup and they have got a lot of players who have come through our door in recent times, namely Michael Bell, Adam Shanks and Michael Laws.

“Since I have been in the manager’s job at Ashington, I have spoken to Paddy Atkinson quite a lot and believe he is one who wears his heart on his sleeve and who rallies people up.

“He is someone who will get the best out of his players by being a manager who if you aren’t doing your job will tell you.

“That is always a good trait for somebody in a derby game and consequently I think it will be a very tough game for us.”

Going forward, Harmison wants his outfit to turn Woodhorn Lane into a fortress.

“What my side have got to do is get back to playing good football at home and making this place a difficult venue for opponents to play.

“Fingers crossed that the weather is not too bad and we’ll have a pitch in as good a condition as it can be, because we haven’t had too many games played on it recently.

And while he expects the game to be similar to the first meeting between the two sides earlier this season, he will be looking for a similar result.

Back in October, the Colliers won 2-1 in a midweek encounter at Hillheads.

Shanks had put Whitley in front midway through the second half, but Kyle Downey levelled 11 minutes from time and then deep into injury time Andrew Johnson produced the winning goal for Ashington.

Harmison said: “I think it will be a game very similar to the one at Hillheads and hopefully that little bit of quality which was on view that night by my players in the advanced positions will again make the difference.

“I will be looking at attitudes coupled with a performance to set us up on a run.

“If we can make a base we can go forward, and if the lads play with freedom, desire and the will to win, which I expect, then I back our dressing room every time.”

Saturday’s game kicks-off at 3pm.