Reds extend their unbeaten run to seventeen
Reds ended the year in style with a thoroughly deserved win at Marston Road lifting them to second spot in Evo-Stik Premier. It extended the unbeaten sequence to seventeen matches, nine of which have been in the league.
Second half goals from Conor Tinnion and Phil McLuckie secured a deserved victory but this was another excellent team effort from a group of talented players, playing with a togetherness that goes a long way at this level of football.
A proud Lee Andrews paid tribute to the side saying their strength and fitness got them through a difficult afternoon. “We defended well, worked hard in midfield and caused them problems up front, then showed great character to push for the win after they had brought it back to 1-1,” he claimed.
There was a first-minute scare for the visitors, though, when the defence, looking as uncoordinated as their mix-and-match strip, was breached. Former Carlisle United player, Karl Hawley, released Massiah McDonald with a clever pass ’round the corner’ but Aaran Taylor was quickly off his line to thwart the latter with an important save, a crucial moment so early in the game.
Reds first chance of the half resulted from good play on the right from David Symington. He crossed towards the far post and Waterston was only inches away from connecting.
Veteran Hawley shot wide as Rangers over-elaborated in their next build-up but then created a chance for Robert Thompson-Brown. A measured, diagonal pass found Thompson-Brown but his clinical volley was blocked by another fine Taylor save.
Reds began to assert some authority towards the end of the half but Matty Douglas didn’t connect properly when meeting Tinnion’s free-kick and his shot trickled harmlessly to Rangers’ ‘keeper, Adam Whitehouse.
But luck was against Reds just before the interval when a Symington ‘thunder-bolt’ flew past Whitehouse only to rebound into play off the foot of the post.
Stafford substituted one of their three central defenders at the break and introduced another attack-minded player, Osebi Abadaki. That lifted the tempo of the game and the home side enjoyed an unproductive purple patch, matched by some dogged resilience from Workington’s rearguard.
The game’s first goal came after sixty-four minutes and it was another stunner to add to the Tinnion collection of spectacular strikes. McLuckie did well on the left, initially, although his cross was partially cleared, but only to Tinnion some twenty-five yards from goal. His sublime volley flew past Whitehouse and even drew generous applause from home supporters in the stand.
Rangers responded well and a fiercely-hit shot from Jack Sheratt produced a text-book save from Reds’ skipper, Taylor.
The host levelled matters five minutes after Tinnion’s ‘goal-of-the-season’ contender with a well-worked goal of their own. The lively Abadaki had been released by McDonald and the former’s cross towards the far post was swept home by Thompson-Brown.
Workington could have gone into their shell at that point but they remained positive and they were rewarded with a seventy-seventh-minute decider. Waterston can count himself unlucky not to grab the match-winner but he certainly played a part in the build-up.
Three of his attempts in quick succession were parried by Whitehouse but the ball finally fell conveniently for McLuckie and he confidently netted the winner from six yards.
There was still time for Rangers to take something from the game but they couldn’t find a way past a stubborn red-shirted defence, although Abadaki came close. His curling shot just before the end was confidently palmed over the bar by the excellent Taylor.
It was Reds’ first league win on the road since late September and only their third success in ten visits to Stafford.
Stafford Rangers Whitehouse, Reid I, Davis, Morris (Abadaki, 46) Bailey, Brown, Calveley (Westwood, 86), Thompson-Brown, Hawley, McDonald, Sheratt. Substitutes – Craddock, Batchelor, Thomas (not used).
Workington Taylor, Douglas, Wright, Wordsworth, Calvert, Wilson, Symington, McLuckie, Allison, Waterston (Joel, 86), Tinnion. Substitutes – Earl, Mellen, Whitehead, Holliday (not used).
Referee Greg Rollason, Wolverhampton
Bookings: McDonald, Bailey (Stafford Rangers), Calvert (Workington)