Pontefract Collieries suffered their first setback of the new season in the BetVictor NPL when they finished with 10 men and went down to a narrow defeat at Workington on Monday.
The newly constructed North West Division is shaping up to be tougher than last year’s East Division and last year’s runners-up Ponte have now won one, drawn one and lost one of their first three games.
Their long travel to Workington came off the back of a strongly contested Emirates FA Cup tie against Hebburn Town, which ended all square at 1-1 on Saturday and maybe the exertions took something out of the Colls players.
It also did not help that they arrived late because of traffic problems and the hosts got on top early on with Ponte struggling to get the ball down. They defended well, though, with the first real chance not arriving until the 21st minute when Workington worked a two-on-one only to hit a shot well over.
Colls were breached on 28 minutes as Scott Allison headed home at the far post.
It could have been two when one centre-back crossed for another, but the ball went off target.
Ponte continued to struggle to make headway up to half-time and the break came with the home team deservedly ahead.
Manager Craig Parry sent on Vaughan Redford for Fabian Bailey to get an extra forward on the pitch for the second period. But although they enjoyed more possession they still found it difficult to create anything until just after the hour mark when Connor Smythe saw his effort well saved.
Colls keeper Seb Malkowski was called into action two minutes later, making a smart save to keep out a deflected effort.
Malkowski could not prevent Workington from making it 2-0 on 67 minutes as he was left with no chance to save Allison’s deflected effort.
Ponte steeled themselves for a big finish and came close when Gavin Rothery set up substitute Layton Swaine only for his header to be met with an equally good save.
They kept going and were finally rewarded with a goal on 81 minutes as Jake Picton came up from the back to send a glancing header into the net from a corner.
The kitchen sink was thrown at Workington and only a great block denied Joe Lumsden.
But in injury time Ponte went down to 10 men when defender Jameel Ible was red carded and their effort petered out with valuable lessons learned for the campaign ahead.
They will be looking to bounce straight back when at home to Ramsbottom United this Saturday.
Colls then face a replay of their FA Cup preliminary round tie against Hebburn Town next Tuesday (7.45pm).
The first meeting between the teams resulted in a stalemate at the Beechnut Lane ground last Saturday.
Both goals came in the first quarter of an hour. Ponte took the lead through Mikey Dunn, but only held it for three minutes with their visitors equalising from the penalty spot.
In a scrappy game goalkeeper Malkowski emerged as the Colls hero with a string of good saves in the opening half and the team knows they will have to improve for the replay. Assistant manager Craig Rouse said: “Both teams cancelled each other out.
“The first half they probably shaded it and had the better chances. We were indebted to Seb as he kept a few shots out and did what we know he can do.
“In the second half there weren’t many chances, but the best one fell to us and we hit the bar with it. It’s disappointing really, but we have a replay against a good side.
“Both sides were involved in tough games midweek and as the game went on you could see both sides sort of fading. We’re disappointed we couldn’t force a winner, but we’d rather have a replay than be knocked out of the competition.”