REPORT: Hanley Town 1-1 Widnes
Widnes held to a draw at Hanley
Widnes FC extended their unbeaten run to 11 games but they will feel that their performance deserved more following a 1-1 draw at Hanley Town on Saturday.
Hanley edged the first half and led at the break through Neville Thompson, but aside from forcing Richie Mottram into a couple of saves from distance, the hosts created little more than Thompson’s goal for their efforts.
Ben Hodkinson equalised for Widnes early in the second half on his return from suspension and it looked as though the visitors would go on to record an 11th straight win in all competitions, but a combination of good goalkeeping and missed opportunities forced Steve Akrigg and Kev Towey’s men to settle for a point in Staffordshire.
The managerial duo made three changes from the side that beat Burscough last time out. With Sam Sheen injured, Michael Grogan made his first start for Widnes since November after completing a permanent move from Marine earlier in the week while Hodkinson and Danny Laverty came in for Towey and Chris Lomax who both dropped to the bench.
The first half, in truth, was a scrappy affair between two sides in contrasting form at the top end of the table. Hanley had lost six straight games stretching back to late November heading into this contest, which included a 3-0 defeat at Widnes early last month.
Widnes recorded an early half-chance with Jack Banister striking a volley over before Hanley’s Thompson drove a powerful effort of target from 25 yards after holding off the challenge of Mike Burke.
Jonathan Sheldon forced a good save out of Mottram from a free-kick before Sean Myler sliced a volley wide for Widnes as both sides struggled to impose themselves on the game.
Hanley took the lead on 33 minutes with their first real attack that caused Widnes problems. Oliver Mellor and Michael Conlon combined on the right-hand side with Widnes making a meal of clearing the resulting danger with Thompson hitting a volley into the roof of the net from inside the area to open the scoring.
Back came Widnes, with Laverty hitting a dangerous angled volley towards goal that took a deflection behind for a corner that came to nothing.
Halftime: Hanley Town 1-0 Widnes
It was a frustrating and perhaps below-par first half performance from Widnes’ point-of-view, but whatever was said at half-time by joint bosses Akrigg and Towey had an immediate impact as Widnes swiftly equalised.
Banister was the creator, as he went on a marauding run forward that drew Hanley right-back Benjamin Blowers out of position. The winger rolled a pass through that was latched on to by Hodkinson who found the far corner to equalise for Widnes, netting his fifth goal in four games.
The two combined again 10 minutes later as Banister played Hodkinson in behind who did well to hold off the challenge of Bristow before firing an effort inches wide of the far post, the narrowest of margins away from a second Widnes goal.
Following the hour-mark, Hanley seemed content with settling for a point in the absence of strike duo Daniel Cope and Theo Stair, who have scored 37 goals between themselves this season.
It was all Widnes as Grogan volleyed wide from a Laverty free-kick before Hodkinson could find the side-netting with a hooked shot at goal.
Myler was then denied as he hit a ferocious shot on goal that looked destined for the top corner only for Hanley goalkeeper Alex Langridge to claw the shot away at full stretch with a superb save.
Changes were made as Widnes went in search of a winner. Towey and Jack Graham were both introduced from the bench as the visitors rolled the dice.
Widnes had a massive penalty appeal turned down late on as Banister’s squared pass clearly struck the hand of Michael Morton in the area but neither the referee or the linesman were best placed to make a decision, with nothing given.
Fulltime: Hanley Town 1-1 Widnes
Widnes remain unbeaten in 11 after Saturday’s draw, but they now have to wait two weeks to see if they can increase their streak to 12.
With no game on Saturday, Widnes are back in competitive action on Friday 26th January in a Halton Derby at the Select Security Stadium, hosting Runcorn Town, kick-off 7.45pm.