REPORT: Northwich Victoria 2-2 Widnes
Gillespie rescues a point for joint bosses
Widnes FC came from behind to rescue a point against Northwich Victoria in Steve Akrigg and Kev Towey’s first game as joint managers.
In difficult conditions at Townfield, Billy Webb turned home a loose ball to give Widnes a 70th minute lead but Brian Matthews equalised for Vics five minutes later.
Jake Pollard’s fluke cross nestled in the top corner to give Vics a late lead but just as the hosts thought they’d won it, Andy Gillespie netted a 94th minute equaliser with virtually the last kick of the game.
Akrigg and Towey made two changes to the side that were beaten at home by City of Liverpool last time out. Tony Donaldson dropped to the bench whilst Chris Lomax was in action for Marine after completing a dual registration move last week. Mike Burke returned from suspension in the heart of the Widnes defence with Chad Whyte given the nod alongside Gillespie up-front. Elsewhere, new signing Dylan Sweeney was named amongst the substitutes.
Widnes started well and were a matter of inches away from taking a quick lead. Sean Myler combined with Jack Graham who cleverly released Gillespie into the area but the former St Helens Town striker could only poke wide of the far post.
Vics’ first chance came in the shape of a long-range Matthews effort, which bounced up against the body of Mottram who managed to react quickly to block the shot.
Graham then went close for Widnes, latching on to a Whyte flick-on before surging into the area. He went past Daniel McDonnell easily but could only drive his effort across the face of goal and wide.
On a boggy playing surface not helped by the relentless rain on Saturday afternoon, Widnes tried to get the ball down and play, enjoying freedom down the right with Vics’ left-back O’Donnell unable to cope with the direct one-two punch of Graham and Jay Roberts down the flank.
Graham and Roberts combined midway through the half, exchanging neat passes that released the latter into the area. His cross was a dangerous one intended for Alex Davies at the back-post but the pass ultimately evaded everyone.
Northwich grew into the half as it went on, with new signing Johnny Gorman at the forefront of Vics’ attack. Gorman, who has nine senior caps for Northern Ireland, floated a dangerous set-piece into the area, met by Matthews in the area who was caught underneath the ball, heading over.
Samuel Marshall won possession back for Vics and drove forward at the retreating Widnes backline. He engineered space for a powerful shot but Mottram was adept to make a comfortable save.
Widnes’ best chance of the half came inside first half stoppage time. Graham was again the focal point, making a typical long-busting run forward into space. The move eventually broke down, but Graham kept things alive by working the ball to Myler in space, but Vics keeper Michael Donlan got down well to push Myler’s shot away to safety.
Halftime: Northwich Victoria 0-0 Widnes
The two sides exchanged tentative blows in search of an opener before Vics defender Christopher Lawton slipped in attempt to intercept Gillespie’s cross, presenting Whyte with a glorious chance to break the deadlock but the ball ran away from the Widnes man, sparing Lawton’s blushes.
Northwich began the second half the better of the two sides, managing to negate the effect of playing up the steep slope at Townfield. Matthews managed to evade the offside trap, holding off Sam Sheen as he drilled a dangerous cross into the area but Mottram was across quickly to make a save.
Billy Webb was introduced from the bench as Akrigg and Towey looked for a change of pace going forward.
Northwich held firm but an incisive Sheen pass released Webb into space, who made a terrific run to split the duo of Lawton and Allen Weston at the heart of the Vics defence. Webb did the hard part, gliding past the stranded keeper only to fire over the bar when it was perhaps easier to score.
Widnes were again out of luck less than a minute later. Roberts got in behind McDonnell and delivered a delicious cross towards the back-post, which was met by Davies who could only head over in acres of space with the goal gaping.
Nevertheless, Webb made amends for his previous miss by breaking the deadlock 20 minutes from time. Graham was again involved, working his way into the area only to see his shot beaten away by Donlan but the ball fell kindly for Webb who couldn’t miss, tapping the ball home into an empty net.
Widnes’ lead didn’t last long as Vics equalised five minutes later. From a set-piece, a scramble ensued in the area with Matthews reacting quickest to slam the loose ball beyond Mottram and into the back of the net.
Steve Wilkes’ side had their tails up, and they took a late lead. It was a goal from nothing as substitute Pollard’s cross caught out Mottram, sailing into the top corner with the former Trickies goalkeeper stranded as Widnes fell behind.
A succession of Widnes corners failed to produce the goods, but, thankfully, Widnes were afforded one last roll of the dice, and the visitors duly capitalised.
After Graham won a free-kick, Myler floated his set-piece into the area where it was helped on to the bar by the head of a Northwich defender. A scramble ensued at the back-post, with Gillespie reacting quickest on the sticky surface to fire home from close-range to rescue a point.
Fulltime: Northwich Victoria 2-2 Widnes
Widnes will make the trip back over to Townfield on Wednesday night to face Vics’ landlords Barnton. Kick-off 7.45pm.