Workington’s best performance of the season was to no avail as they made their exit from the FA Cup after a controversial finish to their First Round Qualifying tie at Shields’ 1st Cloud Arena.
They were deservedly 2-1 ahead after matching and, for long periods of the game, outplaying their hosts and within three minutes of causing one of the shocks of the day.
But it all unravelled in a feisty finish as the Mariners substitute Michael Woods netted twice, either side of the ninety minutes mark, to break Workington hearts.
It was South Shields eighty-seventh minute equaliser that saw the game turn sour with Workington aggrieved by a perceived touch of bad sportsmanship. Reds’ goalkeeper, Jim Atkinson, knocked the ball out of play to receive attention for an injury but the Cumbrians mentally switched off when play resumed.
They obviously expected Shields to return the ball to a Workington player but, instead, they threw to a maroon shirt, took advantage of a bemused defence and scored what was effectively an ‘unopposed’ goal.
There is nothing in the laws of the game covering the situation but football etiquette suggests Shields should have returned the ball to their opponents instead of taking advantage of the situation.
All the composure Workington had showed in abundance to that point disintegrated immediately and, when a draw looked the next best outcome, they imploded completely conceding a stoppage time winner.
Buoyed by a fourth minute goal, Reds were imperious in the first half playing the passing football that Danny Grainger has instilled into them during his tenure. They toyed with Shields at times moving the ball about smoothly and efficiently in all areas of the pitch.
Yes, it is risk football at times, Grainger is the first to acknowledge that, but Workington, probably for the first time this season, showed no fear and made Shields look so ordinary with their neat passing, possession and movement.
David Symington registered the first shot on target but his superb angled drive was spectacularly tipped over the bar by Myles Boney. Symington took the subsequent corner, Dan Wordsworth flicked the ball on at the near post and there was Lewis Reilly to convert his first goal of the season from six yards.
They comfortably held on to that lead for almost forty minutes before Martin Smith grabbed an equaliser two minutes before the interval. He collected the ball just inside the Workington half, advanced a little too easily towards goal before releasing a crisp low shot from the edge of the area that left Atkinson helpless.
And it was Atkinson who featured prominently in the early stages of the second half, first of all picking up a yellow card for time wasting but then preventing two certain goals with a couple of magnificent saves thwarting Sam Hodgson on each occasion.
Reilly had a great chance to restore Reds’ lead but sent his shot narrowly over the top and then Keelan Leslie wasted another decent opportunity from an acute angle.
The Cumbrians regained the lead after seventy-four minutes and a fine goal it was too. Skipper Conor Tinnion, who scored on his previous appearance on this ground, twisted and weaved himself into a good crossing position before accurately picking out Wordsworth who headed past Boney, sending the Workington faithful into raptures.
Reilly had another shot saved as Workington pressed forward, Smith was denied at the other end as Shields countered.
Then we had the controversial conclusion with Woods scoring the hotly contested second three minutes from the end. And, before Reds could regain any sense of stability, Woods struck again in the stoppage time and Shields had completed a comeback which hadn’t looked likely ten minutes earlier.
After their dismal performances over the Bank Holiday weekend, Reds restored their pride with an eye-catching display. For victory to be snatched from their grasp was cruel and certainly pricked the conscience of sections of the home crowd and, whisper it, some of the Shields players!
South Shields: Boney, Newton, Doherty, Bodenham, Morse, Smith M, Heaney, McGowan (Woods, 51), Hodgson, Briggs, Alessandra (Mottley-Henry, 64). Substitutes – Lukeman, Liddle, McGeorge (not used).
Workington: Atkinson, Clarke, Leslie (Birch, 72), Wordsworth, Smith S, Casson, Symington, Allison (Rigg, 64), Reilly (Hooper, 82), Jerome, Tinnion. Substitutes – Moran, Palmer, Lightfoot, Paden-Gale (not used).
Referee: David Holmes
Bookings: Clarke, Atkinson, Wordsworth, Rigg (Workington)
Corner count: 7 – 8