REPORT: Bootle 5-2 Widnes
Widnes beaten at Bootle as poor start continues
Widnes FC’s difficult start to life in the Hallmark Security League Premier Division has continued with a heavy 5-2 defeat at Bootle despite leading twice in the opening 22 minutes.
The visitors started well with skipper Kev Pollard heading home a ninth minute opener but Steven Jones equalised for Bootle 10 minutes later.
Kev Towey quickly responded with his first goal of the season to put Widnes 2-1 up, but goals from Kieran Halligan and Anthony Rendell ensured that Bootle led 3-2 at the break.
Ryan Cox added a fourth for Bootle shortly after half-time before substitute Ben Hodkinson completed the scoring inside second half stoppage time to compound a miserable afternoon for Widnes.
Manager Joey Dunn made three changes to the side that lost 2-1 at Winsford United on Bank Holiday Monday. Louis Mackin was recalled in goal whilst Mike Burke returned from injury at the heart of the Widnes defence as he came in for Michael White. Midfielder Anthony Donaldson was handed a debut whilst fellow new signing Andy Gillespie was named amongst the substitutes.
Widnes started positively and threatened within the opening two minutes. George Lomax combined with Towey who looked to pick out Colin Quirk who was lurking on the edge of the D, only for the midfielder to hit a half-volley over the bar.
Liam Loughlin then did well to hold off the challenge of Widnes’ Tom Mitchell, engineering space for a shot that the Bootle man fired over the crossbar.
The visitors were rewarded for their positive start as Widnes took the lead. Quirk floated a corner into the area towards skipper Kev Pollard, who managed to peel away from his marker and direct a powerful header into the top corner with Bootle ‘keeper Charlie Taylor well-beaten.
Bootle controlled possession in the opening exchanges but failed to trouble ‘keeper Mackin as Widnes again went close as Lomax saw a shot charged down with Towey pouncing on the rebound only to shoot into the grateful gloves of Taylor.
Bootle equalised on the 20-minute mark. Steven Jones neatly exchanged passes with Cox before arrowing a shot on goal, beneath the outstretched Mackin to level the scoreline.
Not to be deterred, Widnes quickly responded and immediately regained the lead. Sean Myler’s well-weighted ball over the top was superbly timed allowing Towey to get in behind Bootle’s three-man backline, with the veteran striker lifting the ball over the on-rushing Taylor to net his first goal of the season.
Bootle continued to control possession and they equalised for a second time as the half-hour mark approached following a period of sustained pressure. It was a soft goal to concede from Widnes’ point-of-view, as the visitors failed to stop the cross from the left with Kieran Halligan rising above Myler to direct a header beyond Mackin to make it 2-2.
The Bucks continued to press as the half drew to a close and the hosts took the lead for the first time inside first half stoppage time. Slack Widnes defending was punished once again, as the unmarked Anthony Rendell finished low into the net with Mackin stranded.
Halftime: Bootle 3-2 Widnes
Bootle’s late third changed Joey Dunn’s half-time team talk and sent the hosts in at the break in a buoyant mood.
With their tails up, Bootle picked up where they left off and added a fourth early in the second half. Ryan Cox got in behind the Widnes defence relatively untroubled and had time in the area to beat Mackin with a delicate lob that nestled in the back of the net.
Widnes upped the pressure and were perhaps unfortunate not to pull a goal back on the hour-mark. Towey’s clever backheel took two Bootle defenders out of the picture and found Lomax in acres of space who unselfishly squared to Pollard with the goal at his mercy but a terrific block from Jonathon Swatton prevented the Widnes captain from netting his second of the afternoon.
Jack Graham was introduced from the bench to provide fresh energy into the Widnes midfield which had the desired effect, as Dunn’s side enjoyed a decent spell with Lomax seeing a shot brilliantly charged down by Rendell before Taylor produced a decent save to push Graham’s long-range effort away to safety.
Jones then went in search for his second, and Bootle’s fifth of the afternoon only to be denied by a superb Mackin save.
Former St Helens Town man Gillespie was handed a 10-minute cameo on his first Widnes appearance, but it was fellow striker Towey that came close to make the last five minutes interesting, latching on to Chris Lomax’s delivery only to shoot at Taylor with an effort he would have been disappointed with.
With victory all-but assured for Bootle, Joe Doran and Phil Stafford’s men added a fifth inside second half stoppage time. Cox won the flick-on ahead of Pollard leaving substitute Ben Hodkinson in space to fire a shot past Mackin who may have been disappointed not have made the save.
Fulltime: Bootle 5-2 Widnes
Widnes will be looking to kick-start their season on Monday night as Dunn’s side entertain Congleton Town at the Halton Stadium.