Way out West for Park
Widnes claimed the local derby day bragging rights following this vital South Lancs Cheshire 1 victory over West Park.
As expected, this was yet another keenly fought and evenly matched affair, particularly in the first half when Widnes held the early advantage only to see Park have much the better of the last twenty minutes of that first period. The second half then saw the home side defy having two players sent to warm their heels in the sin-bin, before recovering to finally claim the spoils with two late tries.
All of this means, that Widnes have lifted themselves just that little bit further away from that congested lower middle order, and they now have both Tyldesley and Leigh – whom they face on Saturday - in their sights with two games in hand.
With Heath Road out of bounds because of a waterlogged playing surface, the game was switched to the Lynton Crescent pitch where Head Groundsman Graham McLean and his ever willing band of volunteers had all worked tirelessly to make conditions playable.
The opening exchanges were all a bit scrappy, with some unforced errors matched only by some poor kicking out of hand.
When the ball did begin to stick and find the player targets, it was Widnes who were first to make it count as crisp handling sent in winger Gavin Hatton over in the far corner for the game’s opening try.
A penalty to Park for a high tackle then got them to within earshot of the Wids line before a super ankle tap tackle from Josh Paton prevented a potential try scoring opportunity for opposite number Ryan Littler.
After 20 minutes, the home side were able to extend their lead a little further when Kevin Leadbetter kicked a penalty to increase their advantage to eight points.
The red and blacks should then really have added to their tally, but they were unable to capitalise on that earlier dominance highlighted by the collective efforts of their pack.
That general lack of control in certain areas would be the invitation Park needed for a way back through their big forwards who slowly began to turn the screw and dominate the remainder of the half. Indeed, after going close, they were finally awarded a penalty try after 30 minutes which got them back to within a single point at 8 – 7.
The remainder of the first half saw Park continue to dominate proceedings although there was no further addition to the scoreboard as the half finally drew to a close.
The home side got the second half underway with the coaches words no doubt ringing in their ears, and they began with much more determination and purpose as they looked to rediscover their earlier dominance.
It took a poor Park clearance kick to offer the home side that opportunity, and they were able to take full advantage as Charles Lang crashed over for a try from close range much to the delight of the home supporters who were packed in on the terrace behind.
Shortly afterwards, Widnes were awarded a penalty, but the strong breeze pulled Kevin Leadbetter’s attempt wide and short of the target.
It wasn’t to get any easier for the visitors on 55 minutes, when they had a man despatched to the sin-bin, and the red and blacks were able to accept the invite as more quick handling got fullback Andy Owens over for a try which crucially then put his side two scores in front.
In a frantic last quarter, Widnes also had a man sent to the ‘bin quickly followed by a second meaning that it was now 13 against 15 with still enough time left for a Park revival.
Fortunately, the home side were able to repel everything that the visitors could throw at them, and when they were returned to 14 players and eventually 15, they were good enough to break free of their defensive shackles to add a further try as Paul McLindon sent in man of the match Andy Owens for his second try of the afternoon.
After that, it was all over for Park, but Widnes weren’t quite finished yet, and in a final free flowing cross field movement, another of the youngsters, Jamie Patient was released to dive in at the corner for a super try which rounded off a decent day at the office for the Widnes support.
Afterwards, a delighted Head coach Lee McDermott commented “This win just shows how much progress we have made. Today, we had six out of eight forwards missing and we also had two players in the ‘bin and still won comfortably.
He continued “There were so many positives today. Our young lads are superb and continue to get better. Man of the match Andy Owens is making the full back role his own along the lines of Andy Riley, and Tom O’Neill is a machine in the pack with his effort and work rate. For me, though, the heart that is running through this group of players is immense”.