Leek ended their long exile from Harrison Park with another win – their seventh on the road of the current campaign.
The 2-1 scoreline could have been much wider in the visitors’ favour had the finishing been more clinical but Widnes could also point out that they had a keeper in fine form in the guise of Owen Wheeler. As it happens, the Blues had to settle for goals from Dan Trickett-Smith and Tim Grice with John McGrath replying with a goal that levelled the contest for a short time.
Widnes started the game the brighter with former Port Vale player James Steele prominent. But Leek soon took control and took the lead in the fifteenth minute with a beautifully crafted goal. Will Saxon left his marker for dead to provide the cross that was fed to Trickett-Smith who finished off from close-range.
The visitors could have been out of sight by the break had the chances been taken but Wheeler did well to keep his side in the game with a string of saves. He positioned himself well at his near-post to turn aside a fierce drive from Grice before unorthodox saves with his legs that denied both Grice and Jack Wakefield.
Grice sent the keeper the wrong way with a clever attempt on goal that flashed narrowly wide before Wheeler saved Mike Burke’s blushes. The defender had been robbed of the ball by Trickett-Smith but the keeper came out on top in the ensuing one-on-one.
But Wheeler saved his best for the second half when he once again proved Grice’s nemesis. The striker met a cross perfectly on the half-volley and the effort seemed destined for the top corner only for Wheeler to produce a spectacular stop.
With Widnes being far more competitive in the second period, the worry was always that the home side would make Leek pay for their profligacy. The inevitable happened with eighteen minutes left on the clock. The Blues conceded a free-kick that was taken by McGrath. If it had not hit the defensive wall the attempt on goal would probably have proved an easy save for Danny Roberts but he was left flat-footed by the deflection and could do nothing about the equaliser.
The result eventually hinged on two offside decisions. Widnes thought they had tied the match just before the break when Roberts made a good save from a downward header but could do nothing as the loose ball was put away. The strike was immediately chalked off by the assistant’s flag.
Leek were also on the right side of the decision for what proved the winning goal. Sub Rob Stevenson showed a glimpse of his old magic as he wove his way past the defenders to place the ball in the danger area. Grice emerged from the melee to force the ball home. Widnes’ players protested long and hard but there was no change of mind from the officials and Neil Baker’s men gleefully pocketed the points.
Following the match, Leek’s Pete Ward spoke exclusively to Moorlands Radio and said:
“I think it isn’t always pretty but we stuck to our game plan in the first half. I thought we were in control and then we started hitting long balls. We had been doing everything right but then we lost a bit of control. We looked good and we had a couple of good chances that we should have taken and finished them off. It was good to see the first goal because we work on that in training. I thought that we huffed and puffed a little in the second half and their goal was a little fortunate but maybe we were fortunate with our second goal. Someone mentioned that Gricey was offside but that’s the little bit of luck that you need.”