League leaders Consett had to settle for a point on their travels, after a thrilling 3-3 draw at Ashington in front of the Northern League’s biggest crowd so far this season.
The Colliers dominated the first half, but had to dig deep to twice come from behind in front of a bumper 735 crowd – including a big Consett contingent – at the DWMedia Stadium.
Manager Terry Mitchell made five changes to the side which had won 2-1 at RCA the previous week, with Kyle Hayes returning in goal in place of Ross Coombe, and Olly Scott coming in at left-back, with James Martin switching to the right in place of the departed Jermaine Metz.
James Metcalfe came into central defence for the injured Nick Allen, Callum Guy replaced Matty Slocombe in midfield, and top scorer Dale Pearson returned for Carl Lawson up front after completing his four-game suspension.
It was the visitors who threatened first when they were awarded a free kick 20 yards out in the opening minute and Luke Carr’s curling effort flashed wide of home keeper Adam McHugh’s left-hand post.
Then in the seventh minute a ball down the channel sent Pearson through, but a superb block tackle by Curtis Coppen resulted in a corner, from which Calvin Smith headed narrowly over.
Two minutes later, Ashington created their first opening. Luke Salmon set up Max Cowburn, whose well-struck right-footed effort was tipped over the top by Hayes.
The ex-Ashington keeper was called into action again on 19 minutes when he saved Max Cowburn’s free-kick down low, and he was grateful to his woodwork on 25 minutes when Cowburn’s well-struck effort glanced off the top of the bar.
The deadlock was broken on 28 minutes when Ashington went ahead. Debutant centre-forward Adam Johnson laid the ball off to Cowburn, whose first-time cross found Craig Spooner, who headed home at the back post.
The goal sparked Consett into life, and Metcalfe’s ball forward sent Colin Larkin running through on goal on 32 minutes, but Coppen got back to deny the veteran striker with a superb last-ditch tackle.
Then skipper Arjun Purewal almost equalised on 36 minutes when he hit the post with a header, and then saw keeper Adam McHugh make an unbelievable point-blank save, pictured top, as he tried to lash home the rebound.
The Steelmen weren’t to be denied, and levelled a minute later when the resulting corner was half-cleared, and James Metcalfe fired in off the post from just outside the box.
Ashington’s response was a header from Coppen which flashed just wide, and an effort from Salmon which he stabbed just wide, and when the half-time whistle went, the second-best Steelmen could count themselves a little fortunate to still be at 1-1.
Half-time: Ashington 1 Consett 1
It took only two minutes of the second half for Consett to get their noses in front as they caught their hosts cold. Carr’s pass sent Jake Orrell scampering towards the byline, and his low cross across the six-yard box was turned into his own net by helpless defender Curtis Coppen.
Ashington responded strongly, and Hayes had to deal with an effort from Spooner, before superbly Cowburn’s free-kick from outside the box over the bar. The resulting corner saw Colliers skipper Ben Harmison head just wide.
The Consett keeper will feel he should have done better with the goal which brought Ashington parity on the hour. He missed Karl Ross’s corner from the right, the ball was steered back across goal by Harmison, and Luke Salmon netted with a spectacular bicycle kick.
Hayes made amends with a superb double save from debutant striker Adam Johnson, when he was sent clear through the middle for a one-on-one. The keeper saved his initial effort, then showed superb reactions to paw the ball away as the No 9 looked to finish the rebound.
There was more drama to come, as both teams shuffled their packs and went for the win. Consett thought they’d done enough when they made it 3-2 in the 81st minute, when Darren Holden’s excellent cross from the left put a 15th goal of the season on a plate for Dale Pearson, against one of his old clubs.
But Ashington had other ideas, and made it 3-3 in the 86th minute, when Yannick Aziakonou played the ball out wide left to Salmon, whose cross was tucked home at the far post by midfielder Danny Anderson – his first goal for two years.
With two minutes to go Consett had a big penalty shout turned down when Coppen appeared to use his hand to knock the ball away after blocking Holden’s shot, but the referee wasn’t convinced, and in the end a point apiece was just about the right result.
MATCH REPORT & PICTURES: GARY WELFORD
|Northern League Division One