Workington played three ‘get out of gaol cards’ to finish sensational winners in a dramatic Cumberland Cup tie, just as the West Lancashire League outfit were about to pull off a notable victory.
With two minutes of extra time remaining, Reds trailed 4-2 with Whitehaven having all but one toe in the Second Round. Then three goals from Reuben Jerome guided the hosts to the most unlikely win with strikes after 118, 120 and 121minutes, with the latter coming from a last-gasp penalty.
It was a heart-breaking finish for an excellent Whitehaven side, pure relief for Reds.
There was no hint of what was to come in a mundane first half, which Workington edged, and the higher ranked side were sneaking towards a narrow win until they conceded a last minute penalty.
Ben Powell blasted home from to spot to make it 2-2, taking the match into an additional thirty minutes.
And that was when Whitehaven had their best spell, scoring two great goals and coming ever so close to causing an upset.
Reds were hoping to give some much needed game time to a quintet of first team players and whilst Brad Carroll, Rowan Roache, Nic Evangelinos and Jerome all came through unscathed, Dav Symington hobbled off after twenty five minutes, shaking his head in frustration.
Symington had a couple of efforts at goal, Carroll did too, while Roache and Jerome saw efforts sail over the bar.
But it was Whitehaven who took the lead with a bizarre goal after thirty five minutes. Owen Woodburn’s cross from the right flank deceived home ‘keeper Danny Eccles and the ball looped into the net.
They almost added a second when Bobby Carter headed over an inviting cross from the outstanding Mally Holliday.
If Woodburn’s goal was unintentional, Roache’s equaliser was quite deliberate. His measured lob from all of thirty yards was quite special and brought Reds back on terms four minutes before the interval.
And another wonder strike from distance saw Reds take the lead six minutes after the restart. Jerome spotted Tom Fowler off his line and a driven chip from the centre circle appeared to have cleared the former Workington ‘keeper and was dipping under the bar. Fowler parried the ball then smothered it and was adamant he had completed the save but the eagle-eyed assistant referee signalled that the ball had crossed the line.
Kian Goulding should have levelled matters when he intercepted a stray ball and raced through unchallenged only to drag his shot wide and was then unlucky when a good header drifted inches wide of the target.
Reds were limping towards the finish when James Bell tangled with Josh Green to concede a last minute penalty. Ben Powell, who certainly made an impact after his introduction to the game, drove home confidently from the spot.
That late goal took the wind out of Workington’s sails and boosted Whitehaven’s confidence who were the better side for much of extra time. They got back in front after ninety seven minutes with Woodburn scoring his second, a sublime clever dink over Eccles and it was no more than they deserved.
An even better goal made it 4-2 in their favour in the second half of extra time with Ben Powell applying a great near post finish to a cross from the left.
Surely they had done enough to win but credit to Reds’ youngsters who battled to the end. Things weren’t going to plan and, despite his first half goal, it had been a frustrating night for Jerome.
He had been booked for a rash challenge on Holliday and cut a frustrated figure as he searched for fitness and form.
But once the service improved into the area in the last few minutes, a match winner emerged and his quality was plain to see.
His second goal of the night may have looked like a late consolation but a clever close range finish via Aidan Howarth’s assist was the catalyst for two more. He then completed his hat-trick with good control and an emphatic finish as the clock passed the 120 minute mark.
And he looked the coolest man in the ground when he stepped up to convert that late, late penalty.
Bell atoned for conceding the penalty at the other end with a surging run that resulted in a spot-kick in Reds favour so credit to him for coming through that personal ordeal.
Whitehaven deserve the plaudits for their efforts over two hours but the night, and the match ball, belonged to Mr Jerome.
Take a bow Reuben.
Workington: Eccles, Howarth, Whitehead, Butterworth, Skinner, Bell, Symington (Houghton, 25), Carroll (Burns, 46), Jerome, Roache (Evangelinos, 46), Lightfoot (Hambling, 97). Substitute – Hubbold (not used).
Whitehaven: Fowler (Carter, 75), Green, Reid, Harrison, Benson (Fyfe, 60), Holliday, Goulding, Carter S (Pears S, 105), Powell T, Carter B (Powell B, 67), Woodburn. Substitute – Coulter (not used).
Referee: Kevin Mulraine, Carlisle
Bookings: Jerome, Burns (Workington)