Workington AFC 1 County 1 : Conference North 20.8.2013
Ah.....Workington..... it`s not the place that immediately springs to mind when thinking of where to go!
County`s last visit was back in 1977, the season that Workington(then Town) took their leave of the Football League, but I wasn`t there and cannot report on the experience. Go back almost 2000 years and the Romans were in the vicinity. I wasn`t there for that fixture either, but can report that they built a fort, to keep the Scoti out, and promptly left when the chill Cumbrian air got too much for them. Then there was James I ( circa 1603) who built a dungeon and had as many as 100 poor souls at a time imprisoned therein in a space of no more than 5 square metres. Unsurprisingly there is no documentation in existence to tell us just what the eventual fate was of the many hundreds so confined. We just do not know what happened to them!
Much the same might be said of County in the first half last night as they struggled to make an impression in a game in which they were a touch fortunate to go in only one down at the break.
Workington had been first to the ball more often than not, and used it decidedly better upon getting possession. Their set pieces were particularly good, one such bringing them their goal, and County looked in for a drubbing in the second half to me, despite having the wind in their favour! It did not quite shape up like that fortunately, and after an opportune goal from Iain Howard had levelled the scores, County grew in confidence fully justifying the point in the end which was accompanied by a warm ovation from the large County following in the crowd of 563.
Top men for County? Well.... there were one or two this time thankfully-first 45 minutes notwithstanding- the whole back line looked better equipped to keep us afloat last night with the pairing of Charnock and my M.O.M Fagbola growing in confidence as the game progressed, with Jacobs and O`Halloran likewise on the flanks. I was surprised when Howard was substituted, and so was he, but his replacement Adriano Moke was a revelation with his pacy skilful runs. Workington couldn`t get near him except to foul him! But that first half was not great and we need to do better in this respect with the likes of Hand, who had a poor game, Craney , Verma and Jevons needing to do better than most. Ormson meanwhile did but still had his moments of indecision and King must be champing at the proverbial bit on the sidelines!
Sure enough there was a cool breeze about the Borough Stadium as I took up position near the half way line after consuming possibly the best meat and potato pie I have ever been served with- it was a belter, a very spicy rascal indeed! The team news was mixed in that there was only one change from Saturday`s debacle, that of Iain Howard for Tunnicliffe who was on the bench. I was disappointed to again to see that Turner did not start, and neither did Moke who had looked so lively when coming on against Boston. But I took solace from the fact that we lined up with 4 at the back- a welcome sight after Saturday`s blunder filled dalliance with a back three.
A reasonably lively period of play opened proceedings, with Jonathan Mitchell, the home keeper, putting pressure on County first off by sending a long kick deep into County territory. Hand and Dennis saw this off, and Howard did his best to punish the Cumbrians on the break only to find Dan Wordsworth on the spot to deny him as he tried to cut inside from the by-line.
Then the game swung again via Ben McKenna ,whose nippy run down the right needed a neat bit of work from Jordan Fagbola to see him off.
It was early doors, but already County looked slower getting to the ball and this was likely to prove expensive if Workington`s forwards were in anything like decent form. We were about to test this assertion out as Hand conceded the first of a multitude of fouls as Workington broke up field following an abortive County corner. Wordsworth lifted the ball into the box neatly, but despite no challenge coming in from the County defence, McKenna failed to test Ormson with his shot.
Just like Saturday. County`s game seemed error strewn, and Hand produced a real lulu when trying in vain to clear his lines- the ball went instead to Mc Kenna who thankfully failed to pick out a team mate with his cross.
I took comfort from this....perhaps Workington were not going to give us the testing game that I had anticipated? But.... no sooner had Dennis seen a nippy run ended with the liner`s flag( offside apparently!), than County`s evening took a turn for the worse as yet another free kick was conceded , and this one was just outside the box. With every blue and white shirt bar Dennis back in the box to defend the situation, I was tempted to come over all complacent- I was wrong, and when McKenna lifted the deftest of kicks onto Kyle May`s head and no challenge came back from County, he caressed it on its way into the net with the lightest of touches ,and the point was fully emphasised and County were one down- their absentee defending having been punished to the full!
Could County respond?
Well.....yes.....but Craney`s shot lacked conviction and Mitchell was not unduly troubled.
