REPORT | Widnes 0-1 Trafford
By Callum Chadwick
Widnes beaten on Halton Stadium homecoming
Declan Rydings scored the only goal of the game as Widnes’ Halton Stadium homecoming was spoiled by Trafford on a frustrating afternoon for the Whites.
Rydings netted what proved to be the winner on the stroke of the half-hour as Trafford moved into the play-off places as Widnes suffered defeat at their traditional home for the first time in 16 matches.
A healthy crowd of 255 watched on as Widnes played their first match back at the Halton Stadium after an enforced exile due to the re-laying of the stadium’s artificial pitch, with the Whites beginning their debut Evo-Stik League season at Barnton’s Offside Trust Stadium.
Co-bosses Steve Akrigg and Kev Towey made four changes to the side that won narrowly at Clitheroe last time out. Phil Mooney and Chris Lomax dropped to the bench as Joe Herbert and Danny Ventre were handed recalls.
Elsewhere, there was a welcomed return at centre-half for Mike Burke after a four-month injury absence, replacing an unfit Akrigg while Sam Sheen returned in place of Jay Roberts who was unavailable, with Sean Myler deputising at right-back.
The home side started crisply, with the ever-dangerous Ben Hodkinson looking to start the game on the front foot as he cut inside from the left to hit a dipping volley wide.
Trafford looked to respond, and Widnes had the returning Burke to thank for making a crucial intervention to prevent Matt Bryan from teeing-up a late arriving Aaron Burns in the area.
Widnes continued to press however, registering their first clear opportunity at goal but Towey could only miscue an effort over after George Webster combined well with Hodkinson down the left.
But Trafford began to take control of the game as the half approached its midway point, with Daniel Wilkins shooting straight at Owen Wheeler after good work by Bryan.
The North were rewarded for minutes later with the game’s opening goal. The impressive Bryan burst down the left to provide a delicious cross for Burns who fluffed his initial shot but unselfishly squared for Rydings to finish neatly from close-range.
Trafford had chances to extend their advantage, but Tom Baker’s men were left kicking themselves for wasting ample opportunities. Burns would sting Wheeler’s gloves from distance, but the Widnes custodian made a good diving save to his left.
Burns would miss a sitter from close-range moments later, before Darius Palma raced clear one-on-one and looked certain to score but Wheeler made himself big and got down quickly to make a good block at the Trafford man’s feet.
Widnes responded positively, with Niall Watson extremely unfortunate not to squeeze a loose ball beneath Elliot Wynne who managed to smother the ball at the second attempt.
The hosts were denied an equaliser by the woodwork five minutes before the break. Towey found a pocket of space 25 yards out to rocket a shot at goal that cannoned back off the post with the outstretched Wynne well-beaten.
Widnes went in at the break goalless but maintained their offensive threat into the second half. However, the Whites struggled to test Wynne as Sheen sliced an early effort off target.
Hodkinson and Towey would combine to create Widnes’ clearest opening on the hour-mark. The strike-partners exchanged neat passes to engineer space for Webster in the area, but the youngster’s hooked effort on goal was brilliantly saved by Wynne and collected at the second-attempt.
Both sides would then trade half-chances, with Hodkinson shooting wide of the upright while Burns dragged an effort off target for Trafford.
The Lomax brothers and Dale Korie-Butler were introduced for Widnes in search of an equaliser, but Widnes failed to trouble Trafford’s organised 3-5-2 system, with Burke having a half-hearted penalty appeal waved away.
The North should have added a second as Widnes poured bodies forward. After racing clear of the hosts’ backline, Rydings had an effort blocked by Wheeler with Burns hitting a follow-up effort over but Trafford returned to Greater Manchester with all three points.