REPORT | Market Drayton Town 0-2 Widnes
By Callum Chadwick
Widnes kick-off 2019 with three points
Widnes welcomed in the New Year with a return to winning ways, beating Market Drayton Town 2-0 at Greenfields.
Dale Korie-Butler and Ben Hodkinson netted second-half strikes as Widnes bounced back from back-to-back league defeats against Radcliffe and Runcorn Linnets as 2018 drew to a close.
The Whites travelled to Shropshire missing eight first-team regulars enforcing five changes to the side beaten in Boxing Day’s Halton Derby by Runcorn Linnets.
With co-boss Kev Towey on holiday, Korie-Butler came in to partner Hodkinson up-front while Rob Bourne, Phil Mooney and stand-in skipper Sean Myler were handed recalls to the starting XI.
Brothers George and Chris Lomax were forced into unfamiliar roles at both full-back positions with Jay Roberts and Bram Johnstone unavailable, while Sam Sheen returned from injury in midfield.
Widnes were boosted however by the inclusion of Mike Burke in a matchday squad for the first time since October as he continues his recovery from a hamstring injury.
The hosts – who began the day three points behind Widnes with a game in-hand – started strongly with Ryan McLean looking to get the better of makeshift left-back Chris Lomax.
Town would threaten in the early exchanges when Lyndon Campbell drove an effort towards goal that fizzed wide of Owen Wheeler’s goal.
Striker Hodkinson cut a lonely figure leading the line in the first half for Widnes, but the Whites grew into the contest as it wore on with Lomax having a shot blocked and skipper Myler hitting a dipping volley over.
Both teams pressed for an opener early in the second half, but Widnes had the better of the chances with Korie-Butler firing straight at Town stopper Mason Springthorpe, formerly of Everton, after good work by Myler.
The Whites grabbed a deserved opener 10 minutes into the half. Myler was again influential, winning possession back in before quickly releasing Hodkinson down the left. The home defence retreated allowing Hodkinson to provide a teasing cross for Korie-Butler to turn home into the roof of the net.
Widnes began to push for a second with Hodkinson forcing a decent save out of Springthorpe, but Market Drayton continued to carry a threat and Mooney had to be alert to clear a loose ball off the line.
Town were awarded a golden opportunity to get themselves on level terms when they were awarded a penalty 15 minutes from time after substitute William Wells went down under an Akrigg challenge who protested that he won the ball.
Referee Richard Cattell was unimpressed and cautioned the Widnes co-boss, but the Whites and Akrigg were handed a reprieve when Wells hit the outside of the post with his spot-kick despite sending Wheeler the wrong way.
Widnes were reprieved, and less than three minutes later, the Whites added a second to effectively seal all three points.
Hodkinson continued his fine recent run of form, teeing himself up nicely from Ventre’s cross to hit a thumping volley into the roof of the net – his sixth goal in Widnes’ last seven games.