The most important factor about Workington’s return to Step 3 football was making a solid start and obtaining that first win of the season as soon as possible.
But not even the most biased Reds’ supporter envisaged such a statement of intent on day one of the 2023-24 NPL Premier Division campaign.
Apart from two or three niggly injuries, this was just about the perfect afternoon for the manager, the team and the supporters and a very special day, indeed, for Scott Allison who marked his 33rd birthday with a four-goal salvo.
And goals 147, 148, 149 and 150 got his eleventh season at the club off to a dream start as he reached another career milestone.
A first half hat-trick, after 12, 17 and 43 minutes were typical strikers’ goals – a case of being in the right place at the right time – but the icing on the birthday cake was his fourth, Workington’s fifth, which had a touch of the spectacular about it.
But so good was this all-round team performance, several man-of-the-match contenders emerged as Reds recorded a best ever win against the Robins.
Skipper, Conor Tinnion, who bagged a hat-trick himself against Ashton a few years ago, was immense but so too were Greg McCaragher, Dan Wordsworth and Bobby Carroll and let’s not forget the three debutants, Aidy Roxburgh, Matty Bell and Kofi Moore who all caught the eye in their first league start for the club.
Tinnion was involved in the opener and his delicate chip over Luke Simpson might have crept over the line for Workington’s 12th minute opener but Allison made sure to score on the first day of the season for the fifth time.
He doubled his tally five minutes later with the Ashton defence, and Simpson in particular, seemingly rooted to the spot as Allison’s mishit effort trickled into the corner of the net.
They got another mid-way through the half when Sam Smith met a Tinnion corner at the far post and volleyed home from close range.
Tinnion almost got the goal he deserved when a curling, dipping shot had Simpson desperately back-pedalling as the ball clipped the upright.
McCaragher, a live-wire throughout, made the fourth goal two minutes before the interval. He won possession and his wayward shot was deflected into the net by the ever-alert Allison to complete the first opening day hat-trick for the club in living memory.
Ashton, surely, would have to offer some resistance in the second half and they restored a modicum of pride after dominating for a period.
Keilen Adams was desperately unlucky not to reduce the arrears when he broke through but his shot hit the post and rebounded across the face of goal to safety. And Jim Atkinson made two stops to thwart Sean Newton and Alex Byrne – the first a diving save to his left, the second an acrobatic catch to deal with an attempted chip.
Moore tested Simpson when Workington finally got going in the opposite direction but a bad day for the visitors was compounded on the hour mark when they were reduced to ten men.
Adams was shown a red card for a dangerous challenge on Wordsworth and Reds’ Atkinson was booked for his involvement in the afters.
Allison almost scored a fifth for Workington when his shot was fumbled onto the post by Simpson but he did have the final say three minutes before the end of normal time. A sublime curling shot from the corner of the area found the net with Simpson, a former Workington ‘keeper, left helpless once again.
Allison grabbed the match-ball immediately after the final whistle – not bad after failing to notch a single goal in pre-season!
Workington: Atkinson, Roxburgh, Bell, Wordsworth, Smith (Rigg, 40), Carroll (Hubbold, 71), Symington, McCaragher, Allison, Moore K, Tinnion (Casson, 82). Substitutes – Leslie, Hammell (not used).
Ashton United: Simpson, Cowan, Newton, Lonsdale, Burke, Cusani, Byrne, Abbott (Bianga, 76), Caton (Potts, 64), Adams, Dawson (Milner, 46). Substitutes – Gilchrist, Da Silva (not used).
Referee: Curtis Wood, Lancaster
Bookings: Atkinson (Workington), Newton, Cusani (Ashton United)
Red card: Adams (Ashton United)