A first half horror show followed by a dominant second period saw Reds share four goals in a classic ‘game of two halves’ on opening day in North Yorkshire.
Danny Grainger must have thought what could possibly go wrong as the preparations for the new season had gone so smoothly.
However, the first league game of the new term often goes awry – and so it proved!
First of all, he had to race around getting goalkeeper cover for the absent Jim Atkinson, then there were problems with the new kit and key road closures saw the team coach making a long detour across scenic Yorkshire.
But he didn’t use any of those excuses for a below par first half showing against a far more competitive Pickering outfit. They have a new management team in place with major changes in personnel and should do much better this term, having been spared relegation for the same reasons Reds were denied a potential promotion.
And after the most inept forty-five minutes for quite a while, the manager was quickly into the dressing room to set about righting the wrongs.
What was said in the dressing room remains within those four walls and rightly so. But there was a dramatic improvement from four o’clock and credit to the manager and the squad for salvaging a point but, more significantly, their pride.
It wasn’t the first goal conceded in the Northern Premier League but Town’s opener with just two and half minutes on the clock was a body blow.
Debutant goalkeeper, Isaac Robinson was celebrating his eighteenth birthday last week but cannot have imagined then that he would be getting his first taste of senior football following a surprise call-up.
He had already dealt with a less than convincing back pass from Dan Wordsworth and another early touch was to retrieve the ball from his net.
That was after Adam Warrilow had deftly lifted the ball over him for the opening goal after Reds were caught in disarray on the left, right and centre of the final third.
The young ‘keeper then made a good save pushing away Nathan Perks’ shot on the turn at the expense of a corner.
Town forced five corners in the first half and from the fifth of those they doubled their lead after forty-two minutes.
Wayne Brooksby sent the corner towards the far post and Robinson seemed to gather the ball before deflecting it into the net after being pinned by a blue-shirted attacker.
In between those two gift-wrapped goals, Reds hardly threatened at the other end with a wayward Brad Carroll header registered as a rare chance.
What a difference after the break, though, and it was good to see the introduction of Dav Symington and Brad Hubbold making a significant impact. Hubbold, in particular, started to pull the strings and move the ball about efficiently.
We started to win headers, the second ball and tackles and Pickering began to realise that we were far better than our first half shadow boxing suggested.
It was game on.
The Pikes were pinned in their own half for long periods, but they were still two goals to the good with a quarter of an hour remaining. The occasional break from the home side could have sealed the win but, thankfully, Perks was narrowly wide of the mark with two efforts and thwarted a third time with a brave Robinson save.
At the Town end of the ground, Reds travelling supporters were urging the team on – becoming even more vociferous after a thumping Carroll volley brought the best out of Sam Riches.
Carroll then headed against the post with the rebound falling conveniently for the lurking Scott Allison who drove home the loose ball from six yards to extend his own impressive goal tally. He has now scored in each of the last eight seasons for Reds.
He was then involved in the build-up to the equaliser with Reuben Jerome netting his first competitive goal a minute later. Riches got a hand on the shot but not enough to keep the ball out and Reds were level.
And they came desperately close to completing the perfect comeback when Symington’s shot thumped the cross bar and bounced down the wrong side of the goal line.
A welcome point in the end and credit to the squad for showing such character after an ‘out-of-sorts’ first half display left the manager and the travelling support somewhat shell-shocked.
Pickering Town: Riches, Ord, Merris, Johnson, Watson, Clappison, Warrilow (Balderson, 82), Jowett, Perks (Morrison, 73), Brooksby, Barnes (Fergus, 67). Substitutes – Muggeson-Forbes, Dalton (not used).
Workington: Robinson, Clarke, Brockbank (Bowman, 75), Wordsworth, Smith, Casson (Hubbold, 46), Potts (Symington, 46), Carroll, Jerome, Allison, Tinnion. Substitutes – Kelly J, Holt (not used).
Referee: James Unwin, York
Bookings: Ord, Johnson (Pickering Town), Carroll (Workington)