Two goals in stoppage time got Danny Grainger’s team over the line but the manager admitted the late drama had aged him considerably and, whilst it was brilliant for the team and the supporters, was not good for his personal health!
Trailing to Jamie Rainford’s well taken goal from the thirty-third minute, Workington showed tremendous character to turn this game in their favour, albeit so late in the day.
Grainger again had to shuffle the squad and, apart from the three long term absentees, regular starters Jim Atkinson and David Symington were unavailable whilst Sam Smith, Reuben Jerome and Scott Allison were far from 100% in fitness terms.
Allison defied the pain barrier and gave forty-five minutes to the cause whilst Smith and Jerome battled through the full game making telling contributions throughout.
So, a nervous start from the hosts wasn’t a great surprise and they were clearly second best to an in-form Linnets for the opening twenty minutes or so. They were actually getting a foothold in the game when Runcorn went ahead but the resilience they displayed in the early stages stood them in good stead.
Danny Eccles was busy from the off and had to deal with three Runcorn efforts, the block to deny Dapo Olarewaju probably the most important of his saves. James Hooper, looked good in the green and yellow hoops of his new club, and gave an efficient display on his return to Borough Park. A free kick from his trusted left foot drifted wide of the target.
Allison had twice gone close for Reds as they recovered from a shaky start – his first effort, after good play from Matty Clarke, drifted wide of the post, his second was blocked after Jerome created the opening.
It was a blow, therefore, to concede first. Rainford latched on to a searching through ball and, with home defenders appealing for an offside decision that wasn’t given, finished with aplomb, adding to the match winner he scored at Borough Park last month.
An inviting Conor Tinnion cross from the left might have led to an equaliser just before half time but Lewis Reilly’s header was comfortably dealt with by Danny Taberner.
The second half was almost one-way traffic towards the Derwent End but Runcorn were dealing with a Workington attack that lacked a cutting edge.
Linnets even survived a natural storm as horizontal rain battered into their faces but under the glow of a perfect rainbow – the Cumbrian equivalent to the Wembley Arch – Reds found their pot of gold at the end.
And a moment of indiscipline probably cost Linnets their grip on the game. Louis Hayes had only been on the pitch for six minutes when a lunging tackle towards Smith was considered ‘dangerous’ by the referee and the substitute was shown a red card.
Smith saw one effort saved by the busy Taberner and a Jerome effort rebounded off the post as the hosts tried to take advantage of the numerical advantage.
Runcorn, who arrived on the back of an impressive unbeaten run, dealt with most of the eight second half corners Reds had won but Bobby Carroll’s in-swingers from the left were causing problems.
Indeed, Jordan Palmer, probably the smallest player in the area, got a vital touch to one such cross and the home crowd went delirious with their heroes saving the game with that ninetieth minute leveller.
But there was more excitement to come as Workington then grabbed a ‘five o’clock winner’. Palmer turned provider on this occasion and his cross into the danger area was swept home by Smith, with his less favoured right foot, for the latest of late winners.
Spirit, character and determination secured three deserved points but the passion, from both sides, boiled over after the final whistle and the referee pulled out his red card for a second time with a member of the Runcorn coaching staff the recipient.
Workington: Eccles, Clarke, Birch, Wordsworth, Smith, Casson (Carroll, 58), Rigg, Allison (Leslie, 46), Reilly (Palmer, 68), Jerome, Tinnion. Substitutes – Mahone, Moran (not used).
Runcorn Linnets: Taberner, Brown, Gumbs, Doyle, O’Mahony, Heathcoate, Olarewaju (Hayes, 79), Sanogo-Fofana, Rainford, Brooke, Hooper (Clarke, 66). Substitutes – Turner, Moore, Roberts (not used).
Referee: Sam Parnaby, Bishop Auckland
Bookings: Rigg (Workington), Brooke, Doyle (Runcorn Linnets)
Red cards: Hayes and Phillips (Runcorn Linnets)