Radcliffe kept a gallant Reds team at arm’s length after establishing a winning position with a little over twenty minutes on the clock. And, as one of the title favourites ended the evening as clear leaders of the NPL Premier Division, Danny Grainger’s side are looking up from the foot of the table.
Yet there was a bit of character displayed in this latest of three heavy defeats and, whilst they never looked like staging an unlikely comeback, they refused to throw the towel in and battled away gamely to the end.
The main difference between last season and this is that Reds went into every West Division game expecting to win whereas, now, they will be preparing for some matches knowing it will be a losing outcome.
And whilst amassing points on a regular basis becomes habitual, so, too, does long sequences of defeats.
Early indications are that the Premier Division will evolve into three sections – the title and play-off aspirants, the mid-table comfort zone and those doing their utmost to avoid the drop back to Step 4. And Workington’s first aim will be to finish as ‘leaders’ of that bottom six after a demanding 42 game schedule.
It is certainly not a case of lacking ambition but more of a reality check as to our current status.
You would definitely need a calculator to tot up the EFL appearances on the CVs of this Radcliffe squad, and their ages too, but the ingredients have produced one effective unit.
Spearheading this collection of proven players is one Jordan Hulme who caused us heartache in the play-off final at Salford seven years ago.
Reds, in comparison, are supplementing their experienced half dozen with a few youngsters still hoping to make a mark in the game – some will over time, some might not.
Just like Saturday, Reds were a goal down with barely six minutes gone. Marauding fullback, Jamie Morgan, got the first, and second, goals from central positions less than eight yards out – the first a diving header, the second after pick-pocketing Matty Bell inside the area ten minutes later.
Then Hulme, curled in a beauty from the edge of the area after twenty-one minutes and, at that stage, Reds might have feared a repeat of the Ilkeston mauling.
But if Hulme’s goal was special, Kofi Moore’s was even better – albeit in consolation. David Symington, still looking for his first goal of the campaign, had clipped the foot of the post from a trademark free-kick but Reds’ next sortie into Radcliffe territory would produce a stunner from the Oldham Athletic youngster.
Accepting a pass from Fin Wallbank, his touch and turn was good but an unerring finish from well outside the box was outstanding, giving the beleaguered home side a timely boost mid-way through the half.
It got us into the game – not much more than that to be honest – and, at least, we kept the ball enjoying decent periods of possession.
Workington continued to dominate the ball in the early stages of the second half without seriously testing Polish ‘keeper, Mateusz Hewelt, although one Symington sizzler hit the side-netting.
But Messrs Johnson and Morley’s side were always a threat on the counter. One quick break had resulted in a fourth goal being disallowed because of an assistant’s flag soon after the restart, then Hulme proved a nuisance on two further occasions.
He was clattered by Jim Atkinson as he broke through with the foul outside the area correctly punished by the game’s only yellow card.
Then he grabbed his second goal just past the hour mark with a good finish following an accurate assist from Scott Duxbury.
Reds had introduced two substitutes at the start of the second half and both Keelan Leslie and Brad Hubbold made telling contributions. And a third replacement, Taylor Bowen (inset), made his bow after joining the club on a Youth loan from Blackpool.
There was no further scoring as Radcliffe strolled to a fourth win on West Cumbrian soil and Reds finished with just ten men after a late injury to Bobby Carroll!
Workington: Atkinson, Wallbank, Bell (Leslie, 46), Wordsworth, Smith, Carroll, Symington, McCaragher (Hubbold, 46), Allison, Moore K (Bowen, 59), Tinnion. Substitutes – Tait, Moore L (not used).
Radcliffe: Hewelt, Morgan (Jackson, 79), Duxbury, Maynard, Smith, Thornley, Joyce, Adams, Hulme (Bange, 79), Sargent (Dudley, 79), Hancock. Substitutes – Navaro, Fitzpatrick (not used).
Referee: Bilal Moosa, Bolton
Booking: Atkinson (Workington)