Kokoska, Jury, Swansbury, Lilley, Watson; J. Davis, Hodgon, Armstrong, Charlton; Moan Davison.
Grant; King, Armstrong, Vipond, Caygill; Bell, Morris, Downey, Frances; Stephenson, Humphries.
A bit of a strange one this, a largely anonymous game with one big and surprising incident, but overall a comfortable win for RCA, with one major downside.
In light of the Clitheroe replay on Tuesday, Swaz left out anybody who wasn’t absolutely 100% so the team had a bit of an unusual look to it, but RCA fans will have been delighted to see captain Greg Swansbury back in the line up after missing a few games. A calculated risk to play Swanna, but clearly he needs game time to get back to his best. In the event he was excellent throughout and must have been very close to being Man of the Match for RCA. Welcome back.
The game started with a flurry of attacks by Ashington, but after three minutes RCA took the lead with a close range header from James Armstrong as the last in a series of attempts on goal. The game settled into a midfield battle as Ashington sought to get back into things until the major event of the game on 15 minutes. A full blooded aerial challenge between Craig Hodgson and an Ashington player ended with the Ashington lad clearly injured and with a head wound. He was bandaged up and came back on. Nobody seemed to think it was anything other than a playing accident. Nobody that is apart from the referee who, after a delay, decided it was a deliberate use of the elbow and sent Hodgson off. Widespread amazement followed. Hodgy had never previously been sent off in his career and was clearly upset and annoyed. To be fair no one from Ashington had made too much of the incident. Referees can’t be expected to get everything right, and it seemed the general view that he had got this one wrong.
The most surprising thing was the impact the sending off of a key midfield player had on the game. To be frank, very little. RCA reorganised and set their stall out, but Ashington’s response, with well over an hour to use their advantage, must have been very disappointing for the Colliers' faithful. RCA gave as good as they got and Ashington were unable to test young Andy Kokoska in goal very much at all.
At half time the scoreline was still 1-0.
The second half started with RCA on top, with Moan and Charlton running well at the defence and Armstrong and Jonny Davis comfortable in midfield. When Ashington did manage to create any pressure the defence coped easily enough. Just short of the hour mark the game was effectively settled with a quickfire brace of goals from Sparky Davison and Michael Charlton. Sparky’s was a trademark accurate header on 55 minutes and three minutes later Michael Charlton chased a long ball, worried the defender out of it, and scored with a crisp short past the keeper. And that was largely that. Ashington huffed and puffed to little effect, Andy Kokoska came and punched well, once wiping out his own defender in the process, something all fans like to see perversely, and young Sam Lilley had his good looks spoiled with a nasty little cut above the eye, but he will live. In injury time Ashington got their consolation when Kokoska spilled a ball and the forward seized on the loose ball. A word also for John Jury, who looked as if he had never been away, with his positional play consistently excellent. Swaz made a flurry of substitutions, giving Dylan Elliott, Adzy McGuiness and Alex Ramshaw some useful game time. A good win, but Ashington will be worried they couldn’t do more against ten men, and RCA will have to consider a plea for clemency for Craig Hodgson.