REPORT | Trafford 1-1 Widnes
By Callum Chadwick
George Webster earns battling Widnes deserved point at Trafford
Substitute George Webster netted nine minutes from time as Widnes claimed a hard-earned 1-1 draw at high-flying Trafford.
Trafford controlled the lion’s share of possession, but they struggled to penetrate a resistant Widnes backline for almost an hour until substitute Ross Davidson nodded home from a corner.
But after spurning a glut of clear-cut opportunities, they were punished, with youngster Webster netting with his first touch within four minutes of coming off the bench to rescue a share of the spoils.
For the second successive game, Widnes co-bosses Steve Akrigg and Kev Towey made six changes to the side that lost at home to Clitheroe. Rhain Hellawell and Matty Waters made their full debuts after arriving on loan from Chester in midweek.
Club captain Kev Pollard and Ben Cartwright were both recalled, while George Lomax and Ben Hodkinson were preferred ahead of Towey and Dale Korie-Butler up-front.
Widnes began brightly, as Sam Sheen found a pocket of space outside the area only to hit his subsequent volley wildly off target.
Trafford, unbeaten in the league since September, began to enjoy a period of sustained pressure around the 10-minute mark.
Phil Baker’s men had Widnes pinned deep with four successive corners, eventually testing Owen Wheeler who produced a terrific diving save to deny Aaron Burns’ free-kick after Cartwright fouled Ben Harrison just outside the area.
The hosts kept up the pressure, with Burns floating a delicious cross into the six-yard area but Liam Ellis could only direct his header over.
Widnes survived a scare midway through the half, as Jack Dorney fired an effort against the crossbar after skipper Pollard could only half-clear Declan Rydings’ cross.
The North had won seven of their last eight league games heading into this contest but struggled to break down a stubborn Widnes rearguard as Bram Johnstone threw himself in the way of a Dorney effort.
Widnes enjoyed pressure of their own towards half-time, led by the energetic Hodkinson but they failed to craft too many clear-cut openings.
Trafford ended the opening period in the ascendancy and continued to up the pressure into the second half.
Sheen was perhaps unfairly penalised for a foul 25 yards from his own goal presenting the hosts with a free-kick in a dangerous area but Sam Heathcote curled his set-piece past the post.
Both sides pushing for an opener led to a frenetic period of play with Hodkinson continuing to threaten for Widnes, looking to take advantage of a retreating Trafford backline but his shot took a heavy deflection on its way over.
Dorney was denied by the woodwork for a second time moments later, lifting an effort against the upright as the Whites continued to hold the hosts at arm’s length.
However, Widnes’ resistance was broken on the hour-mark.
Dorney floated a corner in from the left with substitute Davidson peeling away from his man to nod beyond Wheeler to give Trafford the lead.
It should have been 2-0 seven minutes later but the hosts’ continued to be guilty of wasting opportunities that fell their way. Ellis’ marauding run from inside his own-half deserved a goal, but the striker dragged his effort across the face of goal and wide.
Despite finding themselves under the cosh for large periods of the contest, Widnes had more than a foothold in the game and began to push for a leveller.
Hodkinson continued to strike fear into the Trafford defence with debutant Hellawell and substitute Chris Lomax pushing forward, with the latter striking the post albeit from an offside position.
Korie-Butler and Webster were brought off the bench in an attempt to restore parity to the scoreline, and the management duo’s tactical change paid instant dividends.
Hodkinson was instrumental in the build-up, driving his side forward at the Trafford rearguard. He drilled a cross into the area, finding Webster who reacted quickly to arrow the loose ball into the bottom corner.
The equaliser was no more than Widnes deserved, and the Whites wanted more as they went in search of a winner with Trafford keeper Matthew Cooper producing a decent save to tip a Hodkinson effort over.
Baker’s hosts rallied into the stoppage time, with Pollard making a crucial intervention to deny Burns before substitute Mark Derbyshire made a mess of a free header, but it ended level as Widnes avoided a potentially harsh defeat.