REPORT | Widnes 0-2 Radcliffe
By Callum Chadwick
Widnes beaten on opening day
Widnes were left to rue a poor first half performance as they fell to an opening day defeat at home to Radcliffe, going down 2-0.
Ben Wharton’s simple tap-in opened the scoring after eight minutes with Elliot Rokka adding a second nine minutes later from a direct free-kick.
Widnes had a string of chances in the second half but were ultimately left with too much to do, and their misery was compounded with Michael Grogan seeing red late on for a second bookable offence.
Summer signings Danny Ventre, Dale Korie-Butler and Jamie Rainford all started for Widnes in their first-ever game in the Evo-Stik League Division One West after back-to-back promotions, while co-boss Kev Towey also made his first competitive start of the season.
The opening stages proved to be a baptism of fire for Widnes. A dry and bobbly playing surface at their temporary home of Townfield made it difficult for the hosts against a Radcliffe side eager to impress.
The visitors, managed by ex-Manchester City striker Jon Macken, took an early lead. Shelton Payne raced on to a long-pass by Kingsley Williams to drive to the byline ahead of Phil Doran, cutting a cross back for striker Wharton who won’t have an easier finish to make this season.
It was 2-0 on the 17-minute mark. Widnes gave a cheap free-kick away on the edge of their own area, allowing Rokka, who spent last season at Tranmere Rovers, to double the visitors’ advantage with a well-taken effort that bounced awkwardly just in front of goalkeeper Richie Mottram on its way in.
Widnes had to wait 30 minutes for their first shot on target, with skipper Kev Pollard heading straight at Ollie Martin from a Ventre cross.
Striker Rainford, making his debut in a Widnes shirt after his international clearance came through in midweek, had the hosts’ best chance of the first half, hitting an effort off target on the turn.
There was work to do in the second period for Widnes, and they almost replied immediately with the words of joint managers Towey and Steve Akrigg ringing in their ears.
Chris Lomax had a shot charged down before Pollard had a headed effort cleared off the line after he towered above his marker to meet Korie-Butler’s corner.
Widnes pair Ventre and Grogan were both booked as the hosts became more and more frustrated, with the latter cautioned after a spat with Radcliffe striker Wharton, who also had his name taken by referee Thomas Swift.
Ben Hodkinson was brought on to replace Towey on the hour-mark, and he came close to pulling a goal back for Widnes but Matty Carr made a good recovery challenge for Radcliffe after goalkeeper Martin could only parry Grogan’s close-range header.
Substitute George Lomax then had an effort beaten away by Martin with Rainford unable to get on the end of any potential rebound.
The hosts spurned their best chance inside second half stoppage time, with Martin again on-hand to deny Rainford, with Grogan making a mess of the follow-up and putting his shot off target.
Grogan was shown a second yellow card by referee Swift minutes later, given his marching orders for dissent as Widnes fell to defeat.
Widnes must now turn their attention to Tuesday night and a trip to Mossley. Kick-off 7.45pm.