Reds still in with a chance as we enter the final week
Reds threw a cat among the play-off hopeful pigeons after inflicting a shock defeat upon fourth placed Ashton.
A win would have assured the hosts of a play-off berth and condemned Derek Townsley’s side as also-rans but Scott Allison’s goal ten minutes from time sealed an incredible win and prolonged their season for another game at least.
It was the most daring of smash and grab raids and fashioned out of a stubborn defensive display from a water-tight back four and recalled ‘keeper, Ally Mitchell. To a man they were superb and deserved a first ever clean sheet at a stadium which hasn’t been a happy hunting ground over the years.
“We rode our luck at times if I’m being honest but it has been in short supply recently”, was an upbeat Townsley’s response to a brave team effort.
“To still be involved with something to play for in the final week of the season is a reward for them,” he added.
Reds priority was to nullify an attack that has scored 85 league goals this season, so to do that then score the winner from their first clear-cut chance of the game was breathtaking.
There was an air of tension surrounding a hard fought first half as Ashton sought the three points which would have rubber-stamped a play-off berth for a third consecutive season. But resilient Reds were in no mood to roll over, as they have in recent outings, and there was a determination which suggested they were up for the fight.
Clear-cut chances were few and far between in a tense first half, with United’s Will Haining dragging one shot a foot wide of the target before seeing a well struck shot parried and gathered by Mitchell. James Dean was next to try his luck but he failed to test Reds’ ‘keeper.
A delightful one-two between Allison and Joe McGee saw the visitors open up Ashton for the first time but Paul Phillips’ smart save prevented what could have been the opening goal.
Within seconds of the restart, Dean blazed another shot over from an acute angle then Paul Marshall’s effort rattled Mitchell’s crossbar as Ashton served notice of their intentions.
It prompted a good spell from the hosts and Haining saw a cheeky attempt land on the roof of the net before the out-of-touch Dean failed to test Mitchell once more.
Dean was more effective as the target man rather than a player hitting the target and good centre-forward play set up great chances for Marshall and Martin Pilkington. The former’s sweetly struck shot was saved by Mitchell but the latter, Ashton’s top scorer, didn’t trouble Mitchell.
Pilkington then raced through on goal and looked favourite to score in a one-on-one situation with Mitchell, but was thwarted by a brave stop by the inspired Reds’ stopper.
Ashton’s frustration was becoming more evident and Reds started to venture forward with a bit more enterprise. They had strong appeals for a penalty turned down but had the audacity to open the scoring after eighty minutes.
Kyle May’s long ball downfield was contested by Gareth Arnison and Stephen Mason with the ball falling kindly for Allison (inset) who read the situation perfectly. He won the race to the ball and guided it into the net with Phillips, for once, helpless. It was Allison’s 24th goal of a very productive personal campaign but easily the most important of his collection.
Having been under the cosh for so long, Reds could have doubled their advantage just before the end. Arnison’s deft flick on the halfway line released McGee on a solo run down the middle. He carried the ball confidently but dragged his shot inches wide of Phillips’ right hand post.
That meant Reds had to negotiate five minutes of added time to protect the slender lead but they did that without any further alarms.
The Reds supporters, a collection of Superman-clad fanatics, chaired retiring hero, May, from the pitch but the other eleven heroes had to make their own way to a vibrant dressing room.
Ashton United: Phillips, Coo, Brownhill, Gorton, Mason, Haining, Marshall (Chadwick, 73), Gee, Pilkington, Dean (Morning, 76), Lees (Baguley, 82). Substitutes – Lindfield, Frost (not used).
Workington: Mitchell, Simpson, Smith, May, Calvert, Wright, McGee, Wilson, Allison, Tymon (Arnison, 66), Tinnion. Substitutes –
McCartney, Hammell, Jamieson (not used).
Referee: Barry Cropp, St. Annes