A first ever win at the Red Industries Stadium, a welcome clean sheet and three precious points papered over what was Reds’ poorest display for weeks yet the importance of the victory was tangible.
Before kick-off, they knew their closest rivals Macclesfield and Leek Town had dropped points and, whilst that is often a distraction, Lewis Reilly’s third minute goal saw them make-up ground on the leaders as they leap-frogged the latter to finish the day in second spot.
I am not keen on the expression “to win ugly” but if ever the term was appropriate, this was it.
The back four proved solid enough throughout but Reds struggled offensively and there seemed a lack of cohesion between the midfield trio and the three up-front. They found it difficult to retain possession and were repeatedly guilty of giving the ball away.
Newcastle’s style was a mixture of everything – they could pass the ball through the lines but was often direct and, from set-pieces and throw-ins, everything was launched into the area. Their ‘not-so-secret’ weapon was the amazing long throw from Kyle Stubbs but it was repeatedly repelled by some wonderful defensive headers from Dan Wordsworth, Reuben Jerome and Reilly with Sam Smith and Jim Atkinson as back-up.
By then, though, Workington had something to hang on to thanks to that early goal. David Symington’s corner found Bobby Carroll unmarked in the ‘D’, he helped the ball into the area and Reilly applied a tidy finish from six yards.
Town responded but Oliver Ritchie and Jake Lovatt failed to hit the target with their first attempts at goal.
Lovatt’s hooked volley came close to levelling matters for the hosts but Smith cleared off the line and Atkinson wasn’t troubled with shots from distance from Nathan Morley and Lovatt, again.
Atkinson did make a vital save, however, diving full stretch to his right to push away Connor Russo’s shot which seemed destined for the bottom corner.
Reds other opportunities were few and far between – Smith’s effort at the far post was blocked, Reilly headed a half-chance over the bar and a Carroll shot was easily dealt with by Town ‘keeper, Joe Slinn.
Reds strolled off at half time knowing there was room for improvement.
But they were no better in the second period, in terms of taking the game to the opposition, and most of the work centred around the outstanding Wordsworth who thrives on such aerial combat.
Atkinson’s second important save prevented what could have been an unfortunate own-goal from Brad Hubbold and Ritchie saw another decent effort cleared off the line by Matty Clarke.
Clarke scored his first Workington goal at this venue last season and almost got another, curling a shot wide in a rare attack in the second half. Greg McCaragher blazed a similar chance high into the darkening sky.
And because of what had gone before, there was a welcome passage of play from Workington ten minutes from time. They managed to keep the ball for more than ten seconds with a five-man passing move taking the sting out of the game momentarily.
Workington had to deal with another setback late in the day. An eventful afternoon for skipper, Smith, came to a premature end in the eighty-fifth minute.
Booked for an early offence, he had just returned to the field following a head injury and was adjudged to have tripped a Newcastle player heading for goal. The referee produced a second yellow card, then a red, and Smith was off and first into the showers.
Town couldn’t take advantage of the extra man and Reds remained resolute to secure a fifth successive victory.
Newcastle Town: Slinn, Conlon, Stubbs, Lovatt C (Vale, 76), Askey, Dennis, Russo (Van der Laan J, 70), Van der Laan T, Lovatt J, Ritchie, Morley (Parker, 84). Substitutes – Lloyd, Hurst (not used).
Workington: Atkinson, Clarke, Leslie, Wordsworth, Smith, Hubbold, Symington, Carroll (Rigg, 74), Reilly, Jerome (Allison, 53), McCaragher (Casson, 85). Substitutes – Birch, Tinnion (not used).
Referee: George Eaton
Bookings: Russo (Newcastle Town), Smith, Carroll, Clarke (Workington)
Red card: Smith (Workington, second yellow)