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Worky Worky

Workington 3-3 Worksop Town (Northern Premier League)



It’s the midweek game nobody wants. Workington on a Tuesday night. I was supposed to be in Blyth for their match against Scunthorpe but that’s been called off and I’m on my way to Glasgow for Celtic’s European adventure which concludes tomorrow. I could do with a stop off on the way. Workington nor Blyth is not necessarily near Glasgow, but it’s on the way for me… Let’s lock it in.


I’m only told at 2pm that I can cover the game having left booking a hotel in the North East to the last minute, in knowing how the British weather can work against us football people, so I grab myself a new hotel in the North West, just fifteen mins walk from the ground and hop in the car, through Stoke and onto the M6 before trudging through the Manchester traffic and off again full throttle past Preston, Lancaster and finally West on the A66 at Penrith.


The roads are winding and it’s dark but I’m making good time, just four hours into my journey as I pass Cockermouth and soon I get to a hotel in Workington Town Centre called the Sleep Well Inn.


I’ll be honest, it’s not the easiest check in process as I’m directed to another hotel across the road to get my key card entry swiped and when I’m back at the front doors even that doesn’t work.. I’m running out of time (and patience) so say ‘sod this’ and get back in my car.. I’ll worry about where I’ll sleep tonight later.



The Venue


I’m driving over the Northside Bridge over the River Derwent as I see floodlights above and a full pitch beneath, you get a great view without having to buy a ticket but I pull up at the back of the ground and park on the side of the road where there’s no signs I can’t do so.


I’m walking towards the turnstiles where I’m told ‘to buy a ticket I need to head through the two white doors’… I’m walking through reception where a sign says ‘Welcome to Borough Park’ it has a dated feel to it and a warm friendly reception behind a window from a chap who swipes my card in exchange for a traditional paper matchday ticket.


I’m taken by a steward through the gates, he asks ‘is it your first time here’ as I walk in to the arena half lit with some floodlights still to get going. He says ‘sit anywhere you like’ and ‘you can grab a tea or coffee at the clubhouse further down”.


I’ve always felt this ground is a good Saturday afternoon venue and a place to really appreciate on a grey, wet, miserable day as in the dark it seems like a place that might not get going? It’s a big old ground, but decrepit, in a good way. The place stinks of nostalgia. It’s football porn and I feel like I’m the 60’s or 70’s zapped back in a time capsule to an era which was far less complicated.


Even the tannoy is playing 60’s and 70's music as it twice blurts out the Z cars theme tune ahead of Paul McCartney’s JET which he wrote with his post Beatles band the wings.


I’ve been in the club house, a long rectangular awkward room with a bar at one end, some club merchandise at the other and in between a place to get some hot drinks and food. I can’ be bothered to queue so have a quick pit stop and walk outside to take it all in. I’m stood in the small covered press area which looks directly opposite at a big seated quirky stand. To the left an open end and to the right a sublime part covered terrace that wraps around a top bank. I’m walking the length of the ground to take some snaps as I marvel at the rusty steel roofs and the red paint peeling off the side of the barriers. Big wide steps for standing room only, the pitch wide, spaced out, green, looking ok considering there’s a few matches called off tonight.


The Game


I’ve finally sat opposite the clubhouse and press, the dugouts and directors, because the large stand on the opposite wing has plenty of seats and a good elevated position despite a couple of posts in view, it’s filling with home fans as the two sides come out but credit Worksop, they’ve brought a few with them for their first game here I’m told, in seventeen years.


Worksop are smart in Coventry City sky blue but I really take a liking to the Workington kit, almost faded all red it’s reminiscent of Liverpool in the early eighties, I’m getting David Johnson and Jimmy Case vibes.


The home side start well too… They’re quick to attack and an early corner is half cleared and falls back to the original taker Symington who drills low and home into the net to give hosts advantage.


That soon kicks Worksop into gear who have settled after their five-hour bus trip from Bassetlaw. They begin to play, I’ve seen them before and have been hugely impressed with their style, they knock it about with swagger and look like a league club against lower opposition, Paul Green is dictating play at 40 years young, over five hundred football league games and 22 international caps , you can tell even at his ripe old number that he loves the game and is bloody good at what he does.


Worksop take just seven minutes to equalise, another with league experience, Hamza Bencherif heading home unmarked from a corner.


It’s an even contest but you feel Craig Parry’s Tigers have a couple of gears to go up and they score a sweet goal when the lively Luke Hall crosses to the head of Hanson to nod in.


There’s a few old boys sitting behind me and a few comments are coming out of high appraisal… “This lot are a good side” they agree as Worksop pass from side to side and get in down the Workington wings a little too often.


The Score


At half time you sense another from Worksop and that comes soon into the second hald as Hutchinson dives in low to head home a Green centre. Three goals, three headers, the game is won and it’s played at a canter, Worksop haven’t been brilliant, they haven’t had to be, they’re the better side.. One fan is up and leaving with ten minutes left… “Best side I’ve seen here since Radcliffe Borough” he says… But a late corner falls to Rigg with six minutes left, he belts home off the bar and suddenly the home side have the bit between their teeth.


And you fancy them too… I liken Worksop to flat track bullies. Great when it’s going there way but not so good when they have to dig in. Suddenly Paul Green is falling over his own feet, his age starting to tell, and the away side get nervous as their hosts find another level, and so do their fans, substitute Brad Hubbold is given time outside the box, he unleashes as the board goes up for five minutes injury time, a rocket which has the home crowd roar.


It’s the least the Reds deserve, outplayed for long periods but they never gave up, testament to what they have as a team, that drive to keep going, a point more than they should have took, and one which they’ll be relieved to have taken.


The Stars


Worksop played at times like a team levels above and knocked it around competently on an inviting big pitch. Full backs Regan Hutchinson and Josh Wilde getting forward well. Right winger Jay Rollins oozing class, always a threat. Luke Hall and James Hanson busy in attack whilst Starcenko and in particular Paul Green in midfield gave an easy on the eye approach to their play.


Whilst Workington had to dig in and rely largely in playing on the break, they had solid performances from their own wide men Tinnion and Symington and full back Joe Bunny was gutsy, their left side a threat with Steve Rigg also lively up front.


The Verdict


It’s certainly a game that Worksop should have won. These are the nights which might lead them to falling short for promotion when they look back on the season in May. I feel they’re as good as anyone in the division on their day, but also on their day, I see discrepancies that can make them vulnerable.


In fairness the Tigers were without two of their best players in Terry Hawkridge and Liam Hughes but that was no excuse for not winning this game of football. Workington like Worksop have made the step up in division from promotion last season, they’ll be happy with staying mid table and going again, but this ground, this town, this team, it would be great to see them doing bigger and better things, because you can tell through their people that football is in the blood. A place worth making a pilgrimage too for any football fan in Britain, Borough Park is one of the iconic homes of English football history and it should be celebrated more.


The Teams


Workington: Jim Atkinson, Finlay Wallbank, Joe Bunney, Niall Brookwell, Sam Smith, Bobby Carroll (Greg McCaragher 74), David Symington, Kitt Nelson (Dannen Francis 85), Steven Rigg, Scott Allison (Brad Hubbold 59), Conor Tinnion.


Worksop Town: Sebastian Malkowski, Regan Hutchinson, Josh Wilde, Sam Wedgbury, Hamza Bencherif, Jack Broadhead, Aleks Starcenko, Paul Green, Luke Hall, James Hanson (Colin Daniel 71), Jay Rollins.


7:45pm Kick Off. Tuesday 12th December 2023, Borough Park, Workington (att 412).

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