REPORT: Widnes 3-1 Winsford United
Hat-trick hero Hodkinson lifts Widnes to seventh straight win
Ben Hodkinson netted a hat-trick as Widnes FC moved within three points of league leaders Runcorn Town with a 3-1 win over Winsford United on Monday night.
The win, Widnes’ seventh consecutive triumph in all competitions, was another fine performance from Steve Akrigg and Kev Towey’s men in bitterly cold conditions at the Select Security Stadium.
Hodkinson produced a Man of the Match performance on the night, opening the scoring on the 17-minute mark which was his first goal in a Widnes shirt.
He completed his treble in style after the break, coolly dispatching two penalties in two second half minutes before Callam Gardner grabbed what proved to be little more than a consolation for Winsford.
Akrigg and Towey made five changes to the side that beat Barnoldswick Town last time out. Sean Myler and Towey were both rested as Sam Sheen and Sam Henry were handed recalls while Hodkinson and Danny Laverty came in for Brad Smart and Chris Lomax who both dropped to the bench.
After Richie Mottram was ruled out through illness earlier in the day, Widnes completed the signing of former Runcorn Linnets ‘keeper Germano Mendes less than four hours before kick-off, with the 25-year-old handed a debut.
In sub-zero temperatures, the games started cagily with both sides taking their time to adjust to the difficult conditions.
It was Widnes who started brighter, and they opened the scoring after taking their first clear-cut chance of the night.
Jack Banister floated a corner towards the near-post, met by the unchallenged Hodkinson who was well-placed to glance home his first goal for the club in only his second start following a move from Bootle last month.
Hodkinson was lively and his relentless pressure was causing Winsford problems defensively. His flick-on from a Mendes goal-kick released Henry in behind, but his effort was tame and well saved by Matthew Green.
Green almost gifted Widnes a second on the half-hour mark, dropping a Laverty corner but Phil Doran was unable to poke home allowing Winsford to clear any resulting danger.
Winsford struggled to threaten stand-in keeper Mendes in the first half, with Sean Sherwood volleying over before Scott Taylor shot straight into Mendes’ grateful gloves minutes later.
Henry and Hodkinson were proving to be a handful, with the two combining well as the latter latched on to Henry’s lay-off only to see a shot blocked as half-time beckoned.
Halftime: Widnes 1-0 Winsford United
Widnes picked up where they left off and were awarded a penalty seven minutes into the second half.
Hodkinson displayed a superb turn of pace to pick up a loose ball and drive into the area. A superb turn got the better of Perry Bircumshaw, who tripped the Widnes striker leaving referee Edward Duckworth with little choice but to point to the spot.
Hodkinson, to his credit, dusted himself down and took the penalty himself, sending Green the wrong way with a composed effort to double Widnes’ lead.
Straight from the restart, Widnes were awarded a second penalty in as many minutes. Banister cut inside from the left only to be tripped by Jason Fowles with Duckworth again pointing to the spot.
Hodkinson, on a hat-trick, stepped up and successfully converted from the spot again to complete his treble.
Widnes’ hat-trick hero went off to a standing ovation twenty minutes from time to be replaced by Smart.
Minutes later however, Winsford pulled a goal back. A decent passing moving allowed Michael Koral to power into the area, holding off the challenge of Humphreys. His drilled cross was pushed away by Mendes into the path of Gardner who stroked the ball into an empty net.
Winsford enjoyed their best spell after pulling a goal back, but Widnes continued to press for a fourth. Smart was lively following his introduction from the bench as he found himself one-on-one with Green only to see his lobbed effort bounce agonisingly over the bar.
Henry then volleyed an effort wide before Smart had a chance to kill the game inside second half stoppage time, but he could only lift his effort over after latching on to Mike Burke’s long ball forward.
Fulltime: Widnes 3-1 Winsford United
Widnes will be full of confidence heading to their next outing at Charnock Richard on Saturday, who won the reverse fixture 3-0 at the Select Security Stadium last month.