REPORT: Congleton Town 0-1 Widnes
10-man Widnes end 2017 with ninth straight win
Widnes FC ensured that they ended 2017 on a nine-game winning streak with a hard-fought 1-0 win at Congleton Town on Saturday, despite having Ben Hodkinson sent off late on.
Phil Doran’s free-kick five minutes before half-time proved to be the winner for Steve Akrigg and Kev Towey’s side in a feisty affair at the Richborough Estates Stadium.
The visitors were forced into making two changes to the side that comfortably dispatched Charnock Richard one week earlier. With Sean Myler suspended and Jack Graham injured, Tony Donaldson and Danny Laverty were given the nod in the starting 11.
Meanwhile, joint boss Akrigg was named in the matchday squad potentially in line for his first appearance since August as he continues his recovery from a knee injury.
The hosts, managed by ex-Widnes joint boss Brian Pritchard, set their stall out early to frustrate and stifle Widnes. They made the better start as Ryan Hibbert sliced a volley wide of the target before former Widnes man Luke Edwards forced a good save out of Richie Mottram with a powerful drive.
Congleton spurned a glorious chance to take the lead after seven minutes. Billy Hasler-Cregg swung a deep cross towards Emini Adegbenro who nodded wide of the post when it was perhaps easier to score.
Widnes took a while to get going as Steve Foster went close for the Bears midway through the first-half, unable to scramble home from close-range after Hasler-Cregg’s corner evaded everyone.
The visitors’ best chance of the opening 30 minutes fell to joint boss Towey. Laverty cleverly cushioned a header through to the Widnes joint boss who rounded the keeper only to fire his shot into the side-netting.
Congleton’s Jonah O’Reilly escaped further punishment on the half-hour mark for a full-blooded challenge on Sam Sheen that left the Widnes man with a gashed leg. The defender received a yellow card and was perhaps lucky not to be shown his marching orders.
This seemed to have a positive effect on Widnes who began to assert their dominance late in the half. Jack Banister got involved on the left, cutting inside to fire a ferocious drive on goal that was superbly beaten away by the outstretched Daniel Eccles.
Banister went even closer four minutes later, latching on to a clever reverse pass from Towey before smashing the crossbar with a curling effort.
A goal was coming, and it came for Widnes five minutes before the break. After Sheen was fouled just outside the area, Doran struck a low free-kick into the bottom corner, registering his first goal for the club following his arrival last month.
Halftime: Congleton Town 0-1 Widnes
Widnes continued to control the game in the second half, but Towey missed a good chance to increase his side’s lead. Laverty did well to get in behind the Congleton backline before providing a cross. Hodkinson’s mis-kick fell to Towey who sliced his effort across the face of goal which he would have been disappointed with.
With Widnes’ lead a narrow one, the visitors needed to dig deep with Sheen showing great determination to nod substitute Daniel Bruce’s cross away from Adegbenro who was waiting to tap the ball home.
Akrigg and Towey’s men went in search for a winner with substitute Brad Smart going on a marauding run forward only for Eccles to push Smart’s effort away to safety, denying the Widnes man a fine individual goal.
Congleton should have been reduced to 10-men 13 minutes from time as Foster caught Widnes skipper Kev Pollard in the face with an elbow only to escape with a yellow card.
Instead, Widnes’ Hodkinson was shown a second bookable offence minutes later. The referee cautioned the former Bootle man for simulation despite Hodkinson being 25 yards from goal.
Congleton smelt blood but failed to test Mottram in the Widnes goal with Bruce’s long-range effort deflecting wide for a corner which Mottram claimed comfortably as it was floated into the area.
It took a stout defensive on effort for Widnes to hang on with six minutes of injury time played, claiming a battling away win to remain joint top of the Hallmark Security League Premier Division at Christmas.
Fulltime: Congleton Town 0-1 Widnes
With their Boxing Day clash at AFC Darwen postponed, Widnes are now without a fixture until Saturday 6th January, when Akrigg and Towey’s side travel to Burscough.