With the famous Aintree racecourse just a mile down the road, Reds’ boss, Danny Grainger, ‘backed a winner’ with an inspired substitution late in the day at the Berry Street Garage Stadium.
He introduced Jordan Palmer from the bench, with a quarter of an hour to go, and the striker responded by scoring his first league goal for the club in the last minute of normal time.
Palmer scored prolifically in the Northern League last season but the transition has proved difficult. But his moment duly arrived and the sublime, curling shot from an acute angle converted one point into three.
Palmer had almost scored minutes earlier but his well struck shot was kept out by Bootle ’keeper, Sam Ashton, on an afternoon when he and Reds’ stopper, Jim Atkinson, were rarely troubled.
With both clubs ‘under new management’, supporters have yet to see the finished article but in terms of passing and movement Reds just about shaded the possession stats although neither side looked assured in front of goal.
Indeed, the best chance of the game came early with supporters still finding a good vantage point on the stadium’s unique decking platform. Lewis Reilly released Reuben Jerome for a clear run-in on goal but the latter missed the target with the opportunity wasted.
Half chances followed for both sides – Dan Wordsworth heading over via a free kick and Sam Smith twice failing to connect when the ball landed at his feet for Reds whilst Simon Wills and Jack McGowan were just off target for Bootle who then saw Atkinson gather Connor Millington’s effort.
Wills had picked up a first half booking for Bootle and this proved significant soon after the restart. He clearly checked Scott Allison’s progress leaving the referee with no other alternative but to send him off after producing a second yellow.
But Bootle managed the situation well, got nine men behind the ball frequently and countered effectively as and when they could.
They won the corner count 8-2 but Atkinson, Smith and Dan Wordsworth repelled most of the hosts aerial threat with last season’s top scorer, Ben Hodkinson, generally kept in check although his one effort of note was comfortably dealt with by a routine Atkinson save.
A free kick about twenty-two yards from goal looked a promising situation for Reds with Conor Tinnion and David Symington both lurking with intent. The skipper pulled rank but his goal-bound effort was deflected narrowly wide for a corner much to the relief of Bootle ‘keeper, Ashton, scrambling in the opposite direction.
Palmer entered the fray and things started to happen in the Bootle area. He almost created one opening in a crowded box, hit the target with his first attempt then slotted that late winner and found himself smothered by the majority of his team mates as the celebrations underlined the importance of the goal…for the player and the team!
Grainger, delighted with the win and Palmer’s contribution, felt it was a ’nearly performance’ from his side with frustration getting the better of them at times. Yet, whether by design or pure luck their patience was rewarded late in the day and, having been on the receiving end of stoppage time goals this term – the games against Mossley, South Shields and Runcorn Linnets come to mind – it was their turn to celebrate a late decider.
Bootle: Ashton, Roberts, Rain, Welsh, Cooper, Wills, Hodkinson, Millington, Peterson, McLoughlin (Putnam, 72), McGowan. Substitutes – Sinnott, Homson-Smith, Holsgrove, Holland (not used).
Workington: Atkinson, Clarke, Birch (Palmer, 73), Wordsworth, Smith, Casson, Symington (Mahone, 90), Allison, Reilly, Jerome (Rigg, 57), Tinnion. Substitutes – Leslie, Moran (not used).
Referee: Ryan Aldred, Bolton
Bookings: Wills, McGowan (Bootle), Grainger, Casson (Workington)
Red card: Wills (Bootle – second yellow)