REPORT: Widnes 7-1 Barnton
Widnes in seventh heaven as run goes on
Widnes FC scored five second half goals on their way to a crushing 7-1 win over bottom club Barnton on Saturday, extending their unbeaten run to 14 games in all competitions.
It took 38 minutes for Widnes to find a breakthrough as George Lomax broke the deadlock before Ben Hodkinson added a second six minutes later.
Chris Lomax added a third early in the second half, but Barnton rallied as Jack Irlam hit back from the spot midway through the half to give the Villagers' a lifeline.
It wasn't to be however as Widnes stepped up a gear and made sure of victory through substitutes Kev Towey and Jack Banister, who netted a brace, while Stuart Cook completed the scoring in the last minute.
Co-manager Steve Akrigg was one of five changes to the side that beat Padiham. The central defender made only his second appearance of the season after six months out with a knee injury, replacing the rested Mike Burke who dropped to the bench.
Banister and Towey also dropped to the bench as Danny Laverty and Chris Lomax were given the nod while Kev Pollard and Hodkinson earned recalls in place of rested duo Jack Graham and Jay Roberts.
Widnes, and striker Hodkinson, made a blistering start. The former Bootle man twice forced early saves out of Barnton keeper Robert Cooke before slicing a gilt edged one-on-one wide of the post moments later.
Cook then dragged an effort wide of the post before George Lomax volleyed into the gloves of Cooke.
Hodkinson was involved again for Widnes midway through the half, spurning the hosts' best chance of netting an opener. He combined with Laverty as he cleverly evaded the offside trap to latch on to the winger's superb through ball. Hodkinson advanced and rounded Cooke, only to for the chance to break down as the striker ran out of room.
Akrigg and Towey's side eventually broke the deadlock seven minutes before the break. Sean Myler provided a well-weighted lofted pass over the top of the Barnton defence with George Lomax applying a smart lobbed finish to give Widnes the lead.
Six minutes later, Hodkinson added a second. It was a deserved goal for the energetic striker, reacting quickly to slot home a loose ball after determined play by Chris Lomax in the build-up.
Half time: Widnes 2-0 Barnton
Chris Lomax added a fine third only minutes into the second half. The winger magnificently turned away from former Widnes defender Josh Kavanagh and advanced towards the six-yard area where Lomax steered in his fifth goal of the season.
It should have been four minutes later as Laverty burst clear of the Barnton backline only to shoot straight at Cooke when one-on-one with the Villagers' stopper.
Following the hour-mark, Barnton enjoyed a decent spell with substitute Brandon Moores firing over before Chris Bandell slammed a shot into the side-netting after dispossessing Michael Grogan.
Midway through the half, Steve Lloyd's visitors were awarded a penalty. Moores got the better of Grogan on the halfway line, marauding forward into the area before tangling with the Widnes defender.
A penalty was awarded, which Jack Irlam duly converted.
Widnes had switched off, and the hosts were perhaps fortunate not to have conceded a quickfire second as Irlam blazed over after good work by Sam Houghton down the right.
Both Banister and Towey were brought on shortly therefter, and the latter's introduction reaped instant rewards as the Widnes joint boss found the net with his first touch.
Less than 30 seconds after coming on as a substitute, Towey latched on to Laverty's lay-off to guide home Widnes' fourth goal of the afternoon with a tidy finish.
Banister added a fifth nine minutes from time, exchanging a neat one-two with Towey before rampaging forward and rolling his shot into the bottom corner.
The winger completed his brace two minutes later. He again combined with Towey, whose clever backheel allowed Banister to power home Widnes' sixth via the foot of the far post.
Widnes' seventh goal was arguably their best as Cook netted a goal of real quality. The England futsal international pulled off two outrageous turns to engineer space for a shot that the midfielder drove into bottom corner to complete the scoring.
Full time: Widnes 7-1 Barnton
The win cements Widnes' place in the top two of the Hallmark Security League Premier Division, six points clear of third-placed Charnock Richard having played six games more.
It's a busy week ahead for Akrigg and Towey's men who have a Liverpool Senior Cup semi-final tie at Marine to look forward to on Tuesday before Halton Derby at Runcorn Linnets on Saturday.