Gate’s season began with this comprehensive defeat by their Hallmark Security League rivals in the extra preliminary round of the FA Cup.
Danny Penswick named three new signings from Blackpool Wren Rovers in his starting 11, all of them playing in the cup for the first time.
Gary Pett shot over the bar and it soon became clear it wasn’t going to be Gate’s day as Ashton took the lead after 11 minutes.
Gate’s premier division rivals were allowed too much time outside the box and striker Joel Brownhill fired past keeper Ben Fletcher.
Gate’s first meaningful effort on goal didn’t come until the half-hour mark, when Brett Dawson’s rasping shot was spilled by keeper Martin Pearson and the loose ball was cleared before Mark Buchan could capitalise.
Ashton grabbed a second goal just before half-time, when midfielder Jamie Harrison’s free-kick from the edge of the box beat Fletcher to thekeeper’s left.
The visitors continued to impress after the restart and Brownhill scored his second nine minutes in, walking through Gate’s midfield with nobody closing him down.
Pett had another rare chance for Gate on 63 minutes but headed over.
Midfielder Dean Ing was introduced on the hour and almost made an instant impact as his cross from the right nearly flew straight in. Pett’s header from the resulting corner was cleared off the line.
Brownhill capped his and Ashton’s perfect afternoon with a hat-trick goal from a tight angle after 75 minutes.
Gate’s league campaign begins at Hanley Town on Saturday.
Gate: Fletcher, Casey, Penswick, Douthwaite, Greenall, Colquhoun, Hall, Pett, Moxon, Buchan, Dawson; Subs: Webb, Ing, Williams, Carroll, Moorhead, Smith