REPORT: Barnton 2-2 Widnes
By Callum Chadwick
Widnes fight back from 2-0 down to draw
Youngster Tony Donaldson netted a 93rd minute equaliser as Widnes FC fought back from a 2-0 half-time deficit to salvage a point against Barnton.
It looked like Barnton were going to pick up all three points as a Christopher Smith penalty and Jack Irlam put the Villagers’ in front, despite Jay Roberts reducing halving the advantage early in the second half.
However, this Widnes team simply does not know when they’re beaten as substitute Donaldson turned home from close-range to complete the comeback for Steve Akrigg and Kev Towey’s side, days after a stoppage time Andy Gillespie rescued a point at Northwich Victoria last time out.
Few could argue that the visitors didn’t deserve at least a point, if not more. They were the busier and more progressive of the two sides, enjoying the lion’s share of possession. It was ultimately a lack of cutting edge in front of goal that forced Akrigg and Towey’s side to settle for a point.
The joint bosses made two changes to the side that drew at Vics last time out. Sam Sheen was rested as he dropped to the bench alongside striker Chad Whyte. In came Dylan Sweeney for a debut at left-back following his move from AFC Liverpool last week whilst Billy Webb was given the nod up front alongside Gillespie. Meanwhile, Towey was named amongst the substitutes after recovering from a neck problem.
Widnes began like the home side, controlling possession on a pitch that held up remarkably well despite the deluge earlier that day. It took a last-ditch clearance off the line to deny Tom Mitchell an early opener that he didn’t know too much about, before Gillespie struck an effort straight at Barnton ‘keeper Rob Cooke.
The duo of Jack Graham and Roberts on the right-hand side began to enjoy a bit of freedom with a crucial Patrick Hamid intervention cutting out a dangerous Graham delivery before skipper Kev Pollard latched on to Roberts’ cross only to fire over.
Barnton, playing very much on the counter-attack, were awarded a penalty with their first meaningful attack. Former Widnes man Jason McShane burst into space in the visitors’ backline, before tumbling under Mitchell’s last-ditch challenge leaving referee Paul Stonier with little choice but to point to the spot.
Villagers skipper Christopher Smith stepped up and confidently dispatched his spot-kick, sending Richie Mottram the wrong way.
Widnes continued to probe forward despite suffering a minor setback, with Cooke producing a stunning reaction save to deny Gillespie who was flagged offside.
The second goal was a disappointing one to concede on the stroke of half-time. Brandon Moores was afforded too much time on the right to swing a cross towards the unmarked Jack Irlam in the area, who managed to get his head on the ball ahead of the glove of Mottram to nod Barnton into a 2-0 lead.
Halftime: Barnton 2-0 Widnes
Whatever was said at half-time had an almost immediate impact as Widnes halved the deficit less than five minutes into the second half.
Striker Gillespie did well to hold the ball up and quickly release Jay Roberts into space behind the Barnton backline, presenting the Widnes right-back with bags of time to drive his shot into the far corner with Cooke well-beaten.
Barnton were camped in their own half for large periods of the second half, and it took a world class Mottram save to deny Steve Lloyd’s side a third goal on the hour-mark. Irlam’s curling effort from the edge of the D looked destined to nestle in the top corner, but Mottram produced a stunning stop to claw the shot away from danger.
Widnes continued to huff and puff in search of an equaliser with Cooke producing a good save to push a ferocious Graham volley away from goal with Gillespie eventually turning a shot wide at the second attempt.
Changes were made as Widnes tried to unlock the door. Debutant Brad Smart was brought on as was joint boss Towey in an attempt to engineer an equaliser.
Chance after chance went begging as time began to get away from Widnes. Smart whipped a dangerous cross into the area that just evaded Gillespie at full-stretch before Barnton defender Adam Coleman threw himself at a Towey shot to make a crucial block as the hosts looked to hold on for a first league victory of the season.
Widnes must have thought the chance of an equaliser had gone until Graham was bundled over 40 yards from goal. With Barnton’s penalty area camped full of yellow shirts, Mike Burke managed to free himself to help Mottram’s free-kick back into the area towards substitute Tony Donaldson, who managed to get his shot away to net his first goal in a Widnes shirt, striking deep into injury time to salvage a point.
Fulltime: Barnton 2-2 Widnes
Widnes return to the Halton Stadium on Saturday to kick-off a run of six home games from their next seven as 1874 Northwich make the short trip over the River Mersey. Kick-off 3pm.