If the spine of the side is solid there is a good chance of any team winning a football match and Workington’s strength was clear for all to see.
They had a capable deputy to absent Jim Atkinson in goal with Danny Eccles playing his part in this performance, the excellent duo of Kyle Harrison and Sam Smith in central defence, a versatile midfield trio led by the outstanding Brad Hubbold and a brave battling display from Steven Rigg leading the line.
And the only scare they experienced came in the fifty-fourth minute when Eccles was called upon to make a fantastic double save to preserve Reds’ slender lead.
Kyle Sambor broke through the inside right channel and looked certain to score but Eccles, making his league debut for the West Division leaders, blocked the shot. The ball rebounded to Liam Kennington but the Reds’ ‘keeper pulled off an identical save to earn applause from the travelling support and high-fives from relieved team mates.
Widnes may argue the outcome might have been different had either of those chances gone in but it was the only time they threatened to score throughout the regular ninety plus ‘five minutes of added time’.
Workington started brightly on their first ever visit to the DCBL stadium and had the ball in the net after just two minutes. But skipper Smith had strayed offside when rising to head home Connor Gaul’s free kick.
Gaul had become the tenth debutant in this ever-changing team with the eleventh, Louis Rowe, confined to a watching brief from the bench.
Reds created a second opportunity soon after thanks to Hubbold’s audacity. Defender River Humphreys was shepherding the ball out of play for a goal kick when he was cheekily disposed by Hubbold. He then rolled the ball into Rigg’s path but his well struck effort was charged down by the Widnes ‘keeper, Owen Wheeler.
Rigg had a second chance but a similar shot was blocked by a brave defensive challenge and a Smith volley was headed off the line as Reds won four corners in quick succession.
Kyle Harrison, previously with Widnes until recently, almost scored against his former employers but team mate Iyrwah Gooden appeared to clear the ball off the line.
But Reds play lost a bit of impetus in the final twenty minutes of the first half and Widnes, wasting time at every opportunity, nullified the flow of the game.
The hosts did have a sniff at goal late in the half but Sambor’s weak shot was easily gathered by Eccles.
Within a minute of the restart, Workington got their noses in front with a fine passage of play. Gaul did the spadework down the left before his perfectly timed pass released Ceiran Casson. He rounded Wheeler and despatched the ball confidently into the far corner of the net.
And that proved to be the winner, once Eccles pulled off that double save of course.
It was now Workington who were running down the clock at every opportunity and Widnes couldn’t find a way back into the contest – game management they call it these days!
Rigg’s performance probably deserved a goal but his third chance of the match was dealt with by Wheeler.
Reds couldn’t add a second and lowly Widnes looked incapable of scoring a first.
The game ended with one of the daftest bookings of the season, so far, with Matty Clarke collecting a yellow card for the most blatant time wasting incident over a throw-in.
Of more significance, though, was the fact that Reds came through this tough exercise on a very dry 4G surface with no further injuries and that, after the unprecedented challenge so far, is wonderful news for manager Chris Willcock.
Widnes Wheeler, Humphreys, Holden (Danquah, 66), Barrow (Magee, 86), Hampson, Makinson, Kennington, Hajdari, Sambor, Steele, Jennings (Watters, 66). Substitutes – Burke, Wright (not used).
Workington Eccles, Clarke, Charlton, Harrison, Smith, Casson, Gooden (Lawrence, 86), Hubbold, Rigg, Marshall, Gaul (Bowman, 78). Substitutes – Leslie, Rowe, Lightfoot C (not used).
Referee Liam Corrigan
Bookings Barrow (Widnes), Clarke (Workington)