A disastrous spell in the second half marred the return of manager Gavin Skelton to Workington Reds on New Year’s Day.

Reds were leading 1-0 going into the closing stages of the first half, but visitors Stalybridge Celtic struck back just before the break to level matters.

Then, in an 18-minute spell in the second half Reds found themselves a goal down and reduced to nine men with both Gari Rowntree, who was celebrating his 400th appearance, and Dan Wordsworth sent from the field.

There was an early chance for Celtic’s Matty Wolfenden as he got the ball in space and closed in on Reds keeper Aaran Taylor who came out well to halt him.

Then there was excitement at the opposite end of the field as Conor Tinnion lined up a free kick and powered it towards the goal but it bounced back off the crossbar.

Both sides were battling it out for domination but the breakthrough came inside the 16th minute when Reds won a corner. Tinnion whipped the ball in and Brad Carroll leaped up at the near post but their defender just got a touch to put it past his own keeper for the home side to take the lead.

Tinnion, who was in the thick of a lot of the action in the first half, came closer later in the game as he got on the end of a good cross from Jordan Holt but his shot just curled the wrong side of the post.

Jason Walker thought he had made it 2-0 in the 37th minute when he also got on to the end of a Tinnion corner, this time from the opposite side but despite his hope that his header had gone over the line, the defender just cleared.

And then disaster struck seconds later as Stalybridge drew level at the opposite end. They won a corner of their own, the ball was flicked on and Andrew Scott’s overhead kick found its way into Taylor’s net to make it 1-1.

Reds tried to hit back straight away as Scott Allison looked to find Holt in space in the area but he couldn’t control the ball and it went out of play. Then a shot from Walker was stopped by a diving keeper as Reds swamped their opponents.

Into the dying seconds of the half, in a goalmouth scramble, several players looked to put boot to ball but Tinnion’s last shot was well over the crossbar and despite a yellow card being shown to Rowntree for a foul in the middle of the field there was no more action and both teams went in level at 1-1.

Allison tried his luck with an overhead kick that went just wide in the opening minutes of the second half as Reds looked to take charge once again.

But then a huge error from Aaran Taylor allowed the visitors to take the lead. His first touch on a back pass was too hard and it let Andrew Scott get in and slide the ball past him into the far corner.

He made some amends when he stopped Neil Kengi in his tracks moments later but then Workington were down to 10 men as Dan Wordsworth was shown a red card for pulling him back.

And inside the 67th minute it got even worse for Reds as Rowntree was handed a second yellow card for a foul and then sent from the field, with the home side having to see out the remainder of the game with just nine men.

Reds still had chances with a Sam Joel shot going wide of the target as they battle ferociously to at least take a share of the spoils.

Tinnion put the pressure back on with a great shot that the keeper had to turn away for a corner as Reds refused to give up but in the end they ran out of time, going down 2-1.