Avenue travelled to Ashington in the second qualifying round of the FA Cup and, despite their recent excellent League record in this part of the country, came away at the wrong end of a 2 – 1 score line.
No team ever relishes a Cup-tie in the north-east and Avenue came a cropper against Northern League opposition, a fate becoming many teams over the years.
The home side took an early fifth-minute lead with the unlucky Reece Staunton being credited with an own goal, before they went further in front following a corner after 74 minutes giving Avenue what felt like a mountain to climb.
Will Longbottom then entered the fray as a substitute and managed to pull a goal back seven minutes later. This raised hopes of a comeback and, when Harrison Hopper made a short pass inside, the unmarked Eddie Church stretched to put the ball into an open goal from close range. The linesman made an immediate offside call, yet both Avenue players involved in the move appeared to be onside and no one else was interfering with play.
Avenue were not at their best in this match, but could reasonably have felt they should have been heading home looking forward to a replay.
Manager Mark Bower sent on academy prospect George Eze for his senior debut in the final few minutes, a moment George will remember for a long time and a move which will have been noted by all the other players at the academy, giving them real hope that they may be able to follow in his footsteps.
Disappointing as it may be, Avenue were not alone as Vanarama North sides Brackley, Leamington, Spennymoor and Telford all suffered defeat to lower-ranked opposition.
And, they mustn’t let this setback affect their optimism for Fylde on Saturday. Influential captain Luca Havern is hoping to be back after injury and fortune favours the brave, as the saying goes.
Mark Bower was honest about Avenue’s form after the game in saying: ‘The lads are better than what they’re producing at the minute. Clearly, we need to change something because we’re not getting the results we should be.’
Ashington have now got through four rounds of the FA Cup, which includes beating Northern Premier League high-flyers Ashton United less than two weeks earlier, and were naturally cock-a-hoop after the game. Manager Ian Skinner said: ‘I’m hoping for another home tie in the next round because nobody will want to come here – we’ll be the team that others will be saying, ‘I don’t fancy going up there!’
Team: Sykes-Kenworthy; Odunston (Eze 87), Staunton; Spencer (Longbottom (75), Lund, Fielding; Hopper, Richman, Blyth, Dockerty, Smith (Church 65). Unused subs: Hall, Johnson.
Avenue yellow card: Odunston (60).