REPORT: Widnes 2-1 Burscough
Widnes crowned Macron Cup winners
Widnes provided the perfect swan-song to their five-year stay in the Hallmark Security League by signing off with a 2-1 win over Burscough in the Macron Cup final at Fleetwood Town’s Highbury Stadium.
After falling behind to an early goal from Burscough’s Jamie Clark, Widnes recovered through goals from Ben Hodkinson and Sam Sheen to complete a promotion/cup double by lifting the North West Counties League’s Challenge Cup.
Despite Sheen being the man to seal victory for Widnes, goalkeeper Richie Mottram once again came to the Whites’ rescue to preserve his side’s lead, underlining his credentials to be named Premier Division Goalkeeper of the Season.
The game was a terrific advert for the league with both teams delivering an entertaining 90 minutes, with Burscough proving to be more than a match for a Widnes side that finished 46 points ahead of the Lancashire-based Linnets.
Widnes co-bosses Steve Akrigg and Kev Towey made two changes to the side that secured promotion with a 2-0 win over Ashton Athletic. The injured Jack Graham missed out with skipper Kev Pollard earning a recall while Towey came in for George Lomax who was named amongst the substitutes.
On a cool and overcast night on the Fylde Coast, Widnes started the better of the two sides.
Towey combined with Jack Banister to provide a chance for Ben Hodkinson who forced a corner with an effort that was blocked in the area.
However, it was Burscough who took the lead after nine minutes. Ex-Widnes man Jamie Clark trotted over to the far-side to take a corner only to unexpectedly curl an in-swinging set-piece into the area that dropped beneath the crossbar and into the net without anyone else getting a touch on the ball.
Burscough were boosted by their opening goal, but Widnes always carried a threat and looked dangerous going forward.
Akrigg and Towey’s side would muster an equaliser only 13 minutes later. Chris Lomax’s deep corner was helped back across goal by Michael Grogan with Hodkinson finding space in the area to bury a shot on the half-volley to record his 13th goal in a Widnes shirt.
Lomax was a constant threat, driving to the by-line to shake off the challenge of Clark to force a corner that Pollard headed wide.
He then intercepted a Joshua Samberg clearance to release Towey in-behind but the Widnes co-boss could only shoot over.
Five minutes later, Widnes found the back of the net through Grogan who rose highest to power a header home only to be penalised by referee Nathaniel Cox for a foul on Burscough man Alexander Parkes.
In-form Burscough striker Chad Whyte, a First Division title-winner with Widnes last season, carried a threat for Linnets, riding a sliding Mike Burke challenge only to force a good save out of Mottram.
Widnes had Burscough under the cosh late in the half, but Dave Sutton’s Linnets escaped with their lives as both Banister and Lomax saw efforts charged down.
Half-time: Widnes 1-1 Burscough
The half-time interval failed to affect the momentum of the game, which picked up immediately as Whyte curled an effort over for Burscough within seconds of the restart.
Widnes’ first chance of the half came courtesy of a Samberg gift. His wayward clearance allowed Hodkinson to race clear of the Burscough back-four only for the goalkeeper to redeem himself by making a good block to deny the ex-Bootle striker a second goal of the night.
Minutes later, Lomax went down under the challenge of Clark in the area, leading to half-hearted penalty appeals that were waved away before Mottram produced a smart stop to deny Henerty for Burscough.
There was a sense that Widnes were beginning to take control of proceedings as both Banister and Lomax had shots saved by Samberg.
As the game moved into the final quarter, it was Widnes who began to dominate. Burke had a header cleared off the line while Towey fired over, before Banister was unable to connect on a delicious Lomax cross after finding space inside the six-yard area.
The pressure eventually tolled 13 minutes from time, as Widnes finally went ahead. There seemed to be little danger as Towey’s magnificent touch released Sheen in behind as the angle went against him. However, his curling cross evaded the back-peddling Samberg and crept just inside of the far-post, sending the near-200 travelling Widnes fans into delirium.
Staring an agonising defeat in the face, Burscough pushed for a late equaliser to take the game to penalties.
Joshua Dunroe found space on the edge of the area to crash an effort against the foot of the post with Mottram producing a terrific save with his outstretched foot to prevent substitute Matthew Ward from netting a late equaliser.
Widnes still carried an ability to break forward, and they should have sealed victory seven minutes from time. Towey found himself in space to roll a pass to Banister who had bags of time in the area, but the winger could only lift his effort off target when he really should have scored.
As the game moved into five minutes of stoppage time, Burscough continued to press with Mottram in action once more to block an effort from Prince Ekpolo before skipper Pollard threw his body in the way of Peter Henerty’s follow-up.
In the final minute, the now three-time Macron Cup winner produced yet another save, as Mottram got down well to push Dunroe’s powerful effort away to safety.
Moments later, the final whistle blew, and the Widnes celebrations began.
Full-time: Widnes 2-1 Burscough
The victory was a fine way to end a memorable season for Widnes, who having already secured back-to-back promotions now head to the Evo-Stik League with the Macron Cup in their possession.