Macron Challenge Cup Final - Burscough 1 Widnes 2
Tue 15th May 2018 | Challenge Cup | By Ian Templeman
Widnes ended their five-season sojourn in the Hallmark Security League by signing off with a 2-1 win over Burscough in the Macron Challenge Cup final at Fleetwood Town’s Highbury Stadium.
The record books will show that a goal from Sam Sheen 13 minutes from time clinched victory for the Premier Division runners-up, but that only tells part of the story.
In a game that was a terrific advert for the league, both sides delivered an engrossing and entertaining 90 minutes of football, played at a brisk pace throughout, with Burscough going toe to toe with opponents that finished 46 points above them in the league table.
And while Sheen was the man whose goal sealed victory for Widnes, at the other end they also had goalkeeper Richie Mottram to thank for some fine saves late on, that preserved his side’s lead and underlined why he won the Premier Division Goalkeeper of the Month award on more than one occasion this season.
It was a fine end to a memorable season for Widnes, who now head off to the new pastures of the Evo-Stik League with the Macron Challenge Cup in their possession.
On a cool and overcast night on the Fylde coast, the game began in lively fashion with play swinging from end to end in the opening minutes.
Widnes had the first chance when Kevin Towey and Jack Banister combined to set up Ben Hodkinson for a shooting chance that was deflected for a corner.
At the other end, Burscough’s in form centre forward Chad Whyte had a sniff of goal when he latched on to a ball through the inside right channel, and outpaced the Widnes back line, before shooting straight at keeper Richie Mottram.
But Burscough went ahead in unexpected fashion in the 9th minute, when left back Jamie Clark went over to the right wing to take a corner kick, and his beautifully placed in-swinging kick to the far post curled in under the cross bar without anyone else getting a touch on the ball.
Boosted by the bright start, Burscough then enjoyed a good spell of territory and won a couple of free kicks in good positions, but Widnes always looked threatening going forward and drew level at the midway point of the half.
A Christopher Lomax corner from the right was headed back across goal into the path of Ben Hodkinson, who buried a shot into the corner of the net for his 12th goal of the season.
Lomax was involved in setting Widnes’s next chance on the half hour when he played Kevin Towey through on goal, but the Widnes joint player-manager screwed his shot wide from just inside the box.
Five minutes later they found the back of the net when Michael Grogan rose to power a header past Samberg in the Burscough goal from another Lomax corner, but the referee brought the Widnes celebrations to an abrupt end by signalling there had been an infringement.
But Burscough danger man Chad Whyte was also a threat, and after having a shot beaten away by Mottram, he just failed to connect with a Terry Cummings cross as he slid in at the far post in the closing minutes.
It had been a pacey and entertaining opening 45 minutes, and the half time break failed to affect the momentum of the game, which picked up immediately with Whyte curling a shot over the bar within ten seconds of the second half restarting.
Widnes’s first chance of the half was handed to them by Burscough keeper Samberg, whose mishit clearance was seized on by Hodkinson, who burst forward unchallenged into the box, but Samberg redeemed himself with a fine blocking save at point blank range.
The end to end flow of the game continued, with Widnes keeper Mottram making a smart save from Rex Kimona-Puissance, and at the other end Samberg was tested by a low shot from Banister.
But as the game moved into the final quarter, Widnes began to dominate, with a Burke header cleared off the line, and Jack Banister just failing to connect with a Christopher Lomax cross before they finally went ahead with 13 minutes remaining.
There seemed no danger when Sam Sheen picked up the ball in space wide on the right wing, but his curling cross to the far post evaded Samberg in the Burscough goal and crept in just inside the post.
It was a tough blow to take for a Burscough side that had played so well, but they weren’t finished off and three minutes later came agonisingly close to an equaliser.
A surging run down the left from Joshua Dunroe ended with him crashing a shot against the post from 20 yards, and when the ball rebounded to Peter Henerty, his well struck follow up was brilliantly saved by Mottram diving full length to his right.
Inevitably as Burscough pushed forward in search of a breakthrough, they were vulnerable to the counter attack, and the ability of Widnes to break out at pace, coupled with Burscough’s determination to push forward in attack, set up an exciting finale.
As the game moved into five minutes of stoppage time, Mottram was in action once more to push away a Brady shot and then recover quickly to block the rebound from Ekpolo, and in the final minute he denied Burscough again when Ekpolo set up Dunroe for a shot that the Widnes keeper once again stopped with a full length diving save.
Moments later the final whistle blew, and the Widnes celebrations began.
Burscough: Joshua Samberg, Daniel Brady, Jamie Clark, Rex Kimona-Puissance, Alexander Parkes, Allinson Canache (Matthew Ward 60), Terry Cummings, Joshua Dunroe, Chad Whye, Peter Henerty, Prince Ekpolo.
Substitutes not used: Leon Townley, James Pennington, Peter Smith, Ethan Smith.
Widnes: Richie Mottram, Jay Roberts, Philip Doran, Kevin Pollard, Michael Grogan, Michael Burke, Kevin Towey, Sam Sheen, Ben Hodkinson (George Lomax 73), Christopher Lomax, Jack Banister (Daniel Laverty 84).
Substitutes not used: Dylan Sweeney, Elliott Jones, Tom Croughan.
Referee: Nathaniel Cox
Assistants: Keith Martin, Michael Johnson
4th Official: Michael Crusham
Widnes captain Kevin Pollard is pictured lifting the trophy. Photo courtesy of Paul Watson.