REPORT: 1874 Northwich 0-1 Widnes
Widnes underline promotion credentials with win at 1874
Widnes continued their storming run of form with a hard-fought 1-0 win at FA Vase semi-finalists 1874 Northwich on Thursday night, as their promotion push rolls on.
Co-boss Kev Towey converted an 18th minute spot-kick to net his 24th goal of the season as Widnes kept a fourth clean sheet in their last five games with goalkeeper Richie Mottram saving a Scott McGowan penalty 10 minutes from time.
Widnes now sit second in the Hallmark Security League Premier Division on 84 points, level with third place Runcorn Town who thrashed AFC Darwen 10-3.
With games coming thick and fast, Towey and joint manager Steve Akrigg made three changes to the side that beat Northwich Victoria six days earlier. Akrigg and Jack Graham were replaced by the returning duo of Mike Burke and Stuart Cook, while Jack Banister was given the nod ahead of George Lomax who dropped to the bench.
There was little to separate the two sides in the early exchanges. Widnes probed forward and caused the 1874 a couple of headaches but failed to test Greg Hall.
1874 were inches away from taking the lead on the 15-minute mark. Widnes skipper Kev Pollard lost possession to Jake Parker in midfield, who quickly released Kyle Riley in behind. Riley raced clear and lifted a delicate shot over the on-rushing and sliding Mottram only to be denied by the crossbar.
Inches away from being behind, Widnes were afforded a chance to take the lead moments later. A well-worked move from the visitors had Towey cut inside from the left and play a one-two with Banister only to be felled by a sliding Daniel Thomas challenge.
Referee Daniel Bruce correctly pointed to the spot, with Towey confidently slotting his penalty home.
Widnes then went on to enjoy a comfortable spell and they were perhaps unfortunate not to increase their lead as Chris Lomax and Hodkinson both had shots charged down, before the latter curled one wide of the left upright after good work from Banister in the build-up.
Riley then went to smash a half-chance over for Northwich, before Widnes came close again, as Burke inadvertently had a shot blocked on the line by Towey, who then turned to shoot over.
Northwich improved as the half drew to a close, with Mottram having to be alert to smother a Paul Connor free-kick at the second attempt as Ryan Jackson looked poised to prod home from close-range.
Half-time: 1874 Northwich 0-1 Widnes
Widnes started the second period positively and were denied by a combination of Hall and the woodwork five minutes into the half. Towey did well to drive to the byline and lift a cross into the six-yard area, met by a looping Hodkinson header but Hall did just enough to brilliantly tip the ball on to the crossbar.
1874 began to show signs of frustration, unable to test Mottram behind a stout Widnes backline, with Towey and Akrigg’s men continuing to push forward as Chris Lomax dragged an effort wide.
A roll of the dice then came from Northwich joint bosses Paul Bowyer and Wayne Goodison, as leading goalscorer McGowan was introduced from the bench with 25 minutes to go.
In truth, a perhaps leggy McGowan was ineffective and managed well by the Widnes defensive tandem of Burke and Michael Grogan.
Widnes brought George Lomax on for Towey to provide fresh legs going forward as the visitors looked to manage their lead.
1874 were afforded a chance to level the scoreline as the hosts were awarded a penalty after a Riley volley was blocked by the hands of Phil Doran in the area. In truth, Doran was unlucky to be penalised as Riley struck his effort with such venom into the Widnes left-back who was a mere two yards away.
Mottram, not for the first time this season, came to Widnes’ rescue diving well to his left to save McGowan’s spot-kick, with the visitors feeling that justice was served.
The minutes ticked down but that wasn’t to be Mottram’s last contribution as the stopper continued to command his box from a barrage of crosses to ensure that Widnes held on to a vital three points.
Full-time: 1874 Northwich 0-1 Widnes
Widnes now face a quick turnaround, hosting West Didsbury & Chorlton in their final home game of the season tomorrow (Saturday). Kick-off 3pm.