REPORT: Widnes 3-1 Padiham
Lucky 13 for Widnes as run goes on
Widnes FC climbed up to second in the Hallmark Security League Premier Division, taking the spoils with a 3-1 win over 10-man Padiham at the Halton Stadium on Saturday.
Mike Burke netted his first goal of the season before Stuart Cook marked his first Widnes start with a goal one minute into the second half.
Daniel Boyle immediately halved the deficit for the Storks, who had Mark Ayres sent off before the hour-mark.
Widnes preserved their lead and bagged a late third through Sean Myler to extend their unbeaten record to 13 games in all competitions.
Joint bosses Steve Akrigg and Kev Towey made two changes to the side that beat Runcorn Town last time out, with Kev Pollard and Chris Lomax both dropping to the bench to make way for the returning Jack Banister and midfielder Cook, who was handed a full home debut following his arrival from Cefn Druids last month.
Widnes made an eager start but Padiham were first to threaten with Spencer Jordan inches away from grabbing an elusive touch to help a dangerous free-kick towards goal.
Banister went even closer for Widnes, going on a superb driving run forward only to see his powerful effort crash against the crossbar.
Two minutes later, Widnes were in front. Padiham could only half-clear a Banister corner as far as Cook, who engineered space to send a delicious cross into the area, met by Burke, who nodded home the opener beyond 'keeper Marcus Burgess.
Buoyed by their opener, Widnes went in search of a second only to be denied by the woodwork for a second time. Cook won possession back in midfield, exchanged a neat one-two with George Lomax, burst forward only to strike the foot of the post.
Towey came close to extending Widnes' lead, forcing a decent save out of Burgess before having a goal ruled out for offside after latching on to Lomax's superb cross into the area.
It was a frustrating half for Padiham, compounded by the dismissal of joint manager Liam Smith inside first half stoppage time for dissent by referee Ben Atkinson.
Half time: Widnes 1-0 Padiham
Widnes made a blistering start to the first half, rewarded with a goal. Lomax and Towey exchanged passes on the edge of the area with the latter squaring to Cook who found the top corner with a sublime finish on his full debut.
"A team is most vulnerable just after they've scored" is one the oldest clichés in football and it rang true as Padiham immediately equalised.
Widnes switched off defensively as Boyle raced between Michael Grogan and Burke to latch on to a long ball over the top before sliding a decent finish beyond Mottram.
The game's talking point came 10 minutes into the second half as Padiham were reduced to 10-men.
Towey was caught above the knee by Padiham's Ayres, who was shown a straight red card by referee Atkinson to deal a blow to the Storks' hopes of getting themselves back into the contest.
The man advantage didn't help Widnes either, who struggled to make it count. Lomax came closest, with his driven effort from long range forcing a decent save out of Burgess.
Substitute Ben Hodkinson came close to making an immediate impact and putting the game beyond all doubt as he raced on to Cook's flick-on only to shoot straight at Burgess.
Banister then had a shot brilliantly charged down by Benjamin Hoskin, setting up a tense finish, one perhaps reminiscent of October's meeting between these two sides in which Padiham scored twice in stoppage time to rescue a 3-3 draw.
There was to be no repeat however, as Widnes added a late third. Myler looked to release Banister in behind but the winger's shot was blocked. The ball rebounded back to the former Marine midfielder, who found the top corner with a well taken finish to net his second goal of the season.
Full time: Widnes 3-1 Padiham
Widnes' latest victory continues their remarkable run of form under joint bosses Akrigg and Towey, with a 12th win in their last 13 games, with the Whites having last tasted defeat in mid-November.
The managerial duo will be keen to extend that run next time out as bottom club Barnton visit the Halton Stadium on Saturday.