Ashton Athletic’s silver service

Ashton Athletic celebrate. Picture: Pete Barton
Ashton Athletic celebrate. Picture: Pete Barton
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THE story was pretty much written.

A Wigan club in its first ever big final against a team in sky blue from Manchester. Ring any bells?

Ashton Athletic have managed to make their own bit of history, beating Maine Road FC – a club set up by Man City 59 years ago – in the North West Counties League Challenge Cup final.

Adam Gilchrist’s late strike was all that separated the two sides at Curzon Ashton’s ground as the Brocstedes Park club brought more silverware home to Wigan.

They were well worth their win, creating the better changes throughout the match.

Ashton had already lost twice to Maine Road in the league but, in a season where the club has broken a number of its own records in the NWC Premier League, they came up with the cherry on the top of the cake.

Athletic are managed by Jay Foulds, Ben Kay and Dougie Pitts, who were only appointed from local rivals Wigan Robin Park last season.

Chairman Jimmy White brought the trio in with the aim of avoiding relegation but after a sixth-place finish, they now have a trophy.

“Jimmy is a cracking guy,” said Kay. “He took a bit of a punt on us because we’re inexperienced in this level of management. It was a big risk for the committee but a big thing for them was they got local lads in.

“Around 70-80 per cent of our team are Wigan-based lads which has really helped with the gelling of the team.

“As soon as we won it the chairman was out of the stand and on the pitch with the lads and in the pub afterwards he said there was no way it was going anywhere but in his bed.” The management trio was delighted with the team’s effort and poured praise on the historic achievement.

Ashton were the better side throughout the final, enjoying a lot of possession before their goal finally came.

“It was fantastic,” added Kay. “It was a great time to score with 10 minutes left.

“We just had to hang on for them final minutes. It was a great feeling at full-time, everybody was so made up with it.

“The silverware is the icing on the cake of a great season though to be honest.

“The three of us have been in football all our lives, we’ve known each other for a very long time. We’re grateful to Ashton for giving us a job. They’ve been used to being at the bottom so they’re made up with this season.

“We would never have dreamt of that when we first took charge. The first couple of months were a hard slog really.

“To finish sixth and win a cup and we’re also in the final of the Wigan cup as well, it’s beyond expectation really.”

The goal came after some fantastic work by top scorer Ryan Smalls.

He held the ball up well before playing it to left-back Adam Howard who crossed for Gilchrist to volley home.