It was beginning to shape up like Saturday at this point as Fagbola did well to usher a decent cross from McKenna out, and Jacobs did good work under pressure, but the best work, so far, came from Charnock who had to police the on-rushing Jonathan Wright out of the danger zone as he tried to latch onto a through ball in the box. That was the 20th minute and the 23rd saw a repeat...same personnel...same action....same result.
A corner followed on from this and again County piled every man they could back into the box. It was no more effective a tactic as it had been previously as Wright helped himself to another free header despite the mass of blue/white shirts in the vicinity. The header missed out, but not by that much and, just like Saturday, County needed to tighten up quickly or the nippy home forwards would make them pay!
The blues also needed to take their opportunities when they presented themselves, but when Jacobs was fouled by Anthony Wright, Hand totally failed to follow McKenna`s example, instead disappointing us by lumping a desperately poor kick out of play.
Workington were altogether better with a free kick that came their way not long after and it took good work from Fagbola to keep it at 0-1 with Jonathan Wright threatening. A corner followed and with Ormson back momentarily in a sort of nether world of indecision, things looked good for our hosts as the lively Lee Andrews headed the corner back across the box when County failed to attack the ball. Jonathan Wright met it but his shot was charged down allowing County to eventually work the ball clear.
It was beginning to look like County might just concede a goal again soon and matters were not improved by Hand who, having been presented with another free kick, for another foul by Anthony Wright this time on Dennis, promptly whacked it beyond everyone out of play again!
That was poor and must have encouraged Workington who, driven on by McKenna and Stephen Hindmarch, pushed County back on their heels for a time.
County did break out, on 35 minutes, but Howard`s shot on the turn was deflected for a corner which Jonathan Wright headed clear. Dennis`s follow up effort cleared the bar and, from the goal kick, Workington had it on the break through Jonathan Wright who had the drop on County! He also looked offside but the liner`s flag stayed down so it looked like County were in it deep and no mistake as the forward surged on. As I say....it looked all over 0-2, but somehow Wright`s shot cannoned off Ormson to David Lynch who had two tries to force it home – both failures!
Half time was in sight now and high time for a reply from County, and with a couple of minutes remaining of the half it came via Jacobs whose incisive cross field ball reached Jevons inside the box. In a flash his sluggish form from earlier was banished from memory as he turned to strike a shot goal ward. It was a decent effort but Mitchell was equal to it and dived upwards and backwards to tip the ball up and over the bar!
A decent corner followed and an equally good header from Fagbola , but County`s luck was out and Mitchell once more emerged with the ball!
If I was congratulating County for starting to revive a bit, I quickly recanted though, as a neat through ball from McKenna sent Gavin Skelton dashing clear with not a challenge in sight. It was a chance, or appeared to be, but only briefly as Ormson was on hand to make a save and keep it at 0-1.
Workington kept the pressure on through Skelton who made good progress down the right, before passing inside to Lynch who brought another save from Ormson with his shot.
The half ended with County threatening to implode again as Hand contrived to concede a free kick just outside the box. This was alarmingly central as McKenna emerged to take it once again, and a mini Groundhog Day enfolded before our eyes as McKenna caressed the kick upwards and onwards to Lynch. Again no challenge followed only a header from Lynch and County were distinctly fortunate to see the ball strike someone on the line before going safely out of play.
I did not greatly fancy our chances as the second half started with the same personnel on view for County, but within a couple of minutes a re-think was maybe on the cards as Dennis was played in down the left after some neat work from O`Halloran and Verma. The Workington defence had him covered, most specifically Andrews and Wordsworth, but the ex Ashton goal machine managed to slip the ball inside to Howard ,who was in Mitchell`s face in a flash. It looked a chance and then it didn`t because the keeper blocked Howard`s first try with some part of his body. Chance gone?....not a bit of it because Howard roused himself from the horizontal to stab the ball home in magnificent fashion! This was altogether better and County`s general play seemed to have an added zip about it now, no doubt the product of some kind words from IB at the break.
That said...Ormson had to make a good stop as the first half`s old habits momentarily crept in again, but that was hopefully just an brief aberration, and maybe we would press on for a much wanted win.
Dennis certainly did his share of pressing, but as he darted clear onto Jacobs` through ball, the far side liner`s flag told us that he was offside- and I did my best to believe him!
McKenna was still the main threat for Workington, but County`s reactions were now more as they should be, and Fagbola dealt with the final ball with confident aplomb.
