By Paul Armstrong
Alan Hansen once famously said, “You don’t win anything with kids,” a theory put to the test by a quartet of teenagers on duty for Reds at Stourbridge.
Leo Holliday scored his first goal in senior football, Max Brown had his best ninety minutes in Workington colours, Jordan Holt was at his effervescent best and the baby of them all, Joe Hetherington, was unfazed at facing some of the ‘big’ names of non-league football. Cam Harker might have joined in on the party but an injury left him less than 100% and he remained on the bench.
This time last year, Stourbridge and Reds went head-to-head in an epic play-off clash with the former emerging narrow 3-2 winners. The score line was the same on this occasion, only in Workington’s favour, but a contest which was low key in comparison.
It was end of season stuff by two teams expected to do much better than they have in disappointing campaigns. But take nothing away from spirited Reds who thoroughly deserved this morale boosting win.
Nine players, who could have been considered, were unable to travel but, instead of resembling lambs to the slaughter, Lee Andrews’ team approached the game with a positive attitude and their bravery was justly rewarded.
They had the audacity to take an earlier lead then, after finding themselves behind, finished the stronger in what might be their last visit to the War Memorial Athletic Ground for some time.
From the game’s first corner, perfectly delivered by Rob Wilson, Steven Rigg headed home the opening goal inside three minutes to shock the hosts.
Sadly, Wilson hobbled from the pitch less than two minutes later after taking a knock on his troublesome right ankle. Hetherington, still a month short of his seventeenth birthday, entered the fray in the sixth minute and had an evening to remember.
Sluggish Stourbridge huffed and puffed but never looked like the team they once were. To say makeshift Reds were comfortable is an understatement.
But they did find an equaliser after twenty six minutes with Brad Birch’s low shot finding a way past Aaran Taylor after Chris Gallagher had created the opportunity.
Surely the hosts would grasp the mettle and go on to dominate the second half? Not quite.
Soon after the restart, Dan Wordsworth was penalised for a deliberate hand ball a good twenty five yards from goal. He picked up a yellow card, a suspension now imminent, and the punishment was compounded when Luke Benbow scored from the subsequent free kick.
Would Reds crumble after that early body blow? Definitely not.
They responded immediately with Holliday’s moment of glory restoring parity in the forty eighth minute. Holt made good progress down the left before moving the ball inside to Holliday and, although he didn’t get the best of connections, he gleefully scored his first goal for the seniors.
And from that point, Workington looked the better side with Brown shooting narrowly wide while Rigg saw two further headers just sail over the bar.
Rigg was a constant threat and it was fitting that he should grab the winner after his best stint in a Reds’ shirt. An eighty second minute penalty was awarded to the visitors after Darryl Westlake, somewhat lazily, had tripped Sam Smith in the box. Rigg took responsibility and slammed the ball past Matt Gould for a somewhat unexpected but, nevertheless, thoroughly deserved decider.
Skipper Gari Rowntree sustained a nasty ankle injury, keeping him sidelined for months, on his last visit to Stourbridge and was in the wars again when a blow to the head drew blood. But he was at his best in the second half, delivering an inspirational performance from his familiar left full back role.
Lee Andrews was delighted with a great team performance saying, “I know the type of character we have got in the dressing room and know we are more than capable of getting results like that.”
And of the two boys playing in men’s football, he said how pleased he was for both.
“Joe was nervous when he went on but soon settled into the game and I think, second half especially, he was outstanding for us whilst Leo worked his socks off and fully deserved his goal, taking it well.”
Stourbridge Gould, Westlake, Christophorou, McCone, Pierpoint (Hague, 65), Forde (Tonks, 67), Birch, Broadhurst (Shearer, 72), Benbow, Gallagher, Carnat. Substitutes – Cooke, Evans (not used).
Workington Taylor, Douglas, Rowntree, Wordsworth, Smith, Mellen, Brown, Wilson (Hetherington, 6), Rigg, Holt, Holliday. Substitutes – Harker, Andrews (not used).
Referee Mark Howes, Solihull
Bookings: McCone, Birch (Stourbridge), Wordsworth (Workington)