A good efficient performance from the Anchors tonight, although they will feel it should have been sewn up earlier in the proceedings. Some nice stuff played and the game as usual on 3g was quick paced which suited the Stockton forwards
Michael Dunwell made several changes tonight, most notably Hayes and Coulthard resting knocks and also giving much needed pitch time for some of the players who haven’t featured much.
Stockton started the brighter and Cieran Jackson who was lively all game, was played in and when he turned inside the 18yd box he was upended by an Ashington defender. The ever reliable Nathan MULLIGAN smashed it home to the keeper’s right 1-0 after just 5 minutes
The Anchors continued to dominate the ball and create opportunities, a super slick move involving several players moved the ball across the pitch to Jimmy Ward who saw Craggs diagonal run and found him with a lovely left foot pass but keeper McHugh made the first of several good saves as Craggs collected and tried to lift it over him with his left foot on 17 mins.
Ashington’s lone striker Stevens was feeding on scraps but he latched onto a loose ball after a rare slack pass from King and his floated chip from 25 yards was covered by Roberts as it drifted over the bar. Just a minute later it was back to the Ashington stopper McHugh to deny Nathan Mulligan his second as he ran in on the blind side and was picked out expertly by Craggs after another multi pass move but the keeper got a hand to his neat lob.
Not much else of note to report after that as Ashington did just enough to keep the Anchors at bay while Stockton continued to push but probably not at sufficient pace to get in behind HT 1-0
The game had the same pattern in the second half but it was Ashingtons Edwards with the first real effort at goal, running strongly from his own half into the Stockton box on the break, he fired a good low shot from the corner of the box but Callum Roberts made the save comfortably down to his right.
The Anchors were still dominating the ball moving it from side to side and probing down the flanks, with Tom Portas showing his class in the quarter back role. Cieran Jackson was lively all night down the right linking up with the ever willing Lewis King and after another attack which Ashington had cleared for a corner Mulligan picked out Nicholson who’s powerful downward header looked goal bound until McHugh got down quickly to deny the Anchors skipper and push it to safety.
Two substitutions gave the Anchors even more attacking options and it was one of them that made the game safe after another quick passing move down the right hand side started by Portas’s 50 yard diagonal ball, involving King and Jackson gave Wilson the room to get a cross in, it was behind Craggs but he did well to take it down and roll it onto the path of BULMER who running in from the left, bent a right foot shot past McHugh into the far corner to make it 2-0 after 71 minutes.
Ashington were under the cosh for the next ten minutes as the Anchors poured forwards and threatened to over run the Colliers. Jamie Owens held off Coppen and rolled the ball back to Nicholson who shot from 18 yards was pushed away for a corner by McHugh, who was starting to be a nuisance now. Cieran Jackson was on the ball constantly and he tested McHugh with a low effort before linking up with Wilson and sliding a nice ball in between the Ashington back line to free Bulmer who’s left foot effort beat McHugh but was just wide.
Owens then capitalised on a mistake by Ashington and raced in on goal to crack a left footer goalwards and yes it was him again, Adam McHugh, who made probably his best save of the hundred or so on the evening as this was pure reaction, tipping it just over for a corner.
As the Anchors pushed forward more and more they left spaces at the back and Ashington took advantage of it and had the last say in the action as they brought a terrific save from Callum Roberts with a rasping shot across the box. FT 2-0
A good efficient display from Stockton tonight, the opportunity to rest a few and give others a run out was taken successfully and the pattern of the team hardly changed. There was plenty of pace and attacking intent, the control was still there in midfield and the defence was as solid as ever. Good contributions from Cieran Jackson, Nathan Mulligan and Lewis King, the evergreen Alan Cossavella rolled back the years alongside Nicholson, but Tom Portas ran the show from midfield and cruised through the game, always available to take the ball, prompting the play and knitting it all together like the class act he is. Onto the Vase and Durham City this Saturday.
Stockton Town: Roberts, King, Ward, Portas, Nicholson (C), Cossavella, Jackson, Mulligan(Wilson 60′), Craggs, Owens, Risbrough(Bulmer 66′).
Subs: McWilliams, Hayes, Robinson.
Goals: Mulligan 5′, Bulmer 71′
Ashington: McHugh; Robson, Gibson (Newton 80′), Edwards, Coppen (c), Cains, Luke, Ross, Stevens (Hanson 70′), Williamson O’Reilly.
Subs Not Used: Anderson, Antony, Price.
Words – Lee Nicholson
Photos – Harry Cook
Highlights – James Cartwright