What an amazing late September day in Workington. On 21st September my weather app said a temperature of 23 degrees and it felt like higher as the sun shone in clear blue skies. The pitch was looking lush and well striped on a mainly flat pitch that slopes gently down to each end from a central peak.
I had come to see the Northern Premier League North West Division clash between League leaders Workington Town AFC and Widnes FC. This is the first time these two clubs have met in a league game whilst their Rugby League colleagues are no strangers to each other.
Widnes FC were only formed in 2003 as Dragons FC which was changed to Widnes Dragons and developed a community base for players and teams from 6 years upwards. By July 2012 the club had achieved the FA Charter Standard Community Club award. In the same year they became involved with the Widnes Vikings Rugby League Club and gained new experiences of providing greater community involvement. This was not to last and in 2014 the club decided to forge its own identity and become Widnes Football Club. Along this road they have gained promotions to get them to their current level the same as Workington who have seen a double relegation.
Workington have a long and illustrious past, a team originally being started in 1888 and 30 years after their reforming they were elected to the Football league in 1951 replacing New Brighton. They managed 26 years and one promotion to the then Third Division before a poor run of results saw them being voted out of the league with Wimbledon replacing them. During the league years they had some illustrious managers, Bill Shankly and Ken Furphy to name but two. Their struggles saw them drop down to the North West Counties League and then rise again to the then Conference North. But recent years have seen a steady slide back down the pyramid.
On my way to the match I couldn’t believe that in a charity shop in Barnard Castle I found an old Workington Program from their League days for just £1, a coincidence and a bargain.
Workintons Borough Park Ground has seen better days but it is a credit to the officials and fans that it is clean, bright and has good facilities. The club house houses, bar/lounge, club shop and refreshment kiosk but it was once the base for a stand built in 1937. Please see the comparison with today and a page from ‘The History of Non-League Football Grounds’ by Kerry Miller published in 1996 by Polar Print Group. The images are from 1937, 1993 and 2019.
A proposal to build a new stadium to house both the Rugby League and Football teams has been put on hold by a newly elected council in May of this year. This would also have provided space for new offices for local businesses and a 3G pitch for community use.
Workington AFC, Workington Town Rugby League ground, proposed ground.
Workington AFC 2 Widnes 0
Workington controlled the first 15 minutes of this game but it was Widnes who came closest to scoring when on 20 minutes Michael Grogan hit the crossbar with a fierce shot which bounced down and was hooked away. Widnes continued to press but a mix up in the Widnes defence on 30 minutes allowed No.6 Brad Carroll the chance to outpace them and drift past Owen Wheeler to slam the ball home when only a touch would have done.
The rest of the half remained competitive but the home team went in ahead.
Workington upped their game to start the second half but were thankful for Dan Wordsworth’s scooped clearance off the line with everyone else beaten by Harry Brazel’s shot.
The sun was taking its toll of the players and the referee called a drinks break nearly 30 minutes into the second half. This seemed to to sap Widnes concentration and a well placed corner soon after from Conor Tinnion from the right of the goal was fumbled over the goal line by Owen Wheeler.
Workington saw out a dull period of the game to win and keep them on top of the league. Despite them having played more games that many of their rivals they have the points in the bag. Can they hold on and regain some league status, most of the 389 supporters in the ground hope so.
The Workington Club house was friendly and alive and the chips were what I have been waiting for all season. Hot, thick, tasty, golden and a good portion. Not much more to say but a highly recommended score of 85.