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Thursday, 24 July 2014

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Workington Reds undone by cruel deflection at Redditch

Redditch Utd 2 Workington Reds 1: The Valley, Redditch might conjure up quite different images for those who have never been to that part of Worcestershire.

Tom Aldred photo
Tom Aldred

For Workington football fans it’s not like the idyllic local surroundings of the Lake District, and probably has more in keeping with Lord Tennyson’s immortal description of Balaclava.

Certainly it’s becoming a familiar story now of Workington riding in with high hopes but eventually slinking away to lick their wounds.

Switching analogies from the Crimea to the American West I believe it was a certain tribe of Indians who always engaged the enemy on ground they had chosen beforehand.

Cue Redditch! Their Valley, I am pretty certain now, is the worst playing surface in the Blue Square North. West Cumbrians who can picture Hall Park on a good day will get some idea of what we are talking about.

Undulating, bumpy, sloping – with a few stones thrown in for good measure – and you might just get the picture.

It’s something Redditch are used to and clearly have an advantage from.

Good footballing teams like Alfreton and Fleetwood have failed to score a goal at the Valley this season already.

Alfreton crashed 3-0 and big-spending Fleetwood were lucky to get away with a 0-0 draw. It’s a battle from the first whistle coming to terms with the pitch and the opposition who get things forward early, knowing full well that constructive football is off the agenda.

But Workington knew this from the moment they arrived just over an hour before kick-off, which didn’t best please manager Darren Edmondson as he likes a good 90 minutes, probably longer, for his troops to unwind and prepare properly.

Unfortunately, Workington didn’t respond at all in the first-half, rarely threatening and turning round a goal in arrears.

But the second half was much better, as if they suddenly realised that they had to match their opponents where it mattered in the application stakes.

Indeed, it was such an improved effort by the Cumbrians, they should have won the game and for them to fall to a fluke goal seven minutes from the end showed just what a cruel game football can be.

If I’ve been slow to praise Redditch let me interject at this point to positively shout – their first goal was a brilliant effort and in defender Liam Francis they had the best player on the field. But they still won with a fluke!

The goal which divided the two teams at half-time came on 29 minutes from James Dance – unquestionably the best goal scored against Reds this season.

Jamie Sheldon was trapped out on the left touchline as Andy Langford initially did well, but then the Redditch forward wriggled out and cut inside before sending over a low cross aimed towards the penalty spot.

Somehow Dance flung himself forward and bulleted a brilliant header beyond the diving Tony Caig into the bottom corner. Excellent goal!

Caig had never seriously been troubled before that and although Redditch had more of the play they didn’t impose themselves on the solid-looking back-four in which Tom Aldred was outstanding.

Workington’s only effort at goal in the first-half came in injury time when a free-kick from Andy Langford flicked the top of the netting just over the bar.

Langford also had Reds’ first effort in the second half when he got on the end of a Gareth Arnison cross and headed just beyond the far post.

But it was a purposeful start to the second-half from the Reds and they were on the front-foot most of the time.

A Jonny Wright shot took a wicked deflection, looped over Danny Lewis but struck the bar and rebounded into the grateful arms of the keeper.

There was no doubt that Workington deserved their equaliser on 71 minutes.

Gari Rowntree’s ball forward was flicked on by Arnison and set Jonny Wright clear. He raced on strongly and as Lewis raced out cleverly lifted the ball over him into the net.

After that the three points hinged on a crazy 90 seconds when Reds threw away the chance to win the game – and then lost it.

Dan Shannon did ever so well, showing great footwork to skip round two defenders just over halfway and he raced clear. He had Lewis to beat, with Jonny Wright offering himself as security inside – surely this was the second Workington goal.

Then disaster! It was neither a shot nor a pass but somehow ran wide of the post – off-target and out of reach of Wright. Despair all round.

But worse was to follow. In the Redditch response Workington were lacking in numbers at the back when the ball was played across the box. Dave Bridgwater made contact and if it had got through on target Caig was well positioned to make a comfortable save.

Unfortunately the shot hit Aldred and looped crazily towards the post and then spun inside it to nestle in the bottom corner. Unbelievable, and the third crucially deflected goal that Reds have conceded this season.

STAR MAN: TOM ALDRED – Continues to show maturity beyond his years and Carlisle clearly have a very good prospect.

Reds: Caig, Langford, Rowntree, May, Aldred, Arnison (Ruttledge 86), Henney (Hardman 86), McLuckie, J. Wright, Cook (Shannon 45), A. Wright. Subs (not used) Andrews, Edmondson

Referee: Oliver Yates, Staffordshire

Crowd: 275

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