All good things come to an end sadly, including Workington’s excellent away form either side of Christmas.
Unbeaten in eight, with seven wins and a draw, since losing at Macclesfield over four months ago, Reds were unceremoniously dumped on their backsides by a City of Liverpool side who were streets ahead in every aspect of the game.
They had never tasted victory in this fixture previously but finished worthy winners at Bootle’s Vesty Road ground where the nomadic club call ‘home’ this season. Reds had won at this venue back in September, against City’s landlords, but there was never even a hint they would repeat the feat on an afternoon to forget.
In the grand scheme of things, this seventh defeat of the season should not prevent play-off qualification – they probably need another eight points to cement a top five spot – but a loss of form at this stage of the season is unthinkable.
The hurt and pain will take a day or too longer to disperse but the crucial factor now is how Danny Grainger’s side respond to a performance which simply wasn’t good enough.
Paul McNally’s side were immediately into their stride and the Cumbrians were under the cosh from the first whistle, yet somehow survived several corners in quick succession plus efforts from old foe, Danny Mitchley, Jack Hazlehurst and the evergreen Kevin Ellison.
Mitchley’s effort was well saved by Jim Atkinson, the other two attempts missed the target, but that early onslaught suggested an uncomfortable afternoon ahead for a team lacking the experienced trio of Tinnion, Smith and Casson.
Dav Symington, who netted two wonder goals against “The Purps” last season, was off target with Workington’s first effort at goal, Scott Allison was a bit closer with an attempt cleared off the line by Ellison and Steven Rigg sent his shot high over the bar.
The opening goal came after twenty-nine minutes after Jack Hont was impeded by Kai Nugent after a sixty-yard run from his own half. The referee pointed to the spot, before booking the teenager, and Hazlehurst subsequently converted his fifth goal of the season to set City on their way.
There was a diluted response from Reds up to half time, Nugent was wide with one effort as he attempted to make amends, Symington’s audacious shot from his own half was comfortably dealt with by Ben Barnes who then thwarted Matty Clarke with another straightforward save.
Symington tested Barnes with a free kick from distance soon after the restart and, although the ‘keeper spilled the ball, Rigg was unable to force home the rebound.
But it was the ‘home’ side who got the all important second goal and there was never any doubt about the outcome after that. It came in the sixty-fourth minute via Max Allen’s free kick towards the far post which Mitchley kept alive by returning the ball to the danger area.
Atkinson could only flap at the cross and Peter Wylie got the last touch to force the ball over the line.
The third goal after seventy-seven minutes put the gloss on an impressive performance. CoL ripped through Reds’ fragile resistance with the move of the match, culminating in a fine cross from Tom Croughan. Ellison was lurking unmarked at the far post and the forty-four year old veteran took a touch before thumping the ball into the net.
A wayward cross from Symington bounced off the bar and Lewis Reilly had a chance to net a consolation goal but he couldn’t get enough ‘loop’ on an attempted lob and Barnes saved easily.
And Obua Mugalalu’s late introduction failed to spark Reds although he did test Barnes with one effort.
Plenty of food for thought on the return journey to Cumbria!
City of Liverpool: Barnes, Fitzgerald, Hont, Wylie, Grogan, Strickland, Sonko (Croughan, 72), Allen, Mitchley, Hazlehurst (Simpson, 88), Ellison (Clair, 88). Substitutes – Conteh, Johnson (not used)
Workington: Atkinson, McCaragher, Clarke, Wordsworth, Birch, Rigg (Reilly, 58), Symington, Carroll, Allison (Mugalula, 72), Jerome, Nugent (Hubbold, 46). Substitutes – Leslie, Farmer (not used).
Referee: Callum Jones, Liverpool
Bookings: Fitzgerald, Hont, Wylie, Mitchley (City of Liverpool), Nugent, Jerome (Workington).