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Friday, 18 April 2014

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Workington Reds survive tough test at Southport to earn point

Southport 0 Workington Reds 0: This was blood and sweat without the tears as Workington went a long way to erasing the memory of the previous week’s disaster on the road.

Graham Anthony photo
Graham Anthony

A totally committed performance from a depleted Reds side against the joint league leaders stopped a worrying sequence of two successive defeats by three-goal margins.

Without top scorer Jonny Wright and fellow forward Dan Robinson; with Dan Kirkup settling into a six month stint in New Zealand and only four substitutes, including two rookies, it was a rough test against a side riding high despite last week’s home defeat.

But the Cumbrians showed true grit in taking-on the leaders, shading an uneventful first-half before defending bravely under intense pressure and having opportunities on the break to win the game.

In the end a point was probably a fair reward for their spirited effort as bodies were put on the line in the type of mean defending which took Reds to a series of clean sheets last month.

And amongst all this, for the travelling group of about 50 Reds fans, was the need for a constant analysis of the performance of skipper Graham Anthony – just for the slightest clue as to what he is going to do with the approach from Penrith.

If this does prove to be his last game for the Reds then he went out on a high, producing a typically constructive and probing performance from the heart of midfield.

But the fans – chanting his name at various times through the game – will hope that it was an indication of his commitment to the Reds cause, and the prospect of Northern League football can be postponed for at least another nine months.

Playing in a five-man mid-field to accommodate the one striker in Gareth Arnison, Anthony had plenty of workers around him so that Reds defended well as a unit throughout – but particularly in the second-half.

In truth the first 45 minutes had been largely uneventful with neither keeper seriously tested – Adam Collin not at all. Both sides played some decent approach football but seemed to lack a cutting edge in the penalty area.

The one moment of concern for Reds came in the second minute when a looping cross from ex-Man Utd youngster Michael Barnes had Collin scrambling but in fact dropped onto the roof of the net.

Eighteen-year-old Ross Atkins, an England Under-19 international making his debut on loan from Derby County, was more involved and at least had saves to make.

Anthony tried to chip him from 30 yards but the keeper was well positioned and then in the final minute of the half, when Reds forced their first two corners of the game in quick succession a Tony Hopper header could have caused problems but he held on well.

The second-half was much different as Southport exploded into life almost from the re-start whistle.

Collin produced two outstanding saves to keep his side on terms. The first a close-range block to deny Alan Moogan and the second an ever better reflex save to keep out an even closer effort from Neil Robinson.

The Workington keeper dealt well with a series of crosses and corners into the box and it was his inspired work which seemed to set the tone for Workington’s defensive effort in the second-half.

Southport had several attempts on goal inside the Workington area which didn’t find their way to Collin because of the brave blocking ahead of him. All the back four at some point got in the way of stinging drives at goal.

There were also three claims for Southport penalties – the first a strong one but the other two clearly not worthy of a spot kick.

It actually took some brave refereeing by Paul Brabin to turn down the first. Anthony had been back helping out and when he tried to chest-down a ball into the box there was just the suspicion it had come off the arm.

Mr Brabin waved play on but his attention was drawn to the flag being raised by his assistant. Would he change his mind? Not so, because after a brief conversation he signalled no penalty - and he had been closer to the incident, with a good view in any case.

The second shout came when Kyle May threw himself in front of a shot and the ball cannoned off his body while when Lee Andrews went down to make a similar block the ball clearly rebounded off his backside.

But if all those were defining moments in the Workington penalty area, Reds could so easily have won the game on the break.

The best chance of the whole game fell to Shaun Vipond after a surge down the right and a clever ball from Anthony left him clear 12 yards out but he shot the wrong side of the post.

A similar break, this time by Gareth Arnison saw him play the ball inside to the onrushing Phil McLuckie but he was just put off by a last ditch challenge from Kevin Lee and lifted his shot over the bar.

Then late on Arnison worked his way into a shooting opportunity but fired over the bar from the edge of the area.

All round then a very good point for the Cumbrians, but one they have to build on at home this week-end.

MATCH FACTS

STAR MAN - ADAM COLLIN: In many ways his faultless keeping, which included two outstanding saves, served as inspiration to those around him as Kyle May, Lee Andrews and Graham Anthony were best of the very good rest.

Reds: Collin, Hewson, Rowntree, May, Andrews, Vipond (Coleman 87), Anthony, Hopper, Arnison, McLuckie, A. Wright (Johnston 77). Subs (not used): Hardman, Edmondson

Referee: Paul Brabin, Bolton

Crowd: 794

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