REPORT: Widnes 4-0 AFC Darwen
Widnes hit four to set new club record
Widnes FC closed the gap on Hallmark Security League Premier Division leaders Runcorn Linnets to five points with a 4-0 win over relegation threatened AFC Darwen.
Joint manager Kev Towey led by example, hitting his first hat-trick of the season in the comfortable victory, with Michael Grogan adding a fourth with his first Widnes goal late on.
It was the second meeting in five days between the two sides, with Widnes’ win extending their unbeaten run in the league to 16 games – a new club record.
Grogan was amongst five Widnes changes made from the midweek win over Darwen. The former Warrington Town man came in for Stuart Cook who was on international duty with England Futsal, while Kev Pollard, Ben Hodkinson, Sean Myler and Jack Banister all returned to the starting eleven.
Widnes started in a positive vein, with skipper Pollard going close early as his deflected effort had to be smothered at the second attempt by Darwen custodian James Whittingham.
Whittingham was called into action again minutes later denying Pollard for a second time. The Widnes skipper drifted away from his marker to latch on to Towey’s free-kick, hitting a powerful volley destined for the top corner which was sensationally clawed away by the Darwen keeper.
Hodkinson was next to go close, racing on to a Pollard through-ball only to shoot over from a tight angle.
Widnes were creating chances at will, rewarded with the opening goal on the 20-minute mark. Myler robbed Kieran Wood of possession and quickly played Towey in behind, who arrowed an effort into the far corner with the outside of his boot.
Moments later, Widnes almost had a second. Phil Doran went on a rampaging run forward before combining with Towey who quickly teed up Banister, who had a good effort on goal tipped against the woodwork by Whittingham.
Jay Roberts then lifted an effort over the bar with Whittingham stranded before Hodkinson had an effort rebound back off the post from co-manager Steve Akrigg’s flick-on.
It was a matter of time before Widnes added a second, and it came eight minutes before the break. White shirts were queuing up to shoot, with Banister calmly squaring a pass wide to Towey in space who applied a composed finish into the far corner.
Towey almost had a hat-trick before the break. Hodkinson did well to drive the by-line and cut his pass back to his strike-partner, who could only blaze over.
Half-time: Widnes 2-0 AFC Darwen
Widnes were in control but the hosts had to wait until the hour-mark for their first sight of goal in the second half, with Whittingham again on-hand to deny Towey after good work by Doran in the build-up.
There was to be no repeat four minutes later as Towey completed his hat-trick. It was a fine goal from the Widnes co-manager as he drove into the area, played a neat one-two with substitute George Lomax before directing a powerful effort into the bottom corner.
Towey almost had a fourth 15 minutes from time, racing on to a pinpoint goal-kick from Richie Mottram to face Whittingham one-on-one but the Darwen keeper did well to close down the angle as the chance broke down.
Widnes continued to knock on the door, with substitute Danny Laverty having a dangerous cross cleared by Luke Tabone, with Pollard nodding over minutes later.
Banister had an effort superbly tipped away by Whittingham, but Widnes pushed on, eventually adding a fourth two minutes from time.
Doran floated a free-kick into the area, where Grogan was on-hand to convert from close-range to record his first goal in a Widnes shirt.
Full-time: Widnes 4-0 AFC Darwen
Next up for Widnes is a break from league action, with Akrigg and Towey’s men travel to Ashton Athletic in the last eight of the Macron Cup on Monday 26th March.