REPORT: Widnes 3-0 Hanley Town
Superb Widnes stun high-flying Hanley
Widnes FC produced a scintillating performance on Saturday to beat high-flying Hanley Town 3-1 at the Select Security Stadium, continuing their impressive run of form with a fourth consecutive victory in all competitions.
Jack Graham’s driving opener was his first goal of the season, but the impressive hosts didn’t take their foot off the gas and deservedly sealed all three points through a brilliant brace from joint boss Kev Towey inside six second half minutes.
Steve Akrigg and Towey’s men pressed and were positive from the first minute to the last, securing their third victory over a team inside the Hallmark Security League Premier Division top-six in six weeks.
The duo were forced in two making two changes to the side that beat AFC Liverpool last time out. Club captain Kev Pollard and Jack Banister were both unavailable and were replaced by Chris Lomax and Danny Laverty, who was handed his first league start since March.
Widnes started brightly and carried a threat from set-pieces. Laverty’s delivery was superb, as stand-in skipper Mike Burke twice headed over from the winger’s corners.
Lomax shot wide before Towey did well to force a save out of Hanley keeper Thomas Cawley.
Burke was caught napping at the other end as he was dispossessed by Michael Conlon on the edge of his own area, but Daniel Cope couldn’t get on the end of his teammate’s cross.
Widnes took a deserved lead shortly before the half-hour mark. Graham picked up the ball in midfield and drove forward. He was invited to shoot by a retreating Hanley defence, and he duly punished Town, driving a powerful shot on goal that Cawley couldn’t keep out.
Theo Stair then tried to make something happen for Hanley only to shoot high and wide of the target before Widnes had a penalty shout turned down as Sean Myler was bundled over but nothing was given.
Myler then volleyed wide after Doran’s free-kick was only half-cleared before Laverty had a looping shot cleared off the line after keeper Cawley was caught in no man’s land.
Halftime: Widnes 1-0 Hanley Town
The hosts, full of energy, continued to control the game in the second half as Laverty continued to luck lively. He combined with Myler who’s deep cross was blazed over by Lomax before playing a neat one-two with Brad Smart who struck over from inside the area.
Widnes doubled their lead 10 minutes into the half. Relentless pressure won possession back from a Hanley goal-kick and Widnes capitalised, as Towey found space in the area to fire a composed finish beyond Cawley to the delight of the home fans.
A heart in the mouth moment followed as the relatively untroubled Richie Mottram could only parry a Neville Thompson shot into the path of Stair who slotted home only to be flagged offside, perhaps harshly.
Two minutes later, Widnes added a crucial third and it was that man Towey again. Phil Doran took a quick throw-in with Smart playing a neat pass through to his strike-partner, who brilliantly held off his man before angling a fine finish into the far corner.
It was a professional performance on and off the pitch from Widnes, who made a number of changes with three games to come in seven days.
Tony Donaldson, Sam Henry and Joe Fielding were all brought on to see the game out, securing a first clean sheet for Widnes in the league since September, and a first win over Hanley at the seventh time of asking.
Fulltime: Widnes 3-0 Hanley Town
Widnes have won five of their last six games in all competitions, and will be full of confidence heading into Monday’s Liverpool Senior Cup tie against National League North side Southport. Kick-off 7.45pm.