The Reds greeted 2022 with an important victory against one of their promotion-seeking rivals, completing a league double over them in the process.
They emerged deserved winners in a closely fought encounter with free-scoring Clitheroe unable to find a way through the host’s watertight defence. Indeed, the visitors were restricted to just two clear-cut opportunities – one in each half – but both were squandered.
Workington were guilty of wasting some great chances too but, significantly, grabbed a well taken set-piece goal in the first half to secure three valuable points.
In front of the best league attendance for six years, Reds were impressive starters.
David Symington, who played so well in the first meeting back in August, was prominent throughout and a constant thorn in their side. An early free-kick from Reds’ number seven was fumbled by Clitheroe’s Chris Thompson but the ‘keeper saved brilliantly to block Connor Gaul’s close range follow-up.
It was Symington, again, who brought the best out of Thompson. Charging down the left he cut inside and sent a ferocious strike goal-wards which the acrobatic Thompson turned over for a corner. Steven Rigg headed wide from the subsequent flag kick.
But the breakthrough came in the seventeenth minute with Symington providing the assist. His curling free-kick was drifting away from the ‘keeper and Clitheroe’s ‘six-footers’ before Sam Smith timed his run and connection perfectly to volley home what proved to be the winner.
A flowing move culminated in Gaul directing his effort the wrong side of the upright.
Clitheroe’s best chances of the first half fell to former Workington players, Cole Lonsdale and Ben McKenna, and a player, Sefton Gonzales, they have tried to sign in the past. Lonsdale sent his angled free kick high over the bar, McKenna was clean through but couldn’t get a significant touch to guide the ball past Jim Atkinson whilst the Clitheroe captain headed narrowly wide at the far post.
There was an extraordinary start to the second half with a melee in the Workington area resembling a phase of play from a rugby union fixture. Some heroic defending, bodies smothering the ball and general bravery epitomised Workington’s commitment to preserve the clean sheet but Ross Dent eventually toe-poked a shot towards goal which Atkinson gathered on the line.
Symington saw another free-kick comfortably gathered by Thompson, Rigg headed Gaul’s centre over the bar, McKenna’s weak shot was on target but didn’t seriously test Atkinson and Symington thundered a shot from an acute angle against the Clitheroe crossbar.
But the best opportunity of the second half fell to Clitheroe substitute, Max Cane, only for the unmarked youngster to stab the ball wide from close range.
Matters became a little feisty in the later stages and deep into stoppage there was a kerfuffle in the centre of pitch after Dent and Dan Wordsworth went fully committed into a 50/50 challenge. Clitheroe’s Dent was adjudged to have fouled Wordsworth and whilst the latter received treatment to a gashed knee, the Clitheroe midfielder was shown a red card.
Warrior Wordsworth and the more cultured Smith were magnificent at the heart of Reds defence but the other nine starters played their part too as Clitheroe’s miserable record against the west Cumbrians continued.
Workington: Atkinson, Harrison, Clarke, Wordsworth, Smith, Casson, Symington, Hubbold, Rigg, Tinnion, Gaul. Substitutes – Lawrence, Gooden, Bowman, Howarth, Eccles (not used).
Clitheroe: Thompson, Edwards, Lonsdale, Baker (Cane, 66), Burrows, Priestley, Cummings (Connelly, 80), Wilkins, Gonzales, Dent, McKenna. Substitutes – Jeanne, Sloane, Hodds (not used).
Referee: Sam Parnaby, Bishop Auckland
Bookings: Symington, Wordsworth, Tinnion, Gaul (Workington), Wilkins, Priestley, Lonsdale (Clitheroe).
Red card: Dent (Clitheroe, 90 minutes)