Ashington 3-2 Whitley Bay
Whitley suffered their first away league defeat since October, going down by the odd goal in five at Ashington.
It was a repeat of the scoreline against Jarrow Roofing the previous week and as in that game, a late comeback was not enough to rescue a point after defensive errors had left them two goals adrift.
With Alex Kempster having signed for York City in midweek, Noah Summers injured and former Collier Callum Johnston unavailable, it was a depleted Bay squad that travelled to Woodhorn Lane but they were boosted by the return of defenders Ross Wilkinson and Josh Nearney.
There was little to enthuse over in the opening quarter of the game, with attempts from Peter Glen-Ravenhill and Liam Brooks comfortably saved by Ashington keeper Conor Grant while at the other end a shot from Edwards flew wide of the target.
The first real action came for the hosts in the 20th minute when a left wing corner was headed goalwards by Ryan Bell but Wilkinson cleared the ball off the line. In a quick break downfield, Kyle Patton was almost clear on goal but his shot from the left edge of the 18 yard box went wide.
Just past the half hour, Ashington had two chances in quick succession. Firstly ex-Bay midfielder Kyle Downey spurned an excellent opportunity when he failed to control the ball in front of goal then Damien Stevens almost put the Colliers ahead with a shot from a narrow angle after Pearson’s effort looked to be drifting out of play, but for the second time, Wilkinson saved the day as he slid in to make a goal line clearance.
Hesitancy at the other end almost let in Chris Salmon but Grant managed to push the ball away for a corner. McAndrew then drove a low shot straight at Flynn and on the stroke of half time, Matty Cornish saw his free kick gathered by Grant.
It had been a less than inspiring first half, edged by the hosts, who came out strongly after the interval and took the lead within eight minutes of the restart. The goal came when Whitley failed to deal with a high ball played into the box from the left and Stevens took full advantage, knocking it past Flynn from a narrow angle.
Boosted by the goal, Ashington might have doubled their lead within two minutes after Haley lost possession and Pearson forced Flynn to push his shot round the post. Moments later, a scuffed clearance by Grant gave Cornish a gilt edged opportunity some 25 yards from goal with the keeper off his line, but the Colliers defence recovered quickly to block his attempt.
Following a foul on Salmon which earned his Colliers namesake a caution, Whitley equalised in the 58th minute when the resultant fee kick was nodded forward by Wilkinson and Glen-Ravenhill pounced to slot the ball past Grant. Two minutes later Glen-Ravenhill headed wide from a Cornish corner as Whitley briefly gained the upper hand.
All the good work was undone shortly afterwards when a long throw in from out on the left caught the Whitley defence napping and Stevens quickly controlled the loose ball and fired it beyond Flynn to put the hosts back in front.
With the game now at the midway stage of the second half, Whitley made a double substitution with Potter and Campbell replacing Brooks and Cornish. Before either had the chance to make an impact Whitley were 3-1 down after Dale Pearson went down in the box following a challenge by Callum Anderson. Referee Stephen Dial awarded a penalty and Stevens sent Flynn the wrong way to complete his hat trick.
Whitley battled back and a clever back-heel by Patton just outside the six yard box gave Salmon a chance but although his strong shot beat Grant, Christensen managed to clear the ball off the line. Teenager Cam Cunningham came off the bench for the final 15 minutes and produced some neat touches to set up attacking moves. With eleven minutes left, Jack Walker fired a strong shot over the bar after good work by Haley. Josh Nearney then went close as Whitley piled forward and a deflected shot from Potter fell kindly for Grant who gratefully clutched the ball.
As the game entered stoppage time, Whitley pulled a goal back thanks to Campbell’s brave diving header from Walker’s cross. It was only the fourth appearance for the Reserves team top scorer and his first goal at this level but it came too late to affect the outcome of the contest as ashington deservedly claimed the points.