[C]urrent Cumberland league champions Workington Athletic represented the Smurfitt Kappa Cumberland County league on Saturday in the FA’s prestigious Inter League Cup competition. Their opponents were a representative team from North Riding (formerly known as the Teeside League) and this team reached the competition’s final the last time of asking – so a tough battle was expected at Whitehaven AFC’s 3G pitch.
It was North Riding who made the stronger start, piercing the Athletic defence on several occasions in the early stages. A rasping shot hit the bar, but the rebound was inexplicably placed over the gaping open goal, a big let off for the Cumberland lads and this shook Workington who responded with a slick move starting with Gregory Armstrong who found Marc Messenger who eased the ball to Tony Berwick who found Ashley Kelly.
Unselfishly, Kelly squared to striker Matthew Perry who had an easy tap into an empty net. Although Workington were 1-0 up, this game then became more open with both sides pushing for goals but great work by both keepers kept the score to just the one goal advantage to Workington at the half time whistle.
Athletic were quick out of the traps in the second half and excellent work down the left involving skipper Tom Pardini, Greg Quayle and the ever active Messenger could have resulted in a second for Perry only for the final delivery into the box to fall just behind the incoming striker. Within minutes North Riding were level.
Another slick move through middle allowed their centre forward to hit a low drive which ‘keeper James Bryden did well to keep out, but the Riding left winger following up, and crashed the ball into the Workington net.
The Teesiders were now the team in the ascendancy, but after a quick flowing counter attack by Athletic, Perry fed Kelly coming in from the right who hammered the ball into the top right hand corner. Wild celebrations followed but as the final whistle drew ever closer, a North Riding striker found space and finished with aplomb in the 88th minute.
Level peggings again and now time to cue wild celebrations from the Teesiders. However, straight from kick off and following and good work from Calum Best and Perry again, the ball fell to Tommy Whitehead who let rip a thunderous half volley, and won the game with a minute to spare.
An excellent game for the neutral to enjoy, and its the Cumberland County League side who move into the Second Round, to face the Humberside League select team.