Workington Reds make it three wins from three to ease relegation fears
Last updated at 12:19, Tuesday, 03 January 2012
Blyth Spartans 0 Workington Reds 3: Workington completed a hugely successful Christmas and New Year programme when they wrapped-up a comfortable double over the Blue Square North’s basement side.
Three successive victories, all without conceding a goal, have seen Reds leap out of the relegation zone to reach their current position in the table, leaving six teams below them.
A 70-yard break-out to create the opening goal for Phil McLuckie gave Reds a 1-0 half-time lead was followed by two spectacular goals from David McNiven which carried the west Cumbrians to a clear-cut and deserved win.
It left former Reds boss Tommy Cassidy staring down both barrels in his new post as Blyth boss – bottom of the pile and 10 points off safety.
Spartans did well enough early in the game, with the lively Wayne Phillips, causing problems for Reds with his trickery out on the left. Yet whilst Phillips fashioned the best chance of the half, Workington could still have had two or three goals themselves.
The opening opportunity had fallen to McLuckie when he beat the offside trap to go clear. Unfortunately he had to go wide past goalkeeper David Knight and was subsequently left with a narrow angle from which to try and hit the target. He got his shot away but only found the side netting.
Then at the other end home skipper Graeme Armstrong should have given Blyth the lead. Phillips’ clever footwork and low cross found the striker on the six yard box but with no challenge imminent he pulled his shot well wide of Aaran Taylor’s goal.
Taylor did have to make a smart double save when Jamie Mole worked an opening and a curling shot saw the Workington keeper fling himself to his left to palm the ball away. Armstrong came thundering in looking to pick up the pieces but Taylor bravely flung himself onto the loose ball at the striker’s feet.
There was a close call at the Blyth end when Mark Boyd dinked in a free kick and Paul Johnson was left beating the ground in frustration as he was within inches of connecting bang in front of goal.
Johnson, who is starting his third month on loan with the Reds, turned in a super performance at the back. He won almost every ball he contested in the air, timed his blocks and tackles to perfection and generally distributed the ball intelligently.
The goal that gave Reds the lead came on 35 minutes. Gareth Arnison did really well to track back and tackle Neal Hooks almost on the edge of his own penalty area. From there he raced forward, over half-way before threading a great ball through for McLuckie to take in his stride and go on to steer past Knight.
Skipper Dave Hewson had a neat, cushioned header saved by Knight at full stretch as Reds finished the half on top.
Although Blyth started the second-half brightly it was Workington who took control with two goals inside three minutes – and they were both brilliant strikes.
On 58 minutes a high ball forward from Boyd seemed to have snow on it by the time it came down in the Blyth penalty area. But McNiven killed it instantly, and followed that high-class control with a vicious, left foot shot which whistled past Knight.
It hit the underside of the bar and dropped over the line with the referee’s assistant confirming the goal.
Three minutes later McNiven scored a second, and another contender for Reds’ Goal of the Season. This time it was Anthony Wright’s cross-field ball which found McNiven on the edge of the area. As McLuckie went on a dummy run outside him he took one touch and then unleashed another fearsome drive past Knight and into the far top corner.
If those goals had been played on Match of the Day, then the various pundits would have been drooling over both – and it would have been a toss-up which the show’s editor used last on the final credits.
It could have been worse for Blyth minutes later when another angled ball into the Blyth area was headed on by Arnison and McLuckie, arriving late, hammered inches over the bar.
Spartans did respond and tried hard to gain some form of consolation from the game but they were unable to break a solid and determined Workington defence. The one time Taylor was extended he blocked well at close range from Lee Mason.
With two home games coming up against Nuneaton and Altrincham, the revitalised Reds will be hoping to consolidate and move towards mid-table respectability.
Workington Reds: Taylor, Andrews, Main (Simpson 79), May, Johnson, Boyd, McLuckie (McLellan 79), Hewson, McNiven, Arnison (Sloan 86), A. Wright. Sub (not used) Snaith.
Referee: Martin Coy, Sunderland
Star man: Paul Johnson - Hardly put a foot wrong and has emerged as a major recruit for the Reds in his loan spell which has now entered its final month. An honourable mention, too, for David McNiven’s hold-up play and two superbly struck goals.
First published at 11:29, Tuesday, 03 January 2012
Published by http://www.newsandstar.co.uk