Widnes are the First Division Champions
Tue 25th April 2017 | Widnes | By Ian Templeman
Congratulations to Widnes, who are the 2016-17 Hallmark Security League Division One champions following a 5-1 win at AFC Blackpool.
They will now take their place in the Premier Division next season for the first ever time, having spent three years in Division One since joining the league in 2014.
Joey Dunn's men went into the game knowing that they only needed a point to guarantee promotion but needed a win, combined with City of Liverpool failing to beat Charnock Richard in their match at the Delta Taxis Stadium, to clinch the title.
Victory was all but sealed before half time as they stormed into a four goal lead, with the in-form George Lomax scoring a hat trick, and after the full time whistle sounded, the destination of the championship trophy was confirmed moments later once news emerged of the 1-1 draw on Merseyside.
It's been a remarkable turnaround in fortunes for the club, who were in lower mid-table when manager Joey Dunn arrived in October, but since then they have set off on a storming run of form that has seen them rise up the table, and they only moved into top spot for the first time last Saturday, a position that was confirmed with a comfortable win on a bright but cold evening on the Fylde coast.
Widnes hit the ground running and any nerves were settled in the 11th minute when George Lomax opened the scoring after being set up by a brave headed clearance from Chad Whyte, who needed treatment after colliding with the AFC Blackpool keeper Kirkland.
They doubled their advantage in the 20th minute when skipper Kevin Pollard glanced a header into the corner of the net from a long River Humphreys throw in, and Lomax added a third ten minutes before half time when he collected a long ball, outpaced the Blackpool defence and coolly slotted home.
Lomax completed his hat trick with a similar goal two minutes before half time, this time being denied by a good bock from Kirkland from his first attempt before rolling the rebound into the net.
After the break the pace dropped, although Widnes continued to look at increasing their lead, and Kevin Towey and Kevin Pollard were both denied by fine saves by Kirkland from long range shots.
A Jack Graham shot then hit the bar before Chris Lomax added a fifth from close range, and although Aaron Fleming pulled a goal back for Blackpool late on, the celebrations began in earnest in the visitors camp moments after the final whistle, once they knew the title was theirs.
Widnes Chairman Ian Ross was naturally a happy man after the game.
'In November I had a bet with my wife that we would win the league. In the first few weeks of Joey's tenure, with the way we played I felt that we would be up there. Joey said himself when he came that if we didn't get into the play offs he would walk away, so we were both confident.
'We have been on a tremendous run, that's 13 straight wins in the league and we have only conceded four goals in that time as well.
'You have give credit to the other teams in the league too, especially Charnock Richard, who have also been on a great run.
'My main hope was that we would avoid the play offs, because it will be so difficult. The four teams that will be in there out of the eight that have been up there for many months are so close, all the games will be 50-50.
'I thought if we could sneak second place I'd take that straight away, but obviously the bonus of winning it has capped it off perfectly.
'The plan coming tonight was to make sure we could relax on Saturday, and go and enjoy it with the tension off, and we can do that now.
'Joey and me have got a date in the diary as soon as the season is finished when we will be plotting next year. We've got a reserve team for next season, and a youth team as well, so the club is progressing a lot.
'Joey's ambition when he came to the club was to get us out of this division and then going at it again, and as a club we have to support him.
'We want to be at the top end of the Premier Division next season, there's no doubt about that'.
Photo courtesy of John Rooney.