Was this fresh impetus down to Bogies words?.........the wind that was now to their backs or what? I pondered whether us training 3 times a week against the average of 2 managed by most of the rest in Conference North and wondered whether this was the factor. It`s true that we improved late on ,on Saturday, but then we truly needed to after what had gone down before.
The juries out I think on that one, but it was good to see County battling for and winning possession now so inquests could be left for later.
Again County surged forward and once more it was Dennis doing the surging through the middle. He was past the remnants of the home back line in a trice –Wordsworth and co thought he was offside ,but he wasn`t and it was brown trouser time for him and his mates as Dennis took aim. The shot was blocked but the ball ran clear to Craney who looked ideally placed to leather the ball home. He did...he did....but he needed that extra touch...the odd moment or two more and the shot never came because eventually the cover did!
There was still a need for vigilance from County as Workington were by no means convinced that they could not snatch this one ,and O`Halloran did excellent work when under heavy pressure from Andrews and Conor Tinnion . Ormson too needed to be on his toes and he did well to snatch the ball from Jonathan Wright as he was played in down the middle.
With the defence now coping with the threat from the home forwards, and with Dennis`s pace a growing factor, the moves began to flow from the blues as Workington were pushed further and further back into their last third.
It took 2 men to stop Howard down the left and the ex Chester man combined really well with Hand and the ever solid O`Halloran to set another chance up. It fell to Craney however and again he failed to execute a shot before the cover closed the path to goal down. He did slightly better a minute or so later, getting a shot in this time, but this went wide and was another real disappointment being on the end of something of a neat move.
Turner was on by this point as both teams took a turn at going for the winner. County were still looking the more likely lads though, and even more so as Jacobs threaded a nice ball into Dennis`s path deep in the home half. No selfish shot from Dennis...he saw someone better placed than himself inside and picked him out with the minimum of fuss, but the man was Craney who again dwelt just long enough on the ball to allow Workington to recover- chance gone!
We were into the last 15 minutes now and County were still doing their best to get those extra 2 points to take home with them. Dennis was in the van again going really close with a magic strike on goal that Mitchell just did not see coming through a forest of legs in the box- it missed the target, but not by much!
Moke came on for Howard next, which surprised me and him, as I said earlier, but any dismay was short lived as Adriano`s brilliant play had an immediate impact setting up a chance for Verma. The shot climbed over the bar but there seemed endless possibilities should Moke continue in this vein!
And he did slipping past Dom Kennedy as if he wasn`t there, on 80 minutes, only being stopped by determined work by Wordsworth. On he went...setting Craney up with a chance ( not taken)and then O`Halloran who was unlucky to see his shot just carry the bar.
This was good stuff and Craney joined in, after good work from Verma and Moke, threading a neat pass into Turner`s path in the box. Rhy`s pace looked to have it, but Wordsworth had other ideas and a decent block saw the danger averted!
All this time, County had to be watchful at the back as Workington had an eye on hitting them on the break, and Fagbola looked well able to sort this element out getting some decisive clearances in under pressure!
Mostly though it was County attacking as, with 5 minutes left, Turner linked up with Moke to send him darting clear down the left. Again Workington looked decidedly stretched so Tinnion took one for the team and took Moke`s legs for good measure. He was booked, but, as I say, he took it for his mates, and when Hand`s free kick found no takers in the box the enterprise had been worthwhile!
It went on with County pressing still......Kennedy hooking a cross from Dennis out from in front of goal......Wordsworth just managing to keep Dennis from a decent through ball by Verma- even Fagbola joined in –his glancing header from Craney`s corner was pretty good as well, but just missed out much to our disappointment.
It was one way traffic now with Mitchell doing well to keep a Dennis strike out, and both Fagbola and O`Halloran again unlucky with close range headers.
A late flurry from Workington offered the home specs a brief moment or two of hope, but County held out well enough and a valuable point was theirs!
Off to Alty on Saturday next, so see you there...the Flyer takes off at 1.15, picking up 1.30 outside the Telescope Shop ( £6 / £4 )
County Line up;
Ormson, Jacobs, Fagbola, Charnock, O`Halloran, Verma, Hand, Craney, Jevons ( Turner 65), Dennis, Howard ( Moke 75).
Subs not used:
King, Tunnicliffe, Windsor
Workington line up:
Mitchell, Andrews, A Wright,May, Wordsworth, Skelton, Hindmarch, Lynch, J Wright, McKenna, Tinnion.
Attendance : 563