Workington Town took giant steps forward in 2010
Last updated at 20:51, Thursday, 06 January 2011
Hope springs eternal – and that is what Workington Town fans should feel going into the 2011 season, following a much improved showing in 2010.
Nobody predicted that the team were going to be world- beaters but what they did prove was that they are certainly battlers.
Under the guidance of Gary Charlton and Martin Oglanby, Workington came out fighting, with displays that allowed them to hit their target of the Championship One play-offs.
There were some bumps along the road but there were also some highlights – one of which had to be the superb display put on at league winners Hunslet, in front of the Sky TV cameras.
Many people had written Town off before this game and were predicting how many points the March brothers would inflict on the club, in front of a large viewing audience.
Even the Sky pundits were less than glowing in their predictions before the game kicked off but they were made to eat their words by the final whistle.
Although Town still lost the game, what they gained was a large dose of pride and a boost in public opinion. No longer would they be taken for granted.
They took the game to Hunslet in every department and nearly left their hosts with egg on their faces – and certainly left players wary of taking on Aussie star Jarrad Stack in the boxing ring.
It was a true display of grit and determination, which summed up the small squad’s battle to stay in contention.
The year began well with a win in the opening Northern Rail Cup encounter with Gateshead but then a loss to Keighley and a heartbreakingly narrow home defeat at the hands of Swinton left fans a little despondent.
But Town had the perfect answer to kick-start their season and win back the fans right up their sleeve – and it came at Derwent Park when neighbours Whitehaven came to visit.
On paper, this should have been a clear cut win to Haven but nobody told the Workington players that and they produced a great performance to stun their old rivals and gain revenge for their festive drubbing in the Ike Southward Memorial clash just weeks before.
Newly paired half-backs Liam Finch and Scott Kaighan did much of the damage as they directed proceedings, capitalising on every slip-up from Haven, with the backs proving crucial on the day as they won 22-14, earning a standing ovation from a delighted Town faithful.
But a couple of weeks later and hope was not flowering as they went down in their opening Championship One game at newcomers South Wales and then suffered a 74-0 beating from Featherstone in the Challenge Cup.
But yet again they dusted themselves down and hit back with a victory over a resurgent York at Derwent Park and by the end of the month they were sitting pretty in second place.
There were mixed fortunes through the early stages but even the defeats were close, Town picking up bonus points on regular occasions and victory agonisingly slipping just out of their grasp – leaving Charlton and Oglanby tearing out their hair over individual errors that ultimately cost points.
But the signing of Darren Holt in May proved inspirational as the wily veteran half-back gave Town the spark they were looking for.
He led the side round the field, with some pivotal kicking displays, and proved that he was still well up to the task.
Added to that, the coaches also strengthened their forward pack with the addition of Ryan MacDonald from Haven, who added some extra aggression and go-forward.
Wins over London, Doncaster and Gateshead picked the side up before they narrowly lost out to title challengers Oldham and Blackpool.
However a draw with Swinton and then victory over South Wales catapulted them back into a play-off position but they had to fight to remain there.
And with dwindling numbers through injury, it became tougher and tougher for the small squad. And it nearly all went wrong on the final day when the club visited lowly Doncaster.
Town started the day with a 134 points differential that was nearly turned over after events unfolded.
Swinton played their part, as they aimed to push Town out with a 94-0 mauling of Gateshead Thunder and they had assistance from the Dons with their comfortable and thoroughly deserved 46-12 victory over Town.
If Swinton had kicked a penalty and Town hadn’t scored a converted try three minutes from the end, it would have been the Lions in the play-offs.
But as it was Town had secured their goal and gave high-flying Blackpool a real scare, before going down 36-26 to close their season.
The pack was a problem last season, with not enough fire-power in the ranks, but the coaches have moved to address the situation.
And 2010 belonged to two key players who will also be crucial next year – Jarrad Stack and Brett Carter. Stack proved yet again that he is one of Town’s most successful imports in recent years, with his starring performances earning him the division’s Young Player-of-the-Year award.
Carter took the division by storm at full-back with his surging runs creating havoc in opposition defences.
Now the club must look to 2011 and more improvement with fans expecting big things of this new-look Town.
Here’s hoping they can deliver in style.
First published at 19:33, Thursday, 06 January 2011
Published by http://www.timesandstar.co.uk
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