Reds hit self-destruct button
Workington have perfected the art of pressing the self-destruct button and did so again, spectacularly it has to be said, to throw away three priceless points.
This game was there for the taking but ill-discipline, individual errors and a lack of confidence led to yet another frustrating defeat with Celtic completing a league double without playing well themselves.
A good start and an impressive opening half hour suggested that new manager Gavin Skelton would oversee a winning return to his third spell with the club but, an hour later, realised how fragile, mentally, the squad is.
The lack of discipline in the side is one problem which has to be addressed immediately as two more red cards were administered in the second half. Dan Wordsworth was shown a straight red for directing abusive language at the referee, and will face a two game suspension, while skipper Gari Rowntree, previously booked for a robust challenge, picked up a second yellow and was also invited to take an early shower. He will serve a one match ban.
It left Reds, already 2-1 down by the time of the dismissals, trying to salvage a game with ten men for thirty five minutes and just nine bodies for the final twenty.
The fact that they were the better of two poor sides when reduced in numbers, compounds the frustration. They came close to snatching a point and, who knows, might have gone on to win with a full complement of players.
But, as we reach the half-way point of the season, the points total remains at just sixteen and needs to be trebled, at least, to trigger any chance of survival.
Yet the first half performance saw Reds dominate. Conor Tinnion’s free kick smashed against the crossbar with Jake Turner beaten, Tinnion narrowly missed the target with a second attempt and a close range Jason Walker header was smothered on the line.
And there was a goal to celebrate the arrival of the New Year, albeit via Celtic player Ross Dent. Tinnion sent over a teasing corner and Brad Carroll and Dent went to meet the ball with the latter heading past his own ‘keeper for the sixteenth minute opener.
But Celtic were level eight minutes before half time when Reds defending at a corner could be described as sloppy at best. The ball was flicked on to the far post and the diminutive Andy Scott back-healed in from close range.
Three minutes after the restart, Scott scored what proved to be the winner when an Aaran Taylor error was punished. He failed to control the bobbling ball and was dispossessed by Scott who thumped home the decider.
The departure of Wordsworth and Rowntree, the latter on his 400th appearance for the club, left Reds with a mountain to climb but the character shown by those still on the pitch prevented any further damage.
And Tinnion came close to grabbing an unlikely point just before the end. His well struck low shot from a central position looked destined for the bottom corner of the net until Turner dived full length to push the ball to safety.
New boss Skelton was not too downhearted saying, “We are not far off but I’m sure that’s been said all season. I’m disappointed but there is plenty to build on and we have to keep the faith and remain positive.”
Workington Taylor, Cowperthwaite, Rowntree, Wordsworth, Smith, Carroll, Holt, Maguire (Hubbold, 70), Walker, Allison (Joel, 70), Tinnion. Substitutes – Paterson, Mellen, Mossop (not used).
Stalybridge Celtic Turner, Solomon-Davies, Tongue, Dent, Marx, Smalley, Bakkor, Wilkinson (Rule, 60), Kengni (Crawford, 81) Scott, Wolfenden. Substitutes – Clarke, Taylor J, Winterbottom (not used).
Referee John Mulligan, Carlisle
Bookings: Rowntree (Workington), Wilkinson (Stalybridge Celtic)
Red cards: Wordsworth, Rowntree (second yellow)