In our family we are all agreed that you can’t beat going to a football match on a Bank Holiday.
My brother, an enthusiastic groundhopper, was keen to visit Borough Ground, home of Workington AFC for the first time. Workington, known locally as the Reds to distinguish them from the Rugby League club that plays just down the road, were once managed by the legendary Bill Shankly and have been a Football League club until 1977.
However, Workington AFC currently compete in the Northern Premier League (or the Evo-Stik Premier Division to use its less descriptive modern name), the seventh tier of English football. On Easter Monday, they were due to play my favourite local non-league side, Lancaster City (aka the Dolly Blues). This was going to be the perfect fixture to keep all the family happy.
Despite an unpromising weather forecast the night before, with the threat of heavy snow on higher ground, the four of us enjoyed an uneventful journey on Monday morning and saw little of the dreaded white stuff other than on the picturesque peaks of the northern Lake District. What we did see was rain and plenty of it. On arrival in an extremely wet and windy Workington we decided to take on board an all-day breakfast in the café of a conveniently placed superstore before making our way to the ground.
Much of Borough Park remains as it was when the Reds were a Football League club, with the exception of the old Main Stand whose top section was removed for safety reasons during the 1980s. The old terraces made us feel nostalgic and we started to reminisce about the good old days. However, we’re all in our 50s now, so were quite happy to make our way to the covered stand on the other side of the pitch and take our seats.
Clearly, our journey through the scenic Northern Lakes had proved less eventful than that of the Lancaster City team whose coach had broken down en route. This meant a 20-minute delay in kick-off time which wasn’t ideal for the hardy spectators, nor for the pitch which was becoming muddier by the minute. On a day when many matches were postponed because of waterlogged pitches, Workington’s groundsman Jeff Curwen must be commended for ensuring the game went ahead.
When the match did finally get underway, Lancaster had the better of what was a scrappy first half as both teams struggled to come to terms with the difficult conditions and exceptionally heavy pitch. In truth, there was little to warm up the long-suffering crowd. One family member summed it up perfectly as we queued for our much-needed half-time cuppa with the words: “It’s wet. It’s muddy. It’s a lottery.”
Happily, the second half proved more eventful. Workington Reds played with more purpose and began to take control of the game. The deadlock was finally broken in the 69th minute when Reds defender Matty Douglas climbed high to meet a cross from David Symington and score with a powerful header. Lancaster responded with pressure of their own and it looked like the Dolly Blues could snatch an equaliser. But it wasn’t to be. Workington’s victory was sealed in the last minute when Rob Wilson hit a fine half volley past Lancaster goalie Elliot Wynne to send home happy most of the crowd of 358 (a respectable figure on such an inclement day).
As for our family party of four, we were all agreed that, despite the weather, it had been well worth the effort and looked forward to visiting another new ground soon.