REPORT: Irlam 1-3 Widnes
Widnes in driving seat for promotion after a crucial win at Irlam
Widnes secured a hugely significant win away at Irlam to maintain their three-point advantage in second-place heading into the final day of the Hallmark Security League Premier Division season.
A goal in each half from Jack Banister and Chris Lomax gave Widnes a two-goal cushion. Matthew Boland replied 13 minutes from time for Irlam but co-boss Kev Towey quickly restored the advantage to confirm a deserved win for the visitors.
Towey and joint manager Steve Akrigg made five changes to the side that booked a place in the Macron Cup final at Winsford United in midweek with Towey, Lomax, Jay Roberts, Phil Doran and Mike Burke all coming into the side.
It was Lomax who made an immediate impact, showing attacking intent from the offset to combine with his brother George to break clear and force an early corner for Widnes.
Widnes made a slow start for their usual high-standards but they began to express themselves around the 20-minute mark as Towey combined with Banister on the left flank with the winger flashing a shot across the face of goal and wide.
Following some positive attacking play, Widnes took the lead. A patient, free-flowing move eventually saw Roberts tee up Banister, who superbly hit an unstoppable curling effort into the far corner beyond the outstretched Lee White.
Widnes came close to doubling their lead 10 minutes before the break, as Banister quickly released Towey in-behind but the move broke down as the co-boss attempted to round the on-rushing White.
Irlam showed glimpses of quality late in the half as Boland forced a save out of Mottram while Jordan Icely fired wide before George Lomax was denied at the other end by a good White stop.
Half-time: Irlam 0-1 Widnes
Chris Lomax was a real livewire for Widnes, with the winger bursting in behind again early in the second half but the ex-Runcorn Linnet could only direct his effort straight at Irlam custodian White.
He then drove a shot across the face of goal and wide before Roberts hit a dipping volley that White had to get a glove on to keep out.
There was a sense that a second Widnes goal was coming, and it came on the stroke of the hour-mark. Towey cleverly split the Irlam back-four with a killer pass, latched on to by Lomax who had the composure to round White and slot home into an empty net.
Irlam fortuitously pulled a goal back through Boland, as the forward’s effort from just outside the area moved in mid-flight to completely wrong-foot Mottram and hand the hosts a lifeline.
Marcus Perry then hit one wide for the Blues who had their tails up against a Widnes side who had a gone a bit flat.
But Widnes quickly responded, restoring the two-goal advantage only three minutes later. Mottram hit a pinpoint goal-kick to set Towey on his way, who managed to evade the offside trap and lob a delightful finish over the head of the stranded White.
Widnes saw the remainder of the game out resolutely, leaving them three points clear of Runcorn Town in second in the Premier Division ahead of their Bank Holiday Monday meeting with Ashton Athletic.
Full-time: Irlam 1-3 Widnes
Widnes now only need one-point to guarantee promotion to the Evo-Stik League, with neighbours Town needing to beat Champions Runcorn Linnets, a Widnes loss and an eight-goal swing to secure promotion.