REPORT: Widnes 2-0 AFC Liverpool
Widnes continue promotion push with home win
Widnes FC produced a professional performance on Saturday to return to winning ways with a 2-0 home win over AFC Liverpool.
Two first half goals from Michael Grogan and Jack Banister gave the home side a valuable three points to move six points clear of third-placed Hanley Town, putting last week’s 6-1 loss at Barnoldswick Town firmly in the rear view.
Co-bosses Steve Akrigg and Kev Towey made three changes to the side that were heavily beaten in North East Lancashire. Akrigg was rested while Kev Pollard and George Lomax both dropped to the bench. Stuart Cook, Ben Hodkinson and Banister returned to the starting XI.
The relegation-threatened visitors had an early chance to take the lead, with Elliott Nevitt racing in-behind the Widnes backline but Richie Mottram was out quickly to make a decent save.
Hodkinson then went close for Widnes, evading the offside trap to latch on to Phil Doran’s pass but the former Bootle striker could only lift his lobbed effort over.
Nevitt then tested Mottram from distance, before Widnes had a penalty shout turned down as Banister went down in the area, with Hodkinson striking a follow-up effort over.
Widnes took the lead on the 19-minute mark. Chris Lomax floated a corner towards the six-yard area, where Grogan directed a header towards goal that eventually found its way over the line with the defender netted his third goal in four games.
It was an energetic opening 25 minutes from the hosts, with Cook, Banister and Hodkinson all playing with a real zest.
Hodkinson spurned a glorious opportunity to add a second on the half-hour mark. Towey twisted and turned to release his strike-partner in behind but Hodkinson’s first touch was poor as he attempted to round AFC Liverpool goalkeeper Jack Cookson.
Banister was giving the visitors’ Christopher Brady a torrid time on the left-hand side, with the Widnes winger rewarded with a goal nine minutes before half-time.
Cook magnificently released Banister over the top who raced clear, rounding Cookson before slotting into an empty net.
Half-time: Widnes 2-0 AFC Liverpool
Despite rarely troubling Widnes in the first half, the Non-League Reds began the second half the better of the two sides.
Callum Schorah forced an early stop out of Mottram as he raced clear albeit from an offside position.
Clear-cut chances were rare in the second period, with Widnes’ best chance of the half coming 17 minutes from time.
Hodkinson floated a deep cross towards the back-post, collected by Towey who superbly dropped his shoulder to engineer space for a shot that he could only direct into the side-netting.
There was some real concern late on as Widnes youngster Tom Croughan went down under a heavy collision with the visitors’ John Beattie.
Croughan, who had only just been brought on as a substitute, was legitimately knocked unconscious in the incident, before walking off the pitch minutes later. Unable to continue, the ex-Tranmere Rovers player was applauded off by both sets of supporters and players.
With eight minutes of injury time added, there was still time for late drama as the visitors’ skipper Robert Evans was sent off after being shown a second yellow card for a foul on Lomax.
Full-time: Widnes 2-0 AFC Liverpool
Next up for Widnes is a trip to AFC Darwen on Tuesday night, before visiting promotion rivals 1874 Northwich on Saturday.