Stockton ran out as winners against Ashington for the second time this season, with two late goals hoisting The Anchors into the play-off spots.
Elliot Beddow opened the scoring in the second half, before Michael Sweet added shortly after. Any hope Ashington had faded quickly with two injury-time goals from the hosts, courtesy of Kevin Hayes and Tom Coulthard. Wilson Kneeshaw added a late goal which proved little more than a consolation for The Colliers.
Five Ashington changes following last week’s defeat, two of which were forced following an injury sustained by Jordan Summerly against Cleethorpes – while Scott Heslop has departed for Birtley Town. Ian Skinner was handed a boost as both Nathan Buddle and Simon Jakab returned from suspension.
Big team news for Stockton Town, as Shane Henry returned to the bench after a year-long absence – Michael Dunwell opting not to change the winning formula from last weeks clash against North Ferriby.
The first half was far from a hive of activity, with both sides seldom creating meaningful chances. A brief spell of entertainment did offer a chance for both sides to take the lead after the 15-minute mark.
Elliot Beddow made a darting run down the right-wing before playing it into the path of Glen Butterworth who saw his effort impressively saved by Karl Dryden from close range.
Shortly after, The Colliers called their opposing keeper into work for the first time. Karl Ross switched the ball to Darren Lough on the left-wing, allowing the full back to curl a sumptuous ball towards the penalty spot where Wilson Kneeshaw lay in wait – but the forward failed to make the desired connection with his volley, leaving a comfortable save for Callum Roberts.
The hosts had another good opportunity to break the deadlock in the first half when Matty Dopson’s cross landed at the feet of Craig Spooner, showing quick feet to make himself half a yard of space. Red-and-black shirts were quick to put pressure on, causing Spooner to lay the ball into the path of Ross who saw his effort go the wrong side of the post.
It was a half of football in which both sides showed their defensive prowess, with both sides forwards likely to be frustrated during the half-time team talk. The second half was a great contrast, with five goals in the second 45.
A bright start to the second half for Stockton saw them consistently shut out by Nathan Buddle, but the visitors would manage to get their reward in the 56th minute.
Stockton came out on the front foot, with the Anchors weighed down by a strong defensive effort from Nathan Buddle until, with 56 minutes on the clock the visitors would make their pressure pay and break the deadlock.
A forward run by Beddow breached the backline, Buddle chased but could not catch the number seven who finished expertly through the legs of Dryden. The Colliers troubles weren’t over yet though, as it wouldn’t long for Stockton to double their lead.
Stephen Thompson fed the ball into Michael Roberts in the box, who paid little attention to the Ashington defence before pulling the ball back to Sweet who turned home past the outstretched leg of Simon Jakab.
Ashington carved out a good chance with substitute Dan Maguire holding off defensive pressure to feed the ball into the marauding Ben Williams who managed to get a shot off inside the six-yard box – but C. Roberts was equal to it, pushing it behind for a corner.
With the clock ticking into its dying embers, Stockton delivered two more devastating blows to Ashington – who would get themselves on the scoresheet as well. The first for Stockton came from a multitude of passes in the box, with the final one coming from Glen Butterworth, who rolled the ball into the path of Hayes who finished with composure.
From finisher to provider, Hayes dangerous free-kick into the box caused problems for the Colliers defence. The finishing touch from Coulthard added to Ashington’s misery, but arguably sparked them into life for a brief period.
Kneeshaw still had plenty of fuel in the tank as he charged down the left-hand side with a gluttony of Anchors’ shirts in chase. The experienced forward cut back onto his favoured right foot and weaved his way through the box, before powering home a consolation goal with practically the final kick of the game.
Ashington: Dryden, Jakab, Lough, Sampson, Buddle, Williams, Dopson (Maguire), Van-Zandvliet, Kneeshaw, Spooner (Archer), Ross (Bisset) Subs: Errington, Mullen
Stockton Town: C. Roberts, King, McWilliams, Butterworth, Nicholson, Coulthard, Beddow (Haase), Painter, M. Roberts (Hayes), Thompson (Henry), Sweet Subs: N. Mulligan, D. Mulligan