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Wednesday, 24 September 2014

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Three goals in eight minutes end Workington Reds hopes

Harrogate 3 Workington Reds 1: Three goals in an eight-minute spell midway through the second half ensured that Harrogate completed a Blue Square North double over the Reds.

Phil McLuckie photo
Phil McLuckie

But it was harsh on the west Cumbrians who had been much the better side for 65 minutes, playing some of their best football of the season.

Deservedly ahead 1-0 at the break, and continuing from where they left-off on the restart, Workington were left to muse once more on the old failing of not taking their chances when on top.

With the opportunities the Reds created, the leading sides in the division would have killed-off Harrogate’s challenge before they had chance to put together a quick-fire recovery.

Much of this game – played at York City’s Bootham Crescent – was reminiscent of Workington’s performance at Altrincham earlier in the season when they won 2-1.

Direct and purposeful from the first whistle, Reds were impressive in the way they harassed and closed-down the home side, and when they got the ball moved it well and to good effect.

Jonny Wright had two early shots from outside the area which had keeper Craig McGiliveray down on his knees to save, and, with new boy Joe McGee cleverly finding space, all the questions were being posed by the Reds.

Jonathan Mitchell did not have a shot to save until the 44th minute and in a final flurry Harrogate forced two corners in the three minutes added on, but weren’t a serious threat.

MacGilliveray was the outstanding player for Town in that first-half. Twice he flung himself forward to reach well-struck, low crosses into the box – the second time getting a whack on the back of the head from Wright as he arrived a fraction too late.

Then on 17 minutes he produced his best stop of the half. Wright played in the lively McGee and his low shot had the home keeper diving smartly to his right to block. Phil McLuckie seemed a certain scorer after racing quite a distance to get on the end of it but somehow failed to connect from a few yards and the ball was cleared. But four minutes later McLuckie made amends with the opening goal. Tom Manship lifted the ball forward towards the edge of the area where Wright battled strongly against home centre-half Alan White.

It was McLuckie who reacted best when the ball broke free and he steered the ball beyond MacGillivray into the bottom corner.

Within minutes of the restart Workington should have doubled their lead. McGee thumped in a great angled shot from just inside the area which beat MacGillivray but came back off the bar.

Even then Reds could have scored because Wright was first there to head back towards goal where full-back Dave Merris was covering to lack clear off the line.

By such fine margins are matches decided but Harrogate were the team which prospered once they had made their breakthrough.

The initial response was rebuffed. Adam Bolder curled a free-kick from the edge of the area over the wall but Mitchell produced a fine diving save to turn it aside.

But on 66 minutes Town drew level. Reds were slow in clearing on the right-hand edge of their area and when Chib Chilaka fired in a curling shot Mitchell appeared to have performed more heroics. He flung himself to his right to claw away the goal-bound shot only for substitute Lee Elam to seize on to the loose ball and fire home.

It visibly lifted the home side and when Kyle May and Dan Wordsworth got in a mix-up over a long ball forward it bounced over them and Dominic Knowles went on to lift the ball over Mitchell into the net.

Reds’ miserable eight minutes was completed when Elam threaded through an inviting ball for Knowles to chase and outpace the Reds cover before firing past the advancing Mitchell.

There was only one other real chance for Reds – between the second and third goals – when McLuckie broke free with the ball and although his shot on the run looked well placed MacGillivray got down smartly to turn it round for a corner.

There will be matches between now and the end of the season when Reds won’t play half as well but will win. Goals change games – and this was a glaring example.

Workington Reds: Mitchell, Cowperthwaite, Rowntree, May, Wordsworth, Manship, McLuckie, Greenhalgh (Boyd 74), J. Wright, Arnison, McGee (Owusu-Andrews 80). Subs (not used) Andrews, A. Wright, Bannister.

Referee: Mike Walsh

Crowd: 284

Star man: Joe McGee - another classy display by the Morecambe youngster before he went off ten minutes from time.

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