The score line suggests a bit of hammering has been inflicted on Reds by the NPL West leaders and title favourites but, in truth, Danny Grainger’s side more than matched their illustrious hosts for a good seventy minutes.
But we all know games last a bit longer than that and Macclesfield scored twice in the last eleven minutes to finally put the game to bed.
To say that the final outcome was harsh on Reds is an understatement but, once again, we are reflecting on ‘ifs, buts and maybes’ after another gallant failure.
The game probably hinged on a sixty-third minute penalty awarded to the visitors after Lewis Reilly had been man-handled inside the area. Scott Allison resumed spot-kick duties after Reilly’s failure on Saturday but he too was thwarted by the ‘keeper and, instead of restoring parity at 2-2, Macclesfield were let off the hook.
It was tough on Reds because, had they equalised, there was a strong belief that they could have gone on and won the game but, although they continued to create chances until well into stoppage time, Macclesfield took full advantage of the reprieve handed to them.
The change of the managerial team at Macclesfield over the weekend didn’t do Workington any favours and gave the NPL West’s big spenders the proverbial kick-up the backside they probably needed. The hosts will feel their decision to end Macc legend Danny Whitaker’s time at the club was vindicated, after returning to winning ways, and their sole focus will now be to lift the title in April.
The early exchanges saw Brandon Lee’s cross bounce to safety off Jim Atkinson’s crossbar with the ‘keeper then pushing away a shot from James Berry. Reds’ response was a Reuben Jerome header, via Keelan Leslie’s cross, clearing the bar by some distance and an Allison effort which drifted wide.
Old foe, Neil Kengni was in the mood to haunt Reds again and saw one effort saved by Atkinson. But the tricky number seven struck in the twenty-sixth minute to open the scoring, having netted against us for Stalybridge and Marine in the past and, now, Macclesfield. His initial shot produced a fine reflex save from Atkinson but he reacted quickly to fire in the rebound from close range.
To go in at the break just a goal in arrears would have been a fair reflection on Workington’s first half efforts but a poor decision on the stroke of half time compounded their misery. Allison appeared to win the ball fairly from Berry but the latter ended on the artificial turf and the referee pointed to the spot. Alex Curran duly converted.
Reds came out with intent on the restart and within four minutes had pulled a goal back. A good patient build-up culminated in Allison breaking into the box down the inside right channel before directing the ball into the far corner of Marcelo Pitaluga’s net.
Shortly after, Conor Tinnion’s great run wasn’t matched by his finish with Pitaluga comfortably gathering a weak shot before David Symington, kept in check for most of the night, sending a free kick into the night sky.
Then, just past the hour mark, Reds were awarded a penalty – their third of the season. Unfortunately, like the other two, it was saved with Pitaluga diving full length to his right to push away Allison’s shot on to the post and eventual safety.
It was the most important of several second half stops by the impressive Pitaluga.
Enforced substitutions didn’t help Reds’ cause with Jerome, Sam Smith and the impressive Bobby Carroll all retiring early.
Macc were getting back into contention and a wonderful third goal swung the game in their favour. Nicky Maynard had just been introduced to the game and was released by Mark Duffy’s sublime pass before the veteran striker finished confidently in the seventy-ninth minute with his first touch.
And two minutes later, it was all over with a well worked corner routine resulting in the evergreen Neil Danns converting the cross at the far post.
Still Reds fought to the end and Symington, Tinnion and Reilly were all within inches of netting a second goal but it was not to be.
The outstanding Tinnion, Leslie and Carroll were Reds best performers on the night along with the one hundred travelling fans who sang their hearts out backing the team. They were exceptional.
Macclesfield: Pitaluga, Hanson, Lee (Bunney, 73), Fensome, Mendy, Murphy, Kengni, Danns, Curran (Maynard, 77), Hardy (Duffy, 55), Berry. Substitutes – Clare, Pemberton (not used).
Workington: Atkinson, Clarke, Leslie, Wordsworth, Smith (Moran, 66), Carroll (Rigg, 77), Symington, Allison, Reilly, Jerome (Casson, 61), Tinnion. Substitutes – Palmer, Eccles (not used).
Referee: Luis Griffiths, Liverpool
Booking: Danns (Macclesfield)