REPORT: Cefn Druids 4-3 Widnes
Widnes narrowly beaten in final pre-season game
Widnes FC ended their pre-season campaign with a 4-3 defeat away at Welsh Premier League side Cefn Druids.
Joey Dunn’s side led 2-0 midway through the first-half as George Lomax sensationally opened the scoring with an audacious lob from the halfway line before Chad Whyte doubled the visitors’ advantage with a composed finish nine minutes later.
Cefn levelled the scoreline with two goals either side of half-time through Lewis Buckley and a Neil Ashton penalty before Stuart Cook completed a turnaround for Druids by firing his side ahead 19 minutes into the second half.
Widnes hit back through Billy Webb but Tom Williams netted a 76th minute winner for Druids.
Manager Dunn made two changes to the side that won at Maghull in midweek with Chad Whyte and Sam Sheen both returning to the starting line-up whilst Tom Freeman was named amongst the substitutes.
It was the hosts who started brightly with the lively Stuart Cook going on a marauding run before dragging an effort wide before striker Lewis Buckley forced goalkeeper Louie Mackin into a decent save after capitalising on a Michael White error.
However, it was Widnes who opened the scoring after 12 minutes. Striker George Lomax spotted Cefn ‘keeper Michael Jones off his line and audaciously tried his luck from the halfway line with his shot spectacularly sailing into the back of the net.
Lomax went close again after linking up with striker-partner Whyte, striking over following good work from Colin Quirk initially before ‘keeper Mackin produced a stunning save to deny Mike Pritchard after a neat one-two with Buckley.
Widnes doubled their advantage two minutes later. Defender Steve Akrigg cleverly threaded a well-weighted pass through to Chad Whyte who applied a composed finish beyond Jones with Josh Tinney’s flag on the near-side staying down despite a heavy hint of offside.
Cefn were presented with an opportunity to halve the deficit 10 minutes before half-time as the hosts were awarded a penalty as Buckley went down under the fairly innocuous challenge of Mike Burke. Buckley stepped up himself, only to be denied by a superb Mackin save but the ball sat up nicely for the striker to nod home from the rebound.
Druids threatened twice before the break with James Davies firing wide of the post before skipper Cook directed a cushioned volley wide of the post.
The second half started like the first – with Cefn putting the Widnes backline under pressure early but Mackin was on-hand to deny Naim Arsan from close-range.
Following the hour-mark, Cefn were controversially awarded a second penalty of the afternoon. Steve Akrigg was penalised for what can only be described as a hand in the back of his man as the aerial ball was floated towards the back-post, with referee Barry Whilding awarding a penalty to the bemusement of both sets of players.
Former Southport left-back Neil Ashton took full advantage of the referee’s decision and arrowed his spot-kick into the corner.
Cefn completed the turnaround less than two minutes later. A slick move ended with Mackin saving from Davies but Druids kept possession alive with Stuart Cook cutting inside the penalty area from the left and finding the far corner with a tidy finish.
Feeling somewhat hard done by, Widnes went in search of an equaliser of their own as Dunn introduced Billy Webb and Freeman in place of goalscorers Whyte and Lomax, with those changes paying instant dividends.
A wonderfully-worked goal brought Widnes level as Chris Lomax advanced forward and released Jay Roberts on the overlap with the substitute’s drilled cross towards the near-post stabbed home by substitute Billy Webb.
However, Cefn quickly regained the lead as a long ball over the top found substitute Tom Williams, who was clearly in an offside position but the infringement was missed by linesman Tinney with Williams stroking home the decisive blow in the game.
There was still time for Widnes to threaten yet another equaliser as a well-weighted Akrigg ball over the top was brilliantly brought down by Chris Lomax only for his shot to be charged down. However, the ball sat up nicely for Webb who could only head straight into the grateful gloves of Cefn’s substitute goalkeeper Trialist A.
Widnes’ 2017/18 season gets underway next Sunday with a history-making FA Cup tie as Dunn’s side host Handsworth Parramore in the Extra Preliminary Round. Kick-off 3pm.
Widnes: Mackin, Davies, Roberts, White, Burke (C), Akrigg, C. Lomax, Sheen, G. Lomax, Whyte, Quirk.
Widnes subs: Webb, Freeman.
Cefn Druids: Jones, Parle, Eckersley, Simpson, Ashton, Cook (C), Mudimu, Arsan, Pritchard, Davies, Buckley.
Cefn Druids subs: Trialist A, Gareth, Burrows, Taylor, Piskorski, Williams, Trialist C.