It is not often a Workington team amass 40 points and 40 goals before the turn of the year.
But, after this emphatic Boxing Day success over a decent Dunston outfit, they can now lay claim to both, maintaining a five point lead at the top of the NPL’s North Wet Divsion.
After a first half performance as good as we have seen in this amazing season, Reds only had two goals to show for a dominant display – scant reward for their efforts. They squandered several opportunities with some poor finishing and visiting ‘keeper, Karl Dryden, kept his side in contention, with a series of saves, some routine, others unorthodox.
Yet for all their dominance, Reds got lucky with a couple of goals at least but the fact that Conor Tinion (for his first) and Scott Allison were in the right place at the right time is more a game awareness quality than good fortune.
Credit to Chris Swailes and his side for playing a sporting role in the Gari Rowntree farewell as it was important that we gave a club legend the send-off he deserved. It was also important that we didn’t disrespect the opposition or compromise the referee and thankfully the game didn’t become secondary prior to kick-off and then again when Gari left the field for the final time, a quarter of an hour before the end.
Both teams formed a ‘guard of honour’ as Rowntree took to the field, accompanied by his two nieces, but the emotional good-bye was put to one side as the thirty-three year old gave his usual 100% to the cause. We expected nothing less.
Applying a good tempo to the game in the Borough Park mud, Reds started well and Dunston weren’t really given an opportunity to show the improving form they have been in of late.
Tinnion was narrowly wide with an early free-kick, then had a weak shot comfortably saved before a penalty appeal was turned down with just minutes on the clock. It set the tone for the afternoon with Rowntree’s successor as skipper here, there and everywhere.
The opening goal came after eighteen minutes via a Dav Symington corner. Dan Wordsworth met the cross with a firm header and looked a certain scorer until colleague Nathan Waterston inadvertently blocked the ball but quickness of thought saw the top scorer swivel and send the ball into the net from close range.
But the slender lead might have been wiped out had Dunston took one of two belated gifts presented to them.
A quick counter attack saw Scott Heslop break through the inside right channel but he failed to test the stranded Jim Atkinson, instead sending the ball high into the Town End.
And a misplaced Wordsworth pass gifted Cedwyn Scott another chance but Atkinson saved the day with a crucial block.
The second goal two minutes before the interval was deserved, albeit fortuitous. Matty Clarke went on a meandering run down the right but, after cutting inside, his shot at goal was wayward to say the least and, instead of testing Dryden, it fell conveniently for Tinnion who gleefully swept home his first of the season.
And Reds struck lucky again three minutes after the restart to put them into an unassailable 3-0 lead.
Symington’s shot from outside the box was heading in the right direction but it deflected off Allison en route into Dryden’s net. Dunston must have been cursing their misfortune.
No doubt about the goal of the game, though, providing some consolation to the ‘Metro Centre’ boys. It came in the fifty first minute to cap an eventful start to the second half. Heslop made amends for his first half blunder with a wonder strike from at least thirty yards out, catching the ball sweetly and sending it into the helpless Atkinson’s net.
And there was still time for the fifth goal of the afternoon before the hour mark. More good build-up play culminated in Ceiran Casson finding Tinnion to the left of the Dunston area and he capped another excellent performance with a precise low left foot strike that found the corner of Dryden’s net.
Clarke went looking for his first Workington goal but was thwarted by another Dryden save and that was after Waterston rattled the crossbar after connecting with Charlie Bowman’s assist from the right.
Tinnion picked up the sponsors man-of-the-match accolade but Casson, Brad Hubbold and Waterston were equally effective and ‘young’ Rowntree defended as he has for thirteen seasons and ventured forward for set pieces in search of a last day goal.
His departure was greeted by generous applause from all in the ground, including the Dunston people, marking the end of a special era.
Workington: Atkinson, Clarke, Brockbank, Wordsworth, Rowntree (Smith, 77), Casson, Symington (Bowman, 59), Hubbold, Allison, Waterston (Hebson, 72), Tinnion. Substitutes – Little, Carroll (not used).
Dunston: Dryden, Marrs (Elliott J, 46), Halliday, Craig Scott, Capewell, Grant-Soulsby, Stafford, Pearson, Cedwyn Scott (Brooks, 66), Heslop (Fitzpatrick, 59), Hall. Substitutes – Elliott C, Thear (not used).
Referee: John Mulligan, Carlisle
Matchday photos by Ben Chalis.