Arriving at the Halton Stadium, it’s apparent the stadium has everything a club outside of the top divisions could possibly ever need, facilities that Colls can maybe only dream of. However, the slightly over officious council staff quelled any atmosphere, as Colls recovered from a tepid first half display to produce the goods in the second and leave with all three points in the bag to keep the promotion dream alive.
Colls lined up with Jordan Cover leading the line, an approach that was very familiar from last season but rare this. The first attack of the game on 5 minutes saw Danny Lafferty playing a ball to try and exploit the pace of Cover, the ball took a rather unusual bounce on the freshly laid 3G pitch and stood up for Ben Hardcastle instead. His snap shot flashing wide of Owen Wheeler’s post in what was to be Colls only sight of goal in a very flat first half.
Widnes were using the size of the pitch much to their advantage, playing the ball wide from side to side to probe Colls. On 12 minutes right-back Jay Roberts adanced forward and put in a cross that narrowly evade George Lomax before flying up for Clive Smith to clear out for a corner, the corner was well headed out but George Webster on the edge of the box in a Paul Scholes type position was able to pick his spot in the bottom corner to fire Widnes into the lead.
Following that, Colls were slightly chasing shadows as Wheeler in the Widnes goal saw a massive amount of the ball but all with his feet as he was able to distribute out to either full-back with relative ease. The high tempo pressing of Colls strangely awol. It was Widnes who had further chances in the first half with Danny Ventre and Niall Watson both chancing their arm.
The manager certainly had a few choice words during the half-time break and we immediately saw a different Colls side. Gaz Peet was first to show intent with a free-kick early in the second half as Conor Gaul was tripped on the edge of the box, maybe Colls would rather have the incident adjudged to be outside the box! The ball slammed against the crossbar with such force as to almost rebound clear of the penalty box as Widnes saw out the danger.
Ian Rowlands as always looking a threat from set-pieces as Colls had a succession of corners. Following this spell, Widnes broke down the left and Fin Sinclair-Smith can consider himself unlucky as he turned the Colls defence but fired his shot over. With that came a tactical reshuffle for Colls with Tom Bentham replacing Clive Smith.
Just before the hour mark, a Colls free-kick on the edge of the box was delivered by the trusty left boot of Gaz Peet, beating the first man to reach Jordan Cover who lost his marker and nodded home the equaliser for a rare headed goal to put Colls level.
Minutes later a Bailey free-kick delightfully delivered reached a group of Colls players in the six yard box, Wheeler collecting Cover’s downward header as Bentham and Connor Hughes waited to pounce. Gaz Peet was next to test Wheeler as he cut in the from the left and turned Jay Roberts to get a sight of goal, the keeper well down low to deny him.
The period of pressure came to fruition on 65 minutes with the move of the game, Conor Gaul nicking the back to Danny Lafferty to feed Ben Hardcastle in the middle, he superbly supplied Dave Sherlock out on the right to spring the offside trap and provide a sublime ball into the middle of the Widnes penalty area. The ball evaded the despairing lunge of Joe Herbert to arrive at the feet of Connor Hughes, taking time to compose himself and picking his spot, March’s Bowland Brewery Player of the Month slotted the ball home to put Colls into the lead.
Moving into the last 10 minutes saw two great chances for Colls, Gaz Peet again busting a gut to keep the ball in play, his cross finding Ben Hardcastle at the back post just unable to find the target then Connor Hughes in search of his second of the game curling a shot in from 20 yards that produced a top draw save from Wheeler. Inbetween those, Sam Sheen earned himself a second yellow card and an early bath for chopping down Hughes.
The hosts had a great chance to equalise late on, joint player-manager Kev Towey finding the head of Harry Brazel 6 yards out. There was relief all round the massed ranks of Colls fans when his header was planted firmly into the safe hands of Hartley. And that was to be their last clear cut opportunity as Tom Bentham held the ball in the corner for a full two and a half minutes! One final Widnes corner was successfully repelled and the celebrations and smiles on the faces of Colls fans were back.
Colls are at home again on Monday when we face for Newcastle Town for the first time this season, the previous two attempts to complete the fixture falling foul of the weather.
Greg Hartley, Clive Smith (Tom Bentham 56′), Gaz Peet, Danny Lambert (Dave Sherlock 46′), Danny Lafferty, Ian Rowlands, Ben Hardcastle, Vinny Bailey, Jordan Cover (Matt Grimshaw 60′), Conor Gaul, Connor Hughes
Subs (unused): James Kirby, Chris Cheetham
Colls Mon of the Match – Gaz Peet
Photo: Ian Monk