The Good, the Bad and the Ugly – the title of a famous sixties spaghetti Western film or an apt description of Reds’ excellent victory in Cheshire on a pleasant January afternoon?
The Good was Workington’s attacking play in a gun-slinging first half, as good as anything we have seen this season.
The Bad, a reference to our first half defending which was as poor as it has been for weeks.
And the Ugly perfectly sums-up mean old Reds in the second half when they strangled the life out of the game and Northwich’s futile attempt to swing the game in their favour.
Reds were probably too gung-ho for Chris Willcox’s liking in the first half and he, like the rest of us, was thrilled by our attacking play yet frustrated by repeated sloppiness at the back. It made for a great spectacle, though, and any neutral present certainly got value for money.
1874 left Cumbria with a point back in September so Reds were on a mission to collect all three on their first ever visit to the hosts temporary home at Barnton. But even after scoring three cracking goals in that entertaining first half, the outcome was, at that point, still in doubt the way Reds had defended.
But once that vice-like grip was applied in the second half, there was little doubt where the points were heading.
And thanks to Marine’s continued wobble on home soil a few miles north, Workington ended the day as divisional leaders as the NPL West title race intensifies.
Northwich started very well or Workington were all over the place in the early stages, depending on your allegiance.
Mackenzie O’Neill’s shot finished in the back of the net but Jamie Reed was adjudged offside with the game in its infancy.
But Reds failed to heed the warning and it was Reed who did open the scoring in the thirteenth minute. Good play down the right culminated in the cross taking a slight deflection and, as a result, Jim Atkinson fumbled the ball and there was Reed to sweep it home at the far post.
That shook Reds into life and they responded with some great offensive play and a wonderful equaliser five minutes later. Brad Hubbold was the architect and he progressed to the edge of the 1874 box before sliding the ball through to Reuben Jerome. The latter’s clever ‘back-heel’ wrong-footed the Greens rearguard and there was Brad Carroll to side foot home a ‘goal-of-the-season’ contender to restore parity.
After twenty five minutes, Reds took the lead for the first time with Jerome on target with a poacher’s goal. Connor Gaul did the spadework on the right, cut inside and his goal-bound shot was well saved by Tony Aghayere but he could only parry the ball and into Reuben’s path who smashed home Reds’ second.
But back came Northwich to level matters within three minutes. Reds’ defending at a corner was questionable and they failed to clear the danger allowing Reed to grab his second.
A David Symington free kick from the edge of the box was pushed away by Aghayere as Reds continued to impress playing up the slope.
And they did restore their lead when Carroll and Jerome combined well down the inside left channel ten minutes before the break. Jerome’s confident finished capped a great first half display from Reds’ centre forward with the fifth goal of the afternoon giving the Cumbrians a slender half time advantage.
Reds also had strong appeals for a penalty turned down after Jerome, in on goal but at an angle, was left on the turf after a suspicious collision.
It was free flowing football at its best throughout the first forty five minutes but anything but in the second half. Workington’s game management was superb and such was there defensive prowess, Atkinson might have been on a period of self isolation as he was untroubled in the second half.
That fourth goal would have been appreciated a bit earlier by the Reds faithful but they probably thought the one goal lead would be sufficient as 1874 became frustrated and eventually ran out of ideas.
Gaul’s shot cannoned off the crossbar after one of Reds better efforts in the second half.
Jerome had a great opportunity to complete what would have been a deserved hat-trick when Reds intercepted the ball deep in Northwich territory. But his attempt at goal lacked the conviction of his overall performance and Aghayere saved comfortably.
Then with five minutes of normal time remaining, Reds did extend that winning margin. Skipper Conor Tinnion had been fouled out on the right and opted to take the free kick himself. He curled the ball towards the far post and there was the unmarked Sam Smith to side foot home from close range.
1874 Northwich: Aghayere, Koral, Kennerley (Russell, 76), Foulds, Irlam, Weir (McGowan, 79), Woolley J, Woolley M, Reed, Parker, O’Neill (Gardner, 65). Substitute – Hare (not used).
Workington: Atkinson, Harrison, Clarke, Wordsworth, Smith, Hubbold, Symington, Carroll (Casson, 90), Jerome (Fenwick, 87), Tinnion, Gaul (Leslie, 89). Substitutes – Bowman, Eccles (not used).
Referee: Mark Ryder, Liverpool
Bookings: Parker, Koral, Woolley M (1874 Northwich), Carroll (Workington)