It wasn’t the happiest of starts to the New Year with Reds falling to one of their nearest rivals and a first league reverse in nine outings.
To compound a bad day, all the other results favoured the promotion rivals reducing the lead at the top of BetVictor North West to a slender two points.
They certainly played well enough to win but winning the possession stakes by a country mile, creating far more chances than the hosts and winning the corner count is irrelevant if your opponent out scores you.
And conceding two first half goals against a team unbeaten on their own patch and possessing the best defensive record in the league didn’t help matters. Even a dominant second half performance couldn’t redress the balance.
It was understandable that Collieries celebrated with gusto at the final whistle because, realistically, they can low see a pathway to dislodge Reds as league leaders.
Each team has its own identity, of course, and the contrasting styles on view prove that there are many ways to win football matches.
But if you give your opponent a helping hand along the way, your own task becomes that bit more difficult.
And Ceiran Casson, a shining light for Reds this season, will not need reminding of the unfortunate part he played in what proved to be a decisive second goal for the hosts. His stray pass was intercepted by Cody Cromack who fed Joe Lumsden and he gratefully accepted a very late Christmas present in the thirty-eighth minute.
It was Lumsden who had opened the scoring with less than two minutes on the clock, forcing the ball home at the second attempt after Jim Atkinson had parried his first effort.
But in between Lumsden’s two strikes, Reds got back into the game. Liam Brockbank saw a shot sail narrowly over the bar, Conor Tinnion’s effort rebounded off the goal frame and Seb Malkowski comfortably dealt with a Scott Allison attempt.
Other than retrieving the ball twice from his net, Atkinson’s only other serious involvement was catching cleanly Connor Smythe’s well struck shot from outside the box.
A big second half performance was needed and Danny Grainger’s side certainly delivered that, albeit to no avail. Grainger himself was pressed into action because of the acute shortage of defensive cover and instantly resolved what had been a slight problem first half.
And other than a thirty yard lobbed effort from Cromack which the back-pedalling Atkinson palmed over the bar, Pontefract never looked like scoring.
It was one-way traffic in the other direction but chances came and were squandered at regular intervals.
A Dav Symington free-kick didn’t trouble Malkowski but the giant ‘keeper became the focus of the second half thwarting both Matty Clarke and Nathan Waterston with stunning saves and frustrating Tinnion, Allison and Symington with more routine stops.
He was beaten on two occasions, Allison scoring a well taken seventieth minute goal and Waterston’s low shot passing him only to rebound off the upright, but would emerge as Collieries best performer and probably deserved the two slices of luck which came his way late in the game.
First, a low Brockbank cross evaded attackers and defenders alike when the slightest touch from either would have produced a goal then Allison dragged a great chance wide after Charlie Bowman had created the opening.
And the manager’s frustration was summed up in his honest post match summary, “They’ve had the rub of the green today and fair play to them for taking the two chances that came their way and punishing us for a lapse of concentration.”
“We need a big reaction to that defeat in the next game,” concluded Grainger.
Pontefract Collieries: Malkowski, Greenough, Smythe, Ible, Clarke, Picton, Cromack, Williams (Bailey, 81), Lumsden (Dunn, 74), Redford (Dockerty, 78), Baxendale. Substitutes – Rothery, Jeffs (not used).
Workington: Atkinson, Clarke (Bowman, 67), Brockbank, Wordsworth, Casson C, Carroll (Grainger, 50), Symington, Hubbold, Allison, Waterston, Tinnion. Substitutes – Hebson, Howarth and Casson L (not used)
Referee: Lewis Dawson, Halifax
Bookings: Lumsden, Picton, Ible (Pontefract Collieries), Carroll, Waterston (Workington).