A brave second-half comeback by 10-man Consett came to nothing tonight when they were beaten 4-3 at Ashington in the semi-final of the Division One Cup.
Trailing 3-1 at half-time, they got the score back to 3-3 despite having Calvin Smith sent off, and were within six minutes of taking the tie to a penalty shoot-out.
But they shot themselves in the foot by conceding a poor goal straight from the restart, and had Darren Holden sent off after the final whistle.
The red cards means Smith and Holden will both be suspended from the one-off promotion play-off on Saturday 30 April, leaving manager Andy Coyles with an almighty headache and a severely-depleted squad.
Ashington took the lead after just five minutes, when Kyle Hayes fumbled a corner and big centre-back Ben Harmison bundled the ball home from point-blank range.
Three minutes later the Steelmen were level, after David Dowson’s knockdown to Carl Lawson, who fired in off the post to make it 1-1.
Hayes saved well from Robert-Lee Taylor on 19 minutes, but there was nothing he could do two minutes later when Lawson lost his man and Jordan Summerly finished low past the keeper for 2-1.
Lawson almost grabbed a second equaliser a minute later, but saw his shot cleared off the line by a defender, and the visitors were made to pay on 24 minutes when Ashington scored again.
Smith gave the ball away as Consett passed their way out from the back, and the Colliers’ top scorer Dean Briggs drove at the makeshift defence to fire past Hayes and make it 3-1.
Colin Larkin went close to reducing the arrears five minutes before half-time when he chested the ball down 25 yards out and fired into the side netting, but it was a second-best Consett team who headed into the dressing rooms at the break.
Ashington were backed by a vociferous crowd who were appealing for every decision, real and otherwise, and they demanded a red card for a Jake Orrell foul on 55 minutes, but the referee decided yellow was sufficient.
Three minutes later they got their wish when Calvin Smith was shown a straight red card for a challenge which many onlookers thought had won the ball.
Consett now had a mountain to climb, but bringing on strikers Scott Heslop and Dale Pearson for David Dowson and Luke Carr injected fresh energy into their attacking play.
They were indebted to Hayes for keeping them in the game on 65 minutes with a superb double save, but on 73 minutes they were right back in it when Scott Heslop bulleted in a header from Orrell’s corner.
On 83 minutes Consett’s endeavours were rewarded when home right-back Liam Doyle wrestled Pearson to the ground, pictured top, and the referee awarded a penalty, which was despatched by Colin Larkin to make it 3-3.
Incredibly, within 60 seconds Consett’s fightback was in vain when, straight from the kick off, they failed to deal with a surging run from the halfway line, and when the ball fell to ex-Steelman Dean Briggs he fired home what turned out to be the winner.
If such late heartache wasn’t bad enough, Holden – Consett’s only fit defender – was red-carded after the final whistle for something he said to the referee, which rules him out of the promotion play-off.
With almost an entire XI currently unavailable, the Steelmen’s chances of playing in the Northern Premier League next season appear to be receding rapidly.
But before the one-off away game against as-yet unknown opponents there’s the small matter of completing our Northern League fixtures this Saturday, with a home game against Ashington, kick-off 3pm.
- Full match report, stats and more pictures to follow.