The Workington party left North Shropshire on Saturday afternoon with a trophy in their possession but not the one they coveted.
A damaging draw at the NPL West Division’s bottom club meant they missed out on the title with the honours going to Warrington Rylands instead. And as runners-up they had to collect the consolation prize from League representative, James Heyes.
Reds went into the final game of an excellent season needing two factors to go in their favour. First of all, they had to obtain a win at the Greenlands Sports Ground but also needed Bootle to do them a favour by taking points off the leaders.
Bootle kept their side of the bargain by forcing a draw at Warrington but Reds shot themselves in the foot, not once but several times, and could only obtain a point in a game they dominated from start to finish.
Despite their domination, they paid dearly for the one obvious mistake in the game when they gifted Town a goal in the, yes you’ve guessed, thirteenth minute! Brad Hubbold was dispossessed in the middle of the park and Angelo Franco nonchalantly chipped the ball over the stranded Jim Atkinson and into the net for a shock home lead.
But finding an equaliser against the League’s worst defence was like searching for a needle in a haystack, possible but time consuming, and it took a Reds team, desperately low on confidence, a further seventy minutes to restore parity.
We all hoped the winning goal would follow soon after but it was not to be and the club’s championship aspirations were laid to rest in the 38th game of the season, one point adrift of the champions
Rylands probably couldn’t believe their luck as they celebrated their success fifty miles to the north whilst the Workington players, almost to a man, sunk to their knees in sheer desperation.
It was a sad sight after their sterling efforts over three seasons, two of which interrupted by the pandemic.
The group deserved some tangible reward after losing just eight of seventy eight matches since suffering relegation three years ago.
But they have only themselves to blame and form over recent weeks, just like their confidence, has eroded at an alarming rate. It may become clearer why this has happened in time but the immediate priority is lifting spirits for a play-off campaign, probably the last thing they wanted.
Reds had forced eight corners in the first half and a further seven after the interval, eventually scoring from the fifteenth after going so close on several occasions.
Reuben Jerome forced home the equaliser but play was so frenetic there was never any conviction that a crucial second goal was imminent.
They squandered chances, saw others blocked or saved by some heroic defending, hit the woodwork and watched a goalkeeper, Ashley Rawlins, enjoy an inspired ninety minutes.
Rylands’ game ended before the encounter in a rural Market Drayton setting but, despite knowing the importance of that elusive goal, dejected Reds failed to fashion a winner!
Market Drayton Town: Rawlins, Sweeney, Dutton, Franco, Care, Jones, East (Madama, 78), Farnsworth, Greer, Johnson, Price (Mackay, 84). Substitute – Lawrence (not used).
Workington: Atkinson, Clarke, Leslie (Allison, 46), Wordsworth, Smith, Casson (Carroll, 46), Symington, Hubbold, Fenwick (Jerome, 46), Tinnion, Evangelinos. Substitutes – Eccles, Lightfoot L (not used).
Referee: Tom Swift, Northwich
Bookings: Franco, Care, Greer, Price, Mackay (Market Drayton Town)