Two makeshift teams served up an entertaining ninety minutes of football in the Fred Conway Cumberland Cup, with Workington twice coming from behind to maintain an interest in the competition.
United had to go for youth in their line-up, with just a sprinkling of senior players supplementing the team, whilst Reds gave a night off to Jim Atkinson, Dan Wordsworth, Conor Tinnion, David Symington, Scott Allison and Ceiran Casson.
And the outcome was just about right with Reds stronger at the finish, in terms of personnel, and United considerably weaker after the planned replacement of Ryan Edmondson and Ben Barclay.
It was end-to-end fare in a cracking first half with the hosts piecing together the first significant attack. Matty Clarke got free down the right and his cross towards the far post was met by fellow full-back, Keelan Leslie, only for a goal-bound header to be plucked out of the air by Michael Kelly.
And Kelly was involved again, soon after, diving to his left to keep out a low Lewis Reilly shot.
It had been a positive start from the hosts but they went behind after twelve minutes as Edmondson’s rehabilitation was given a boost. The centre forward ‘with a bit of everything’ cut in from the right and drove the ball home from an acute angle, adding to the two goals he scored in the same net back in pre-season.
Reilly went close with a free-kick at the other end and Steven Rigg’s header confirmed the search for an equaliser was on. Mason Hardy then picked out Edmondson with a pin-point cross but the downward header was pushed away by Danny Eccles at the expense of a corner.
Reds netted a fine equaliser after twenty-nine minutes through Obua Mugalula, who announced himself to the Reds’ supporters with a superb debut in the previous round, catching the eye once again. This time, a shot from distance appeared to loop over Kelly before nestling in the Derwent End net to restore parity.
The celebrations were cut short, though, with United back in front less than a minute later and, with VAR not yet introduced to the County Cup format, Reds’ appeals for an offside in the build-up were in vain. Hardy was too quick for the home defence, and the assistant referee, and finished superbly after a swift counter attack.
The quality of the goals was appreciated by both sets of fans and there was another to admire after thirty-four minutes. Rigg was revelling against his former club and his angled drive made it all square again.
He hit an even better shot next time he ventured forward with the ball whistling past Kelly only to thump the post and deflect to safety.
No side had control in the opening forty-five but it made for great entertainment.
As well as sharing four goals, the sides also forced six corners apiece.
The second half was more measured and Danny Grainger’s side looked the more effective with experience and nous getting the better of youthful exuberance.
They went on to win with a bit to spare and it was then about the side issues surrounding the game.
Ben Hughes, in his competitive debut, had a good run-out for forty five minutes and Brad Hubbold looked free of his calf injury as he completed an hour. And the likes of Clarke, Leslie, and the excellent Reilly and Rigg will certainly benefit from their first ninety-minute stints for weeks.
United, too, would be pleased that Edmondson and Ben Barclay came through sixty minutes unscathed as they edge closer to the first team roster.
And what about Kai Nugent? Currently on loan at Borough Park and with four excellent performances under his belt already, he reverted to United blue for the night and continued to impress.
Workington took the lead for the first time after sixty-seven minutes and, yes, it was another fine goal. Mugalula gathered the ball on the left and paused momentarily until his marker got in position. He then shuffled past him, sent over a cross into the danger zone where Reuben Jerome converted from close range.
The sixth goal of the evening, ten minutes from time, was also pleasing on the eye. Reilly applied the finish after Rigg’s headed assist and Reds were through to the semi-final and a home clash against Carlisle City.
Workington: Eccles, Clarke, Birch, Smith, Leslie, Farmer (McCaragher, 78), Hughes (Jerome, 46), Hubbold (Carroll, 59), Reilly, Rigg, Mugalula. Substitutes – Symington, Atkinson (not used).
Carlisle United: Kelly, Gordon, Robinson, Harris, Bell, Barclay (O’Brien, 60), Allan (Dixon, 75), Nugent, Edmondson (Park, 60), Hardy, Bollado. Substitutes – Hetherington, Breeze (not used).
Referee: Kevin Mulraine, Carlisle