REPORT: Widnes 2-1 Charnock Richard
Widnes take giant step towards promotion
Widnes FC took a giant step towards automatic promotion to the Hallmark Security League Premier Division with a 2-1 win over Charnock Richard in front of a club record crowd of 462 at the Select Security Stadium.
The win – Widnes’ 12 consecutive league triumph – lifts Joey Dunn’s side above their Lancashire-based counterparts and to the summit of the First Division with two games left to play.
George Lomax put Widnes ahead after 19 minutes with a fine finish on the spin before Matthew Davison’s magnificent solo effort drew Charnock Richard level seven minutes later.
Lomax added his second to restore Widnes’ advantage two minutes into the second half, sealing all three points to send Dunn’s side to the top of the table.
Manager Dunn made one change to the side that beat Chadderton last time out. Goalkeeper Richie Mottram was ruled out with a thigh injury and replaced in the starting lineup by Owen Wheeler, who has returned from his Dallas Cup success with Liverpool FC Foundation College.
In a relatively cagey opening to the game, neither side came close to testing the opposition’s goalkeeper. Carl Grimshaw headed over for Charnock Richard early on before Lomax’s driven delivery intended for Towey was cut out by Charnock skipper Joshua Norgate before the Widnes man could capitalise.
The hosts took the lead on the 19-minute mark. River Humphreys’ long throw-in from the left was only half-cleared to George Lomax, who hit an unorthodox volley on the spin that nestled in the far corner to net his sixth goal in his last five games.
Widnes continued to show their attacking intent after taking the lead. Steve Akrigg forced Adam Halton into a comfortable save but Kev Pollard fired high and wide of the target after good build-up play by Towey.
However, the visitors recovered from their early blow and quickly equalised. Matthew Davison picked the ball up in midfield and was afforded too much time and space to surge forward before drilling a powerful shot into the bottom corner that left the outstretched Wheeler with no chance.
The first half was far from classic, as chances were hard to come by for both sides. Charnock almost gifted Widnes a second goal as Towey robbed Spencer Bibby of possession but stumbled under the right-back’s innocuous challenge as he moved towards goal, allowing the visitors to clear away the danger.
Halftime: Widnes 1-1 Charnock Richard
You could have argued that the momentum was with the visitors at the break, but whatever Joey Dunn said at half-time had an instant impact as Widnes regained the lead less than two minutes into the second half.
It was a wonderfully-worked Widnes goal as skipper Pollard won possession back in midfield before Edwards played a neat one-two with Towey and released Humphreys into space down the left. The Widnes defender saw a powerful effort charged down but the ball sat up nicely for George Lomax, who applied a smart finish on the volley to send the home crowd into delirium.
Half-chances followed for Widnes as Edwards flashed a shot across the face of goal and wide, before Pollard forced Halton into a comfortable save with a close-range header.
‘Keeper Wheeler was called into action on the hour-mark as Anthony Hough played a tidy one-two with Grimshaw that set the Charnock man on his way but he could only shoot straight at the Widnes shot-stopper, who made a comfortable save.
With time ticking away, Charnock manager Andy Westwell had one last roll of the dice as he made all three changes in quick succession as his side went in search of an equaliser.
Despite the changes, Widnes looked more likely to increase their advantage and it took a terrific recovery challenge from goalscorer Davison to deny Jack Graham, who burst forward in acres of space only to be denied by Davison’s sliding intervention.
Midfielder Hough made a crucial block to deny Widnes a chance to add a third late on as Charnock’s defence switched off, allowing Lomax the time to pick out a pass but Hough was alert to clear the danger with Edwards lurking dangerously.
Five minutes of stoppage time gave Charnock the chance to find an equaliser but they struggled to penetrate the stubborn and hard-nosed defensive tandem of Mike Burke and Steve Akrigg, who dealt with everything thrown at them as Widnes held on to take a significant step towards achieving their season’s goal.
Fulltime: Widnes 2-1 Charnock Richard
Widnes only need one point from their final two games to guarantee promotion, whilst two wins from two will see Dunn’s side crowned Champions.
Various permutations could see Widnes win the title as early as Tuesday night following their trip to AFC Blackpool. However, Widnes will be under no illusions and will travel to the Fylde coast looking to pick up three vital points.