REPORT: Widnes 5-0 Winsford United
By Callum Chadwick
Widnes secure five-goal first-leg win over Winsford
Kev Towey netted a hat-trick as Widnes FC produced a stunning first half display to record a 5-0 victory over Winsford United in the first leg of the Macron Cup semi-final at Halton Stadium on Monday night.
In a scintillating opening period from the hosts, it was Towey who opened the scoring after five minutes, guiding home Ben Hodkinson’s cross from close-range.
Hodkinson would then add a second four minutes later, before Michael Grogan nodded home Widnes’ third of the night within the opening 20 minutes.
Towey would then complete his hat-trick with two well-taken goals either side of the half time interval, ensuring that Widnes will take a healthy five-goal advantage into the second leg on Tuesday night.
Joint bosses Towey and Steve Akrigg made four changes to the side that won at AFC Darwen last time out. Akrigg was one of four players to make way as Jack Graham, Phil Doran, Stuart Cook and Chris Lomax all returned to the starting XI. Jay Roberts was ruled out through injury, while Dylan Sweeney and Danny Laverty both dropped to the bench.
Widnes were terrific from the off, and they were rewarded with an early opener. Richie Mottram’s pinpoint goal-kick gave Hodkinson something to chase. The former Bootle man obliged, hounding Winsford’s Jamie McLellan into an error before keeping the ball alive.
Hodkinson was poised, finding strike-partner Towey at the back-post who applied a composed finish, guiding the ball beyond the flat-footed Matthew Green and into the far-corner.
Winsford were struggling to cope with Widnes’ high pressing gameplan, and Lee Duckworth’s men were left stunned as the vibrant hosts added a second with just nine minutes on the clock.
Skipper Kev Pollard won a challenge on the edge of the area, with Hodkinson evading the offside trap to latch on to the loose ball. The striker had time, to roll his shot into the back of the net.
By now, the home fans were jubilant – and Widnes’ confidence was visibly growing, underlined by an incredible third goal on the 20-minute mark.
After Pollard had a dipping long-range effort tipped over by Green, Widnes capitalised from the resulting corner. Jack Banister floated the ball in, where Grogan was on-hand to head home his fourth goal in a month.
Winsford improved as the half went on but rarely struggled to test the Widnes back-four, and custodian Mottram.
In truth, Widnes could have had a fourth by the half-hour mark as Hodkinson first had an effort blocked by Green, before Towey was thwarted by a great recovery challenge from McLellan.
It got even better right on half-time as the hosts notched a fourth goal. The goal typified Widnes’ first half display with Mike Burke winning a crunching challenge on the halfway line before quickly releasing Towey.
The Widnes co-boss then went on a driving run forward from the left-hand side, cutting inside before arrowing a shot inside of the near-post to give his side a handsome advantage at the break.
Half time: Widnes 4-0 Winsford United
Widnes were undoubtedly looking to serve up something similar in the second half, and Towey twice came close to sealing his hat-trick in the opening minutes.
Cook took a quick free-kick looking to hit Towey early, but the Widnes talisman couldn’t quite get on the end of the cross. Hodkinson then got in-behind but Towey was always stretching as he looked to connect with his strike-partner’s pass.
Nevertheless, Towey’s treble was completed just five minutes into the second half. Hodkinson again pressed the Winsford defence deep in their own half, as Jason Fowles lost possession.
Hodkinson quickly sent a cross towards Towey in the area, who notched a rare headed goal to complete his hat-trick and increase Widnes’ lead to five.
Towey should have added a fourth to his tally moments later. Chris Lomax was the provider, lifting a delicious delivery towards Towey who could only strike the post from a couple of yards out.
Both Towey and Hodkinson were replaced after the hour-mark, with the latter producing a typically tireless display leading the line. They were replaced by George Lomax and Tom Croughan, who added fresh energy to the Widnes front line.
The duo would both miss half-chances, before Banister went on a typical long-busting run forward from the edge of his own area, travelling 80 yards before blazing wide.
As the contest ticked towards full-time, Widnes settled into a rhythm as Akrigg and Towey's men eased to first-leg victory.
Full time: Widnes 5-0 Winsford United
Widnes now hold a healthy five-goal advantage heading into Tuesday’s (24th April) second leg at St Luke’s Barton Stadium.
Up first for Widnes is a league fixture against Northwich Victoria, in the Whites’ penultimate home game of the season.