MORPETH TOWN 2, ASHTON UNITED 0
Ashton United surrendered their seven-game unbeaten run as they lost 2-0 at Morpeth Town.
Unfortunately, the on-field performance at Craik Park from the Robins did not resemble the resplendent afternoon in the North East as first half goals from Andrew Johnson and Liam Henderson sealed a dominant display for the hosts, despite Greg Hartley being in fine form in the visiting goal.
One minute into the clash, Nathan Ntalu was presented with a glorious opportunity as Florian Yonsian set his fellow pacey forward through on goal, but his low strike could only sting the palms of Dan Lowson.
Morpeth instantly sprung into the game following Ntalu’s early attempt, as Ryan Wombwell directed the ball goalwards following Liam Noble’s set-piece from the right flank, but Hartley was on hand to save comfortably to his left.
Ryan Donaldson, the former Newcastle United, Cambridge United, Plymouth Argyle and Hartlepool United player, saw his swerving attempt tipped over the bar by Hartley after he advanced centrally following a sweeping move from the Highwaymen.
Approaching the halfway mark in the first period, a lapse of concentration from Cole Lonsdale almost presented Johnson with a clear sight on goal but Hartley was alert from his starting position to clear the danger.
Added pressure from the home side eventually paid dividends after 31 minutes as Johnson received the ball close to the left by-line before cutting inside and finding the bottom left corner in slick fashion.
Two minutes later, Ntalu teed up Yonsian following a searching free kick from Hartley into the Morpeth penalty area, however, but first time left-footed shot lacked enough power to beat Lowson in the bottom left corner.
Hartley produced another split reaction save from point-blank range to push Liam Henderson’s powerful header up and over the bar before being brought into action again to keep out Johnson with his feet moments later.
The Northumberland-based outfit then doubled their lead five minutes before half-time as Liam Henderson’s diving header beat Hartley from six-yards.
Craig Lynch’s men picked up from where they left off as the game restarted for the second half, and so did Hartley, with the shot-stopper needing to be on his toes to keep out Jeff Henderson’s deft flick at the near post.
Another top-class piece of goalkeeping was added to the collection with Hartley standing his ground to force Johnson wide one-on-one, eventually saving his low strike from close range.
Close to the hour mark, Jack Redshaw forced an excellent save from the Morpeth ‘keeper this time as he connected with an in-swinging Sam Sheridan set-piece. However, play was brought back for offside before Ekow Coker could unleash the rebound on goal.
Liam Henderson nearly bagged his brace after 71 minutes when he steered a shot just inside the near post, but Hartley was equal to it to turn the ball behind for a corner.
The introduction of Tom Bentham almost clawed the Robins back into the match five minutes from full-time as he hit a spectacular half-volley on target from 25-yards, but Lowson parried away to preserve his clean sheet.
The Robins remain in 12th position as the Highwaymen climb to seventh in the league standings following their victory.
A Tameside derby awaits at Hurst Cross on Saturday as Michael Clegg’s side face off against Hyde United.
Ashton United: Hartley, Lonsdale, Spratt, Sheridan, Coates (Raynes 46), Coker, Tomsett, Brewster (Simpson 66), Yonsian, Redshaw, Ntalu (Bentham 66). Sub (not used): Taylor.
Goals: Johnson (31), L Henderson (40) for Morpeth Town.
Report: Jake Emery.