Reds gave it everything, every last drop in the tank but it all ended in gallant failure and Marine progressed to Saturday’s NPL West Division play-off final.
It was an enthralling tussle between two great clubs and a typical ‘blood and thunder’ play-off encounter over one hundred and twenty fascinating minutes.
Marine twice came from behind and in Neil Kengni had a match winner. He scored a stunning hat-trick with cracking goals after twenty, ninety and ninety three minutes.
But it was his second goal that deflated the Workington faithful.
The fourth official had indicated there would be a minimum of five minutes added to the ninety on his improvised board.
But Kengi’s demoralising strike came a few seconds into the seventh minute of time added on to take the game into extra time, after relentless Marine pressure late in the game.
And then, with Workington players and supporters still reeling from that blow, Kengni netted the winner three minutes into extra time to cap a stunning match winning performance.
After the heartbreak of missing out on the title at the weekend, Reds showed commendable character so to be repeatedly hit by adversity in this game was cruel. It was more of a ‘percentage game’ than flowing football but, my goodness, they gave it everything and to see such pride mixed with unbelievable disappointment was hard to take.
The evening started well enough with Reds ahead after six minutes. Conor Tinnion’s harmless free-kick into the danger area was fumbled by Bayleigh Passant and Scott Allison reacted quicker than anyone else to toe-poke home the loose ball for the opener.
It was an advantage that lasted a quarter of an hour before Kengni equalised with a superb left-footed hooked volley. Reds were unable to clear the danger from a free kick and when the ball dropped towards the tricky front man he found the net following a touch of breathtaking skill.
All square at the break, Reds were back in front on the hour mark, again following a well worked set piece routine. A corner to the far post was kept alive with a towering Dan Wordsworth header and when the ball got back to earth Sam Smith swept home from close range.
Neither side created too much in the way of clear-cut chances after that but the bookings were coming thick and fast as both sides battled for supremacy.
With Reds nervously edging towards a hard fought win, Marine eventually got on top in the later stages. Kengni’s late, late equaliser epitomised Workington’s ill-fortune of late and gave the Crosby side an adrenalin boost second to none.
Again from the edge of the area, he found the target this time with a low shot which found a way through a sea of legs and beyond Jim Atkinson.
His winner in extra time could have been prevented but credit to the scorer for producing another sublime moment. With two Reds defenders scrambling to block his route to goal, Kengni feigned to go right but audaciously flicked the ball with his left foot to guide the ball past Atkinson.
Game, set and match ball!
Brave Reds kept going and in Wordsworth, Smith, Casson, Hubbold, Jerome and Tinnion they had warriors aplenty but Marine might have just shaded the overall individual battles with Dean Winnard, Mark Howarth, James Barrigan, Jack Dunn and, of course, Mr Kengni very impressive too.
Chris Willcock hadn’t been too praiseworthy of his squad at the weekend but said he was proud of their efforts over the two hours as they pushed themselves through the pain barrier.
Workington: Atkinson, Harrison, Clarke, Wordsworth, Smith (Fenwick,105), Casson, Symington, Hubbold (Rigg, 102), Jerome, Tinnion, Allison (Evangelinos, 77). Substitutes – Leslie, Lightfoot L (not used).
Marine: Passant, Solomon-Davies (Devine, 92), White, Howarth, Winnard, Clark (Watkinson, 77), Barrigan, Doyle, Reilly (Cummins, 77), Dunn, Kengni. Substitutes – Lynch, McMillan (not used).
Referee: Nikolas Storey, Altrincham
Bookings: Smith, Casson, Symington, Tinnion (Workington), Passant, White, Howarth, Clark, Barrigan, Watkinson (Marine).