REPORT: AFC Blackpool 1-5 Widnes
Widnes crowned Champions following commanding victory on the Fylde Coast
Widnes FC were crowned Champions of the Hallmark Security League First Division following a 5-1 win at AFC Blackpool.
Widnes headed into the game knowing that they only need a point to guarantee promotion but the Whites needed a win, and Charnock Richard to drop points away at City of Liverpool to clinch the title.
It was comfortable night for Widnes and victory was all-but sealed at half-time. In-form striker George Lomax struck a first-half hat-trick as Joey Dunn’s side stormed into a 4-0 lead with skipper Kev Pollard also finding the net.
Chris Lomax added a fifth in the second half with Aaron Fleming grabbing a consolation for the hosts late on.
On an unseasonably, bitterly cold night on the Fylde Coast, Widnes settled any nerves as they took an 11th minute lead. George Lomax netted his first goal of the evening with a well-taken penalty from inside the area after strike-partner Chad Whyte bravely won a header to set up his teammate despite a heavy collision with Blackpool ‘keeper Callum Kirkland.
It was one-way traffic and Widnes were firmly in the ascendancy. Jay Roberts drove an effort narrowly over the bar before Dunn’s side doubled their advantage on the 20-minute mark.
River Humphreys’ long throw-in caused Charnock significant problems on Saturday and was equally effective this time around, with skipper Kev Pollard directing a header into the back of the net to record his seventh goal of the season.
The skipper was denied a quickfire second minutes later. Lomax’s cross was headed down by Steve Akrigg into the path of Pollard, whose acrobatic volley was superbly blocked on the line by the body of Adam Riding.
Widnes didn’t have to wait long to add a third. Lomax used his pace to collect a loose ball over the top and burst into space before coolly slotting beyond Kirkland 10 minutes before the break.
The striker completed his hat-trick two minutes before half-time. Kev Towey released Lomax who netted a similar goal to his second. He was this time denied by a good Kirkland block, before rolling the rebound into an empty net. Lomax’s third of the evening was his 10th goal in his last six games.
Halftime: AFC Blackpool 0-4 Widnes
Widnes were perhaps guilty of playing within themselves in the second half as the pace of the game significantly dropped but Dunn’s side continued to look threatening going forward.
Mike Burke narrowly headed wide from a corner before Whyte saw a neat flick from close-range beaten away by Kirkland minutes later.
Whyte did everything he could to get his name on the scoresheet but it simply wasn’t to be. Scintillating play from the visitors allowed Towey to latch on to a Jack Graham through-ball with his cross into the area finding Whyte who couldn’t quite find an elusive touch to guide the ball home.
Kirkland was called into action again to prevent Widnes from increasing their lead. He produced a good stop to deny Towey from the edge of the area, before skipper Pollard fired a shot through a crowd of bodies that was beaten away by the Blackpool shot-stopper.
The woodwork denied Widnes a goal of the season contender 10 minutes from time. After superb build-up play, Towey’s clever dummy set up Jack Graham, whose first-time effort bounced back off the crossbar, with Blackpool sweeping away any further danger.
Widnes eventually added a fifth and it came out of the top drawer. Sam Sheen hit a tremendous cross-field pass to Towey, who curled a delicious ball into the area towards substitute Chris Lomax, who applied a neat finish that nestled in the back of the net.
Blackpool grabbed a consolation late on. After Sheen was penalised for a late challenge, Aaron Fleming’s long-range free-kick slipped beneath the body of Widnes ‘keeper Owen Wheeler, who made an uncharacteristic error that mattered little in the end once the visitors knew that the title was theirs.
Fulltime: AFC Blackpool 1-5 Widnes
After the full-time whistle sounded, celebrations began in earnest once news filtered through of the 1-1 draw on Merseyside between City of Liverpool and Charnock Richard.
The victory at the Mechanics Ground means that Widnes secured the title with a game to spare. Dunn’s side end the season at the Select Security Stadium on Saturday against Daisy Hill, with the Championship presentation taking place immediately following the full-time whistle.