A cracking game for the neutral, even better if you are a Guiseley follower but, my goodness, more frustration for the hardy band of Workington supporters as their sieve-like defence continues to be breached on a regular basis.
I’m no expert on such matters but told that you would never build a house on quick sands yet Workington are doing just that, metaphorically, game after game. The structure and design look quite sound, and pleasing on the eye, but at the final whistle you are left with a pile of rubble on an unsuitable plot.
We know there are mitigating circumstances and countless permutations have been used so far, but Reds have to solve this defensive crisis asap in an attempt to halt the alarming slide down the table.
Workington have scored more goals than seventh placed Guiseley, indeed they have netted more than three teams occupying play-off positions so far, but conceding, on average, almost three goals per game is a recipe for disaster.
And some would suggest they got off lightly at Nethermoor Park on this occasion after a first half akin to ‘Bazball’ entertainment. They turned round 3-2 in arrears yet, somehow, were still in the game.
A more structured second half saw them look like a team with a purpose and the performance after the break deserved something tangible from an encounter that maintained the tradition of this fixture.
They have never kept a clean sheet at this particular venue and that worrying stat was maintained after just four minutes. Reds umpteenth central defensive pairing – the vastly experienced Joe Bunny and fellow debutant, rookie Josh O’Brien, were still introducing themselves when Guiseley netted the first of this seven-goal thriller.
Gabriel Johnson, the NPL’s equivalent to Erling Haaland, pounced to exploit a gaping hole in Reds’ rearguard and one sensed then he was about to have a field day. Going home with the match ball after scoring the winning goal certainly sent him on his way in a good mood.
An important save soon after from Jim Atkinson thwarted Jordi Nsaka as the hosts started brightly.
The Cumbrians were back on terms with a cracking goal on the quarter hour mark. Jamie Devitt’s first touch and pass was an illustration of the quality he can bring to the team but it had an end product too. He released Steven Rigg down the inside right channel and his finish was crisp and concise, 1-1.
Reds then survived an almighty scramble in the area with a Johnson shot hitting an upright with other attempts blocked or hacked clear.
Andy Welsh’s side restored their lead after twenty-three minutes when Aiden Walker ventured forward to meet Liam Tongue’s corner and his ‘free’ header came to rest in the back of the net.
Atkinson saved again to keep out a Johnson header then, at the other end, Rigg was denied a second goal by a fine Ollie Battersby save.
With time just about up on an entertaining first half, the referee threw in a couple of penalties in stoppage time to delay the half-time cuppa.
When Courtney Meppen-Walters blocked David Symington’s attempt to get the ball, the referee pointed to the spot and Devitt netted his first goal for the club after nonchalantly converting.
Reds’ supporters were still pinching themselves at being level after their first half woes when the man in black awarded an even more dubious penalty at the other end. Young O’Brien tangled with Kallan Murphy and, in a matter of seconds, there was spot-kick drama at both ends of the pitch.
Johnson, who else, took the penalty and blasted Guiseley into a half time lead.
Brad Hubbold was introduced to the fray at the start of the second half, presumably to change the game and he did just that. Along with another tweak to the back four, Reds had a more solid foundation to build on and they looked a better-balanced unit after the break.
And just before the hour mark, and after their best spell of the game, Reds drew level with another cracking goal. Hubbold’s pin-point diagonal ball released Kofi Moore down the right and his teasing low cross to the far post was despatched in style by skipper Symington.
Reds fans would have settled for the final whistle there and then because they knew it wouldn’t be the end of the scoring.
And their hearts were duly broken in the seventieth minute when Johnson gathered the ball miles from goal (well a good forty yards at least) and set off with one thing on his mind. At one point he had three Reds players alongside but without a tackle forthcoming he just kept going before rolling the winning goal past the helpless Atkinson.
That goal, admitted, a frustrated Danny Grainger, was preventable. So too were the others. “We are being punished for every single mistake,” he lamented afterwards. Unfortunately, that comment applies to so many games this season.
And as much as I love seeing Reds scoring the quality of goals they have recently, I would willingly settle for three or four dour goalless draws just to restore a modicum of confidence to what looks a shell-shocked defence.
Guiseley: Battersby, Brown, (Ashman, 28), Kendall, Ekpolo, Walker, Meppen-Walters, Pratt (Devine, 72), Tongue, Murphy, Johnson, Nsaka. Substitutes – Stacey, Chippendale, Wade (not used).
Workington: Atkinson, Wallbank, Bunny, O’Brien (Hubbold, 46), McCaragher, Brookwell, Symington, Nelson, Rigg, Devitt (Allison, 74), Francis (Moore, 56). Substitutes – Casson, Eccles (not used).