SOUTH SHIELDS 3, ASHTON UNITED 3
A brave and battling performance from Ashton United rescued a point in the North East which had looked unlikely when they trailed by two goals to the new league leaders South Shields with less than 10 minutes left.
Late goals from Liam Greenwood and Sam Baird maintained the Robins’ excellent run of recent results against the full-time side as this was a fifth successive draw against the Mariners.
It leaves Ashton 12th in the table only five points from the play-offs and six clear of the relegation places.
The Robins had several players available again who had been absent with illness but were missing the suspended George Milner and the injured on-loan Dana Amaral.
They could hardly have made a better start as after six minutes Baird’s forward header found Keilen Adams in space from where he slotted home his first goal for the club.
Things could have got even better as a quick break saw Jack Kenny’s effort blocked with the ball breaking to Adams who went down under challenge from Myles Boney with the referee unmoved.
The home forwards were a constant threat and a ball over the top saw Jordy Mongoy round Greg Hartley with Matty Regan back to head off the line.
Ashton’s luck ran out after 20 minutes when Lewis Alessandra forced a close save out of Hartley and after Callum Ross had retrieved the ball from the resulting corner his cross was headed home by a looping header from Darius Osei.
Hartley then appeared to be injured as Mongoy knocked the ball past him resulting in a free kick and a bandaged left knee for the keeper.
Six minutes before the break he was down low to push away Osei’s header and right on the interval Martin Smith won a free kick from Aidan Roxburgh and saw his delivery glance away off the far post.
Heavy rain greeted the players on the restart, but it wasn’t long before the Mariners were threatening again as a long ball saw Mongoy get the better of Roxburgh before lobbing the ball on to the crossbar.
Six minutes later Roxburgh turned inside on to his left foot and brought a low save out of Boney in the home goal but just before the hour the Mariners moved ahead as MacKenzie Heaney’s shot was saved by Hartley’s foot with Mongoy converting the rebound.
Sam Baird then had to be alert with a vital block on Osei in the area and Cole Lonsdale also made an important tackle as Smith threatened to collect Osei’s lay-off in the area.
Heaney then forced another good low save from Hartley but when the corner dropped to him on the edge of the area the dangerous Smith fired home into the corner to make it 3-1 with nine minutes left.
Two minutes later and a decent stop from Boney denied Ben Hardcastle at the near post with Baird reducing the deficit from Lonsdale’s delivery and on full time it was Hardcastle’s turn to win a corner with Baird again leaping highest to head home, though there was some doubt with Regan also getting a touch as the ball crossed the line.
Ashton United: Hartley, Roxburgh, Lonsdale, Hough, Regan, Baird, Hardcastle, Brewster, Kenny (Baillie 60), Adams (Saunders 70), Warren (Greenwood 79). Sub (not used): Parker.
Report: David Robinson.