That wonderful start to the season in late Summer seems a lifetime ago as Reds struggle through Autumn looking anything but promotion contenders.
This latest setback, a first home defeat in twenty seven league outings, was hard to take after a second half fade out. They had shown much promise in a first half they shaded but a ninety minute performance just isn’t in the locker at the moment.
Particularly after the break, Reds looked a team of individuals floundering against a very good Runcorn team.
We all know the reasons why but rectifying the situation won’t be easy and a free Saturday might be no bad thing at the moment.
Reds were behind inside three minutes following a needlessly conceded free kick which earned Rowan Roache a yellow card, the first of many issued by a flustered referee. In attempting to clear the danger, Sam Smith couldn’t direct his header and Ryan Brooke reacted quicker to the loose ball and forced home the opener from close range.
The hosts responded well and were level after five minutes. Conor Tinnion’s corner on the right did the damage with the perfect delivery headed home by Dan Wordsworth.
It prompted Reds’ best spell of the game and they got their noses in front mid-way through the half following another set piece routine. Roache was the corner taker on the opposite side of the pitch and he found Brad Carroll, with a deeper cross, who met the ball and swept it past Joe Young in one sweet movement.
Young then made the save of the match to keep out Tinnion’s brilliant side foot volley, preventing Reds going further ahead.
The visitors restored parity five minutes before the interval after a swift counter attack. The diminutive Iwan Murray broke away before laying on the perfect assist for Thomas Lloyd Marsh-Hughes who finished with aplomb.
Smith did have a goal-bound header cleared off the line before the break so it remained all square at half time.
The home side did attempt to up the tempo on the restart but it was short lived and the only noteworthy effort was Connor Gaul’s volley from distance which Young dealt with confidently.
Chris Willcock swapped his front three, like-for-like, but the trio who came on were three of those sidelined for weeks with injury and failed to make any impression on those well drilled green and yellow shirts.
As Workington visibly tired, Linnets found another gear and finished the stronger with two of their substitutes making an impact, unlike Reds replacements.
Oladapo Olarewaju gathered the ball on the right, cut inside then sent a low shot past Jim Atkinson to restore Runcorn’s lead. And the three well deserved points were assured when Rhain Hellawell scored the fourth, just, when the ball was eventually forced over the line with four minutes of normal time remaining.
The Linnets were on song but Reds were sadly out of tune, losing top spot in NPL West as a consequence!
Workington: Atkinson, Clarke, Charlton, Wordsworth, Smith, Rigg, Roache (Symington, 67), Carroll, Jerome (Allison, 65), Tinnion, Gaul (Evangelinos, 82). Substitutes – Harrison, Gooden (not used).
Runcorn Linnets: Young, Welsh, Short, Wylie, Gumbs, O’Mahony, Crilly (Olarewaju, 77), Lynch (Hayes, 60), Brooke, Murray, Marsh-Hughes (Hellawell, 64). Substitutes – Lindfield, Brown (not used).
Referee: Andy Sykes, Blackpool
Bookings: Roache, Gaul, Wordsworth, Tinnion (Workington), Welsh, Hellawell, Gumbs, Brooke, McIntyre (Runcorn Linnets).
Match photos: Ben Challis