REPORT: AFC Liverpool 2-4 Widnes
Dominant first half display sends Widnes on way to win over AFC Liverpool
Widnes FC blew AFC Liverpool away in a whirlwind first half display, scoring three goals in the opening 20 minutes as Steve Akrigg and Kev Towey’s men recorded a 4-2 victory over their Hallmark Security League Premier Division rivals in Crosby.
It was an exuberant first half display from Widnes, who raced into a 4-0 half-time lead as Brad Smart, Sam Sheen and Jack Banister all netted within a six-minute spell before a Jack Cookson own goal added a fourth on the half-hour mark.
With the game effectively killed as a contest and with Widnes perhaps guilty of taking their foot of the gas, AFC Liverpool rallied in the second half as James Sloane and James Howell scored to reduce the deficit but it wasn’t enough, as Widnes secured a fourth win in five in all competitions.
Akrigg and Towey made only one change to the side that beat Irlam on Saturday. Sean Myler was restored to the starting XI, replacing Chris Lomax who dropped to the bench.
Widnes dominated possession of the ball early on, but it was AFC Liverpool who recorded the game’s first chance as James Edgar got in behind the visitors backline but ‘keeper Richie Mottram did well to react quickly and claim the cross intended for Joe Whittington in the area.
The visitors control over possession yielded the opening goal after 14 minutes. Sheen did well to ferry a pass over to Jack Graham on the far side, leaving the Reds stretched as Jay Roberts joined in on the overlap. It was the fullback who drilled a low cross towards the front-post, with Brad Smart improvising to brilliantly flick a diving header into the far corner.
Smart got himself on the scoresheet for the third consecutive game but it was his strike-partner Towey who influenced Widnes’ second goal in as many minutes.
The joint boss dropped into midfield allowing Sheen to drive into the area, latching on to Towey’s pass before applying a neat finish beyond the on-rushing Cookson to net his third goal of the season.
With AFC Liverpool forced into an early change with right-back Deklan Hill replaced by Lee McConchie, Widnes caught their hosts napping and added a third goal in a fruitful six-minute spell.
Yet to defensively adjust to the defensive change, the Reds left Widnes livewire Jack Banister alone on the left who made a good run to latch on a long ball over the top. Banister gambled and was rewarded, capitalising on a hesitant Cookson to roll the ball into the far corner.
Widnes were in dreamland and it got better for the visitors with a fourth goal coming in bizarre circumstances. ‘Keeper Cookson, formerly of Widnes, received a backpass only to unbelievably suffer a lapse in concentration and put the ball into his own net to the delight of Akrigg and Towey’s men.
The visitors were vibrant and probably should have added to their lead as half-time approached. Mottram’s pinpoint pass forward launched a counter-attack with Smart working the ball wide to Roberts. He fizzed a dangerous cross into the area that narrowly evaded both Towey and Banister arriving late at the back-post.
Halftime: AFC Liverpool 0-4 Widnes
Chris Stammers’ Reds showed signs of life late in the first half, but Widnes started the second half with purpose and spurned a glorious chance for a fifth.
Phil Doran got involved from left-back and worked a pass inside to Towey who pulled off a magnificent turn into the area only to waste his chance, poking wide.
Liverpool pulled a goal back 10 minutes into the half. Widnes switched off defensively giving James Sloane time and space just inside the area. He got the better of Mike Burke before driving a powerful effort below Mottram to give his side a glimmer of hope.
Widnes made changes following the hour in an attempt to rest legs ahead of a run of four games in nine days. Towey, Myler and Smart were all withdrawn as Sam Henry, Danny Laverty and Chris Lomax were all introduced from the bench.
Banister continued to carry a threat for Widnes, forcing Cookson into a save after combining well with Doran.
He combined with substitute Lomax minutes later, playing a neat one-two with his teammate before picking out Henry with his cross, who could only hook a shot on goal that Cookson saved with relative ease.
Widnes would have been disappointed to concede a second goal late on as the visitors could only half-clear to Howell who hit a cushioned volley towards goal that found the net despite Mottram getting a strong hand to the shot.
There was still time for the visitors to spurn yet another chance at adding a fifth. Henry engineered space to drive a cross towards Banister at the back-post who stabbed wide of an open goal when it was perhaps easier to score.
Fulltime: AFC Liverpool 2-4 Widnes
Widnes’ latest win lifts them to fifth in the Premier Division, with 32 points from 21 games. However, Akrigg and Towey’s men have played multiple games more than the teams surrounding them, with Charnock Richard directly above Widnes in fourth having six games in-hand.
Next up for Widnes is third-placed Hanley Town, who visit the Select Security Stadium on Saturday. Kick-off 3pm.