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Wednesday, 23 April 2014

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Vipond late strike secures FA Trophy win for Workington Reds

AFC Wimbledon 2 Workington Reds 3: It just gets better and better in the FA Trophy for rejuvenated Workington Reds as they march on to the quarter-finals.

The previous victory over Rushden and Diamonds, given the circumstances and nature of the tie, was a bit special, right up there with the club’s best performances in knockout competitions over the years.

But this latest effort even surpassed that achievement and for the 100-travelling Workington fans it was a day out that will stay in the memory bank for a long, long time.

The significance of the game – Wimbledon took Workington’s place in the Football League 33 years ago – was largely lost on the current generation, and at the end the fans were united in their praise for the winners.

It’s refreshing to meet officials, supporters and managers who are magnanimous in defeat and genuinely appreciative of how the opposition played – cue Wimbledon.

How’s this for starters from manager Terry Brown: “I’m bitterly disappointed because I thought we had a great chance of getting through and going all the way to Wembley.

“But we lost to a better team. They were superior in every department. We couldn’t handle their front two; their midfield worked harder than we did and although they both scored our two front men were kept well in check.”

Chief executive Erik Samuelson, who has a second home in Keswick, added: “We can have no complaints because Workington were the better side. I saw them in mid-week when they weren’t very impressive and their supporters told me that wasn’t a proper Workington performance. I know what they were talking about now.”

And the Dons supporters continually came-up to the delirious Workington fans after the game to congratulate them and pledge to be at Wembley in their Wombles kit to support the Reds if they get there.

Reds director Dave Wilson added: “The Wimbledon people were absolutely magnificent before, during and after the game – a pleasure to meet and despite us beating them they are clearly a club on the rise.”

Midst all the congratulations and celebrations the calmest figure in the Workington party was probably manager Darren Edmondson.

“Although we had the first chance of the game Wimbledon looked to be in charge and when they scored after 15 minutes it was a concern. Maybe it was my fault, but I had set-up the side to match what we thought Wimbledon would try to do to us.

“Once we changed things around we were much more comfortable and I thought we played really well. To go behind twice and come back, eventually scoring a winner, was a terrific achievement from a very special, united group of players,” he said.

Workington picked-up a £7,000 cheque for winning the game and could net a similar amount from a share of the game’s receipts after all the expenses have been taken off.

They are one of only four sides definitely through to the quarter-final stage, and the other three are the leading trio in the Blue Square Premier – Stevenage, Oxford and York.

But having already accounted for the current sixth and seventh in the same table Reds will not be overawed whatever today’s quarter final draw throws up.

Wimbledon, with their diamond-shaped midfield, were the livelier side in the opening exchanges and at times Reds found it hard to cope – although they did fashion the first chance of the game.

Anthony Wright lifted in a glorious cross from the left and Jonny Wright, who was to emerge as Reds’ man of the match, should have scored. But his close-range header was blocked on the line by goalkeeper Seb Brown.

The ball rebounded to the edge of the area where Phil McLuckie hammered in a shot which Brown did remarkably well to pick himself up and turn over the top.

Wimbledon had a couple of shots from range over the top, and a header followed the same flight path with Tony Caig undisturbed.

Then on 15 minutes the Dons made the breakthrough. Top scorer Danny Kedwell put over a tempting cross from the right hand side and his strike partner Nathan Elder rose highest to score with a crisp, downward header.

Just for a few minutes Workington looked unsure of themselves but Wimbledon couldn’t go on and build on their early success.

Reds regrouped; Edmo ordered a tactical switch to dispense with five in the midfield and revert to the more familiar 4-4-2 and for the rest of the half it was an even contest.

Then after the break, although Wimbledon regained the lead for the second time from a controversial penalty, it was against the run of play and Workington were the better side.

Gareth Arnison had just mistimed his late run to reach a deliciously flighted ball from Shaun Vipond and although he headed past Brown the flag was raised for offside.

The Cumbrians had drawn level on 31 minutes. Gari Rowntree, just behind Jonny Wright for the man of the match accolade, had provided the corner in mid-week which led to McLuckie’s last gasp equaliser at Vauxhall.

This one was longer and with Brown not coming to claim and the centre-backs absent, it was Wright who stooped to head between two covering defenders on the line.

In many ways that was the game’s turning point as Reds grew in confidence and stature while Wimbledon seemed to realise they had a fight on their hands – and didn’t have the stomach for it.

Reds had the better of the second half, outplaying their Conference opponents and could feel themselves unfortunate to be 2-1 behind from the penalty spot.

The spot-kick was given on 63 minutes when the referee deemed that Kyle May had been pulling and holding Elder as he dived in to meet a dangerous cross and headed just wide.

Kedwell rammed home the penalty and Caig was subsequently booked for kicking the ball out of the ground in disgust.

“I told the referee that if he gave that one as a penalty he could be giving 10 a match,” said the experience Workington keeper.

But Reds were still very much in the contest and fought back superbly to win the tie.

Skipper Tony Hopper said: “I think away from home against a Conference side and going behind at that stage could have finished most teams but we all felt we were still in with a chance. We kept at it and got our reward.”

There might have been something fortuitous about the second equaliser but Wright didn’t care.

Going wide on the right after some determined play to win back the ball he had strike partner Gareth Arnison haring in on goal.

Instead of a cross to find the head of Reds’ top scorer he produced what, to all intents and purposes, ended as a sublime chip over the hastily back-pedalling Brown into the far corner of the net.

Level again, and with the momentum to keep going, Reds looked the likeliest winners, and so it proved.

Arnison slipped through the middle and was able to get away his shot but unfortunately it was straight at Brown.

The ball ran back to the Reds striker and this time he couldn’t make a proper connection and Brown saved comfortably.

Then with 88 minutes on the clock Reds scored the deciding goal. Hopper and McLuckie were involved and then a superb chested pass from Arnison fell to Vipond who just belted the ball past the bemused Brown.

The goal was scored right in front of the Workington fans and the combined celebrations on and off the field were spontaneous and exhilarating.

Even from that point – and with the game seeming to drag on for ever beyond the 90 minutes and the five added on – Workington didn’t have to withstand a late Wimbledon surge.

In fact at the final whistle Reds were solidly camped and comfortable in the home half of the field.

STAR MAN: JONNY WRIGHT posed problems throughout and deserved his goals but his all-round contribution to the winning performance was awesome. As Wimbledon boss Terry Brown said: “We couldn’t handle him.”

Reds: Caig, Langford, Rowntree, May, Andrews, Vipond (Hardman 89), McLuckie, Hopper, J. Wright (Ruttledge 92), Arnison, A. Wright. Subs (not used) Hindmarch, Main and Taylor

Crowd: 2,301

Referee: Mr C. I. Powell

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