Danny Grainger blamed himself for this stuttering performance against the NPL West Division’s bottom club.
“It was my fault entirely. I changed the system and the personnel and it didn’t work. I should have stuck to my guns and gone with the tried and tested formula”, declared a clearly frustrated soul minutes after the final whistle.
But Grainger was far too critical of himself – systems don’t win or lose matches, they just help to do that, and the players, who Grainger trusts to a man, have to shoulder a modicum of responsibility.
Having said that, some things are just not meant to be and the signs that a home win might not be the given everyone expected were evident throughout this most frustrating ninety minutes.
Grainger had already lost top scorer, David Symington, before kick-off, Brad Hubbold hobbled out of the game with just eight minutes on the clock, Sam Smith also withdrew from the action early in the second half and, apart from two penalties, Workington squandered enough chances to have won comfortably.
And we haven’t even mentioned Ramsbottom yet. They belied their lowly position with a spirited performance and, had they shown more composure in the final third, could easily have recorded their first ever win at Borough Park.
Debutant goalkeeper, Tom Wooster, also played his part for Rammy with the seventeen year old Manchester United Academy product enjoying a fine stint between the posts, sixty five years after Harry Gregg was prowling the same area for Matt Busby’s pre-Munich heroes.
Wooster denied Scott Allison when the latter looked a certain scorer early in the game then saved Lewis Reilly’s last-gasp penalty and the follow-up too. In between, he made several other key saves and handled superbly from a series of crosses and corners.
Allison was again the focus of attention at the end of an even first half. He placed the ball on the spot after the referee had awarded a penalty following Michael Fitzgerald’s foul on Reuben Jerome inside the area. It seemed a bit on harsh on Fitzgerald after what appeared a more blatant spot-kick earlier in the build-up had been missed.
But Allison, who has been in great form recently, dragged his shot wide of Wooster’s left-hand post as the first half finished goalless.
The hosts resumed with a bit more tempo to the game and their luck took a turn for the better in the fifty-third minute. Lewis Reilly’s deflected shot was looping towards the goal but the back-pedalling Wooster managed to claw the ball away but only into the path of Steven Rigg. Despite the acute angle, Rigg was able to head the ball home from close range.
But the lead was short-lived and Lee Donafee’s side were level less than three minutes later. Henri Ogunby was being chased into the area by Matty Clarke but Dan Wordsworth, arriving as cover, appeared to trip the lively attacker and the referee awarded a second penalty of the evening.
Fitzgerald, the left fullback who conceded the first spot-kick, confidently converted with his right foot – redemption for him!
It could have got worse for Reds. Tony Donaldson and Ramoy McNair got through on goal and Jim Atkinson saved from the former with his legs then stretched to catch the latter’s attempted lob.
Workington were flat for a spell but they finished strongly and forced half a dozen corners in quick succession, to no avail. Luke Barlow, Will Hall and Wooster were in no mood to concede.
It got a bit desperate at times and Rammy’s Oscar Radcliffe was sent off in the eighty-seventh minute after being shown a second yellow card.
There was still time for the referee to award Workington a second penalty, deep into stoppage time after Allison had been felled from behind.
With Allison having to leave the field after his treatment, Reilly grabbed the ball for the chance to give Reds the victory they hardly deserved. He drove the ball firmly but Wooster blocked the ball and it rebounded to Reilly. His follow-up header lacked power and the goalkeeper saved it again, earning Rammy a well-deserved point.
Workington: Atkinson, Clarke (Leslie, 69), Birch, Wordsworth, Smith (McCaragher, 59), Hubbold (Carroll, 8), Allison, Rigg, Reilly, Jerome, Tinnion. Substitutes – Moore, Casson (not used).
Ramsbottom United: Wooster, Radcliffe, Fitzgerald, Lugsden, Barlow, Hall, Jennings (Shannon, 66), Collinge, McNair, Donaldson, Ogunby (Hasler-Cregg, 77). Substitutes – Marshall-King, Campbell, Turner (not used).
Referee: Scott Henry, Carlisle
Bookings: Carroll, McCaragher (Workington), McNair, Radcliffe, Lugsden, Donaldson (Ramsbottom United).
Red card (two yellows): Radcliffe (Ramsbottom United).