Workington looked anything but promotion challengers when a disastrous week ended with a painful home defeat to a bright and vibrant Bootle outfit.
Their long unbeaten run, stretching back fourteen matches, came to a shuddering halt after an inept performance on home soil.
As Bootle registered a first ever win at Borough Park, not even the most biased Reds’ supporter could begrudge them what was a fully deserved victory.
After the impressive win at Leek a week earlier, Danny Grainger’s side were hoping to consolidate 3rd position with a decent return of points from two home matches. But they fell way short again and failed to score for the first time in fifteen outings.
Devoid of attacking flair and unable to break down a well drilled defence, Reds looked a pale shadow of the team that has climbed into a challenging position, amassing thirty-three points since their defeat at Macclesfield over three months ago.
They look a more potent outfit on the road than they do at Borough Park with the Bootle debacle the latest in a series of moderate displays in front of their own supporters.
The first half did little to lift the mood after Tuesday’s shortcomings with Bootle forcing Jim Atkinson into a couple of saves, a crisp shot from Ben Rydel and a close range effort from Jack McGowan. Reds’ solitary shot on target was a Scott Allison effort which Josh Ollerenshaw dealt with comfortably.
There was a hint of a potential penalty when Reuben Jerome appeared to be pushed from behind but, instead, the referee booked the Reds’ forward for simulation. Probably a good decision by the man in the middle after recent failings from the spot!
The tempo did improve in the second half and, without ever getting behind the Bootle back line, Reds were showing more adventure going forward.
But it was from an excellent counter attack by the visitors which almost produced the opening goal. Brazilian Nivaldo broke through with pace and guided his low shot against the post – much to the relief of the stranded Jim Atkinson and the Workington faithful.
Seven minutes from the end Bootle scored what proved to be the decider. Reds couldn’t get distance on a defensive header and, when the ball fell invitingly to McGowan, he volleyed an angled drive into the far corner of Atkinson’s net sparking celebrations amongst the substantial away support.
Keelan Leslie almost equalised with Reds’ first serious shot on target in the second half – in the 86th minute! He connected sweetly with the ball but Ollerenshaw, who picked up an injury in the first half but battled on bravely, dived full length to his left to prevent the substitute celebrating his maiden Workington goal.
It was too little, too late for Reds with the points already destined for Merseyside.
Workington: Atkinson, McCaragher, Birch, Wordsworth, Smith, Casson (Leslie, 66), Carroll, Allison (Nugent 66), Rigg, Jerome (Reilly, 80), Tinnion. Substitutes – Clarke, Moore (not used).
Bootle: Ollerenshaw, Roberts, Devine, Welsh, McCarten, Rydel, McGowan, Smart, Nivaldo (Owens, 82), Lomax-Jones (Hodkinson, 77), Clarke (Taylor, 65). Substitutes – Cooper, Wills (not used).
Referee: Andrew Daniels, Preston
Bookings: Smith, Casson, Jerome (Workington), Rydel, Clarke, Smart (Bootle)