REPORT | Widnes 1-4 Mossley
By Callum Chadwick
Widnes heavily beaten by high-flying Mossley
Widnes suffered a second successive defeat since returning home to the Halton Stadium, as Mossley ran out 4-1 winners on Saturday afternoon.
A Ben Halfacre brace alongside further strikes from Michael Fish and Adam Jones ensured that the visitors ran out convincing winners despite Michael Grogan heading Widnes into an early lead.
Kev Towey had a second-half penalty saved for Widnes who, in truth, had a handful of clear-cut opportunities to get something out of the game but were ultimately undone by the clinical Lilywhites.
Co-bosses Steve Akrigg and Kev Towey made six changes to the side beaten by Trafford last time out. Jamal Crawford was handed a full debut after arriving on loan from FC United of Manchester, while Akrigg, Grogan, Jay Roberts, Phil Mooney and George Lomax were all handed recalls.
Harry Brazel was named amongst the substitutes after his arrival from neighbours Runcorn Town.
The hosts started positively and had the first sight of goal with Towey shooting off target after connecting with Lomax’s delivery from the right.
Lomax was causing the Mossley backline early problems, and he was gifted an opportunity to give his side the lead after beating goalkeeper Josh Ollerenshaw to a loose ball, but Jones got back quickly to make a crucial intervention.
From the resulting corner, Widnes opened the scoring. The initial set-piece broke down, but Roberts sent a delicious cross back into the area where Grogan was on hand to power a towering header home, marking his return from injury with a goal.
Mossley had started slowly but the Lilywhites responded after falling behind, with Grogan making a crucial contribution at the other end to block a seemingly goal-bound Andy Keogh effort.
Widnes were only ahead for 10 minutes before Mossley levelled. Halfacre found himself one-on-one with Wheeler and rolled a composed finish beyond the Whites’ keeper to equalise.
Mossley never relinquished control from that point onwards with Fish sending a teasing ball across goal and wide while Halfacre fired off target in search for a second goal.
Dave Wild and Terry Hincks’ men took the lead on the stroke of the half-hour mark. Keogh released Fish in behind the Widnes backline, with the striker making a great run that went untracked. He cut inside, turned away from the challenge of Akrigg and slotted into the bottom corner.
Towey then had a shot comfortably saved but Widnes would find themselves 3-1 down at the break as Jones peeled away from his marker to net with a diving header inside first half stoppage time.
The unchanged hosts started the second half brightly, and they were presented with an opportunity to reduce the deficit when Niall Watson bundled over by a clumsy Ben Richardson challenge in the area, leaving referee David Croft with little choice but to point to the spot.
Co-manager Towey, ever the consistent marksman from 12 yards out, but keeper Ollerenshaw guessed correctly and pushed the spot-kick away to safety to almost sum up Widnes’ afternoon.
Towey looked to atone for his miss minutes later, but Ollerenshaw was again equal to his effort after good work by Watson in the build-up.
Keogh almost made it four for Mossley on the hour as the visitors’ skipper rattled the post with a blistering drive from 25 yards as the Lilywhites continued to flex their offensive firepower.
Despite staring defeat in the face, Widnes were intent on going down swinging with substitute Brazel finding himself unmarked from a corner only to mis-cue his header off target with an effort that the debutant would have been disappointed with.
Sam Sheen and Ben Hodkinson were introduced from the bench, and the latter’s direct pace began to cause a tiring Mossley backline one or two problems.
It was Hodkinson who would engineer Widnes’ next opportunity, racing away from the challenge of Richardson to send an inviting ball towards the back-post that Lomax was inches away from grabbing an elusive touch.
Brazel impressed of the bench on his debut, cutting inside from the right to fire narrowly over while Akrigg had a deflected effort crash back off the crossbar with Ollerenshaw smothering the loose ball at the second attempt.
But it was to be one of those days for Widnes as Max Leonard teed up Halfacre moments later to hit a sumptuous effort into the top corner to complete his brace and the scoring for Mossley.