REPORT | Atherton Colls 0-1 Widnes
By Callum Chadwick
Tale of two penalties as Widnes stun league leaders
A Ben Hodkinson penalty was the difference as Widnes upset league leaders Atherton Collieries 1-0 in the Evo-Stik League Division One West on Saturday.
In a tight affair at the Skuna Stadium, the Whites battled for a narrow victory in a game headlined by two penalties.
Atherton’s Jordan Cover spurned a great chance to open the scoring on 25 minutes, but his penalty was well-saved by Widnes goalkeeper Owen Wheeler.
The visitors were afforded their own opportunity from the spot following the hour-mark, which Hodkinson duly dispatched sending Greg Hartley the wrong way as Widnes picked up an impressive three points away from home.
Co-bosses Steve Akrigg and Kev Towey made four changes to the side beaten at home by Chasetown. Akrigg came into the back-four as a replacement for the unavailable Ben Cartwright while the Whites were boosted by the return of Danny Ventre, who skippered the side in place of the absent Sean Myler.
Elsewhere, George Webster and Dale Korie-Butler were given nods ahead of George Lomax and Matty Waters, who both dropped to the bench.
In an attritional first half, both sides cancelled each other out as two well-organised sides looking to play the right way went head-to-head.
The crowd of 156 at the Skuna Stadium had to wait 24 minutes for the first real glimpse of goal, as Atherton’s Ben Hardcastle blazed wide of Wheeler’s right-hand post.
Two minutes later, Colls were afforded a golden opportunity to take the lead as Wheeler brought down Cover inside the area leading referee, Daniel Issawi, to point to the spot.
Wheeler was shown a yellow card but the Widnes custodian was to come out on top in the battle between the two players moment later, producing a terrific block with his trailing legs to save Cover’s penalty.
Widnes posed a threat going forward but failed to really test Colls’ Hartley until the 54th minute, when the home goalkeeper made a smart stop to deny Korie-Butler from close-range.
Nine minutes later, the Whites were level. Referee Issawi awarded his second spot-kick of the afternoon, and Hodkinson, who was a constant thorn in Atherton’s side with another energetic performance, stepped up and confidently sent Hartley the wrong way.
Colls huffed and puffed but never really threatened Widnes’ lead. Tom Bentham had the hosts’ best chance as a loose ball fell to the former Hyde United man at the back-post but the chance broke down and the danger was swept away.
Widnes were to hold on for all three points – their first win in four league games and their first-ever win over Atherton at the fifth attempt.
The Whites return to action on Saturday, hosting Prescot Cables in a local derby at Barnton’s Offside Trust Stadium.