REPORT: Widnes 1-0 AFC Liverpool (Liverpool Senior Cup)
Mitchell's early opener secures safe passage in Liverpool Senior Cup
Widnes FC booked their place in the last eight of the Liverpool Senior Cup with a narrow 1-0 win over Hallmark Security League Premier Division rivals AFC Liverpool on Monday night.
Tom Mitchell’s goal inside the opening minute proved to be the difference between the two sides as Steve Akrigg and Kev Towey’s side secured a second consecutive victory, stretching Widnes’ unbeaten run with the duo at the helm to five games.
Akrigg and Towey made nine changes to the side that thrashed Maine Road 5-1 last time out. Duo Dylan Sweeney and goalkeeper Richie Mottram retained their places, with defender Harris Saunders handed a debut in the heart of the Widnes defence.
Widnes made the perfect start as they took the lead with less than 60 seconds on the clock. After Towey was bundled over to win a free-kick, Sweeney floated a deep cross towards the back-post where stand-in skipper Tom Mitchell was on-hand to turn the ball home from close-range to give his side the lead.
The hosts came close to extending their lead five minutes later only for former Widnes man Adam Weston to make a crucial intervention on the goalline, heading Tony Donaldson’s goalbound effort away from danger.
The visitors grew into the game as it went on with Mottram reacting quickly to smother Michael Boyle’s cross before James Heron drove a shot wide of the far-post.
Many in attendance thought that the Non-League Reds had mustered an equaliser midway through the half as James Heron’s half-volley nestled in nothing but net. However, Heron’s effort went wide of Mottram’s right-hand post and found the side-netting.
Widnes went in search of a second with a flowing passing move as Luke Edwards combined with Danny Laverty before quickly releasing Towey into space but AFC Liverpool keeper Jack Cookson made a decent save.
From the resulting corner, Towey again went close as he directed a glancing header across the face of goal and wide.
Halftime: Widnes 1-0 AFC Liverpool
Laverty was proving to be a nuisance in attack for Widnes and he created the first chance of the second half. The winger picked up possession on the left-hand side before working a neat pass into the feet of Chad Whyte who hit a curling effort narrowly wide of the far-post.
The game began to open up as keeper Cookson was called into action on the hour-mark, tipping Whyte’s effort over after an incisive pass from Towey released his strike-partner.
Towey was leading by example but couldn’t quite find a way past Cookson between the sticks for AFC Liverpool. He was again denied by the former Widnes shot-stopper, who got down well to push the joint manager’s effort away to safety after he latched on to Joe Fielding’s clearance.
Widnes spurned a glorious chance to kill the game as a contest 20 minutes from time. Striker Whyte did brilliantly until the finish, dropping his shoulder twice as he drove into the area only to fire wide of the mark when it finally mattered.
In their search for an equaliser, AFC Liverpool were limited to half-chances despite Chris Stammers’ side playing some neat, passing football. Oscar Billington headed harmlessly wide of the post before Michael Boyle fired over from inside the area.
AFC Liverpool’s best chance of the game came five minutes from time as substitute Deklan Hill looked to get in behind the Widnes backline but Mitchell reacted quickly to make a terrific, sliding intervention to prevent Hill from testing Mottram from close-range.
Fulltime: Widnes 1-0 AFC Liverpool
With their victory, Widnes have become the first side to secure their place in the last eight of the Liverpool Senior Cup. They join Southport, Tranmere Rovers and Everton who were all handed byes to the quarter-final stage.
Akrigg and Towey’s side return to league action on Saturday with a trip to Padiham.