REPORT | Widnes 0-2 Leek Town
By Callum Chadwick
Widnes suffer fourth straight league defeat
Goals from Rob Stevenson and Aaron Bott either side of half time saw Widnes suffer a 2-0 home defeat to Leek Town on Saturday.
Ben Hodkinson had a first half penalty saved before Stevenson opened the scoring seven minutes before the break after Widnes cheaply conceded possession inside their own half.
And Bott would make it 2-0 less than a minute into the second period to condemn Widnes to a fourth straight Evo-Stik League defeat, who had George Lomax sent off on a miserable afternoon at the Halton Stadium.
The result means that Widnes are still searching for a first home league win in 2019 – a run of one home victory in their previous 10 outings.
Widnes made three changes to the side that beat Everton in the Liverpool Senior Cup in midweek. Owen Wheeler returned in goal, while Phil Mooney and Niall Watson came in for the suspended Sean Myler and Jamal Crawford, with the latter dropping to the bench.
Leek started the better of the two sides, controlling plenty of possession with Bott and Dan Trickett-Smith missing the target with early efforts.
However, the visitors seemed to lack imagination in the final third with Widnes threatening on the break with former Leek man Harry Brazel forcing Danny Roberts into a good save.
The hosts were awarded a golden opportunity to take the lead midway through the half. Lomax split the Leek defence with an inviting through-ball that was latched on to by Brazel, only to be brought down in the area by Billy Reeves.
Referee Darren Brown showed little hesitation in pointing to the spot, but Hodkinson saw his spot-kick denied by the outstretched glove of Roberts, with Leek smuggling away any resulting danger.
Roberts’ save seemed to spur on the visitors who enjoyed a positive spell but routinely found themselves coming unstuck by Widnes’ disciplined defensive gameplan.
Wheeler produced a brilliant save to tip a free Stevenson header over, while Bott nodded wide from the resulting corner.
With the interval approaching, Leek soon broke the deadlock. Widnes were the authors of their own undoing as Mooney lost possession 25 yards from his own goal, allowing Stevenson to advance and rifle a shot on goal that beat Wheeler at his near-post despite the home goalkeeper getting a glove on the effort.
Widnes responded positively and enjoyed their best spell of the half as half-time beckoned. Jay Roberts would play a neat one-two with Hodkinson before forcing a decent save out of Leek keeper Roberts.
Hodkinson would then find himself in behind the Leek defence with only Roberts to beat, but his first touch bounced against the visitors’ custodian as the former Bootle forward looked to round the on-rushing keeper.
Co-bosses Steve Akrigg and Kev Towey would have been optimistic about their side’s chances after a positive first half, but the Whites suffered a crucial blow within the opening minute of the second half.
The hosts quickly conceded possession and Leek ruthlessly pounced as Trickett-Smith played a pass through to Bott who lifted a deft finish over the oncoming Wheeler to give the visitors a bit of extra breathing space.
The Blues were gifted an excellent chance to add a third on 53 minutes when Leek were awarded a penalty. Mooney was penalised for a shirt pull on Sanders that only referee Brown seemed to see, as he pointed to the spot much to the bewilderment of players and supporters from both sides.
Widnes will feel that justice was done however, as Bott’s spot-kick was beaten away by Wheeler, who saved his third penalty of the season.
The hosts almost halved the deficit on the hour. Chris Lomax hit an in-swinging corner that seemed to catch everyone out but Marc Grocott at the back-post, who cleared off the line.
Any hope of a Widnes comeback diminished midway through the half as the hosts were reduced to 10-men, with George Lomax shown a straight red card for an off the ball incident with Jack Sanders.
With that, Leek settled into a rhythm and were content to see the game out, although they could have added a third had Aaron Dwyer not made a mess of Tim Grice’s well-crafted cross three minutes from time.