CONSETT'S latest mini-revival in this most frustrating of seasons came to an end at Woodhorn Lane - and old boy Marc Walton was the architect of their downfall. He scored two goals and made the other as the Colliers ended the Steelmen's five-match unbeaten run. Kenny Lindoe named a team showing one change from the one which had won at Billingham Town three days earlier, Matty Slocombe coming in for the unavailable Anthony Lund.
The visitors started brightly, without creating a chance, but found themselves trailing on eight minutes after gifting the home side a goal. Skipper Carl Piecha's backpass reared up at Peter Jameson, and Ashington forward Gareth Bainbridge took advantage to take the ball off him. He went round the young keeper and squared it for Walton to complete a simple tap-in.
On 13 minutes the Colliers had another chance, but Andrew Johnson was unable to direct his stooping header on target from Tommy English's left-wing cross. English then had a 25-yarder deflected wide, and Walton headed over from the resulting corner. Johnson then had another effort deflected over as he tried to lift the ball over Jameson after Consett's defence opened up again.
The Steelmen were well and truly under the cosh, and it took a good diving save from Jameson and a block from Craig Robson to deny Bainbridge and then Johnson's follow-up as the home side continued to turn the screw. They refused to give Consett time on the ball, and the men in blue were finding it hard to retain possession for long, let alone create anything.
Nine minutes before half-time Consett finally created a chance. Dale Burrell found Harrison davies out wide on the left, and his cross picked out Michael Mackay, whose header was pushed out by Ashington keeper Karl Dryden. It only went as far as Davies, whose drive across goal went wide of the far post. A foul on Davies 20 yards out gave Consett a good chance to go into the dressing room level, but Dryden saved well at the foot of his post from Mackay's curling free-kick.
Half time: Ashington 1-0 Consett
Consett suffered a blow a minute before the break when Craig Robson had to be substituted after jarring his knee, and his absence was to prove costly as Ashington increased their lead on 61 minutes. They worked the ball out from midfield to English on the left, and his cross seemed to have evaded everybody until Walton arrived late at the back post to prod the ball home. Two minutes later he went close to completing his hat-trick from another English delivery, this time from a free-kick from the right, but he headed wide.
On 65 minutes Consett suffered a double blow, losing keeper Jameson, who had picked up a knock, and defensive leader Piecha, who had done well to last so long after suffering tonsillitis. But the first thing substitute keeper Barry Poskett had to do was pick the ball out of his net as Ashington got a killer third goal. Consett were again the authors of their own misfortune, giving the ball away to Walton, who played in Bainbridge for the simple task of finishing past the exposed keeper.
On 72 minutes, Consett were given a lifeline when centre-half Liam Atkin wrestled Mackay to the ground as he tried to turn in the box, and the No 10 stepped up to slot away his 37th goal of the season from the penalty spot.
Burrell headed a Michael Pearson free-kick wide, Gavin Ross hit the top of the bar with a cross, and Burrell again failed to get a shot away after a surging run took him deep into the Ashington box, but for all their huff and puff, Consett never really looked like reducing the arrears further.
The Colliers were forced to play out the last few minutes with 10 men, having used all of their three permitted substitutes when Michael Tait hobbled off. But it was they who had the final chances of the game, with Poskett standing up well to deny Walton his hat-trick after he burst clear through the middle, and Mark O'Dea sending a header just wide from fellow substitute Matthew Grieve's cross. Wins for South Shields and Tow Law also mean they can't stop glancing over their shoulder at the teams below them just yet.
Full time: Ashington 3-1 Consett