Leek continued their run of form but they were caused all sorts of problems by a resilient and well-organised Widnes side whose play belied their lowly status.
A goal from Ollie Harrison shortly before the break broke the deadlock and a hotly-disputed penalty from Tim Grice put the Blues in charge of the scoreline if not the general play. But the hosts were made to play out a nervy final few minutes after a finely-crafted goal from Ste Rigby reduced the arrears.
Neil Baker will be satisfied with another three points in the bag but will be worried by his lengthening injury crisis. Rob Stevenson had to pull out of the starting line-up following a recurrence of his back injury and increasingly influential midfielder Jack Wakefield was stretchered off in the second half with what appeared to be a serious ligament injury.
Dave Dempsey’s men had serious ambitions to put a stop to Leek’s progress and had a number of spells where they had a superiority of possession. They started well and could have taken an early lead when Alex McMillan just failed to get on the end of a John McGrath cross.
However, it was Leek who failed to make the most of first-half chances. Cameron Terry had to be alert to turn aside a snap shot from Dan Trickett-Smith before the Blues’ star lobbed the keeper only to see the ball bounce back from the post.
The most glaring error came from Will Saxon who had another busy afternoon without being able to add to his tally. The Widnes defence was sliced open to set Saxon free but the effort was hit wide with the goal gaping.
The opening goal typified the scrappiness of the opening period. A needless free-kick was given away by the Whites’ defence and this was played with precision into the danger area. Terry was unable to cope with the ball when under pressure from Harrison who was able to prod the ball home in the ensuing scramble.
The loss of Wakefield and a rotation of personnel by the Widnes manager saw the visitors take control and they came ever so close to snatching an equaliser. Danny Roberts had to make a back-pedalling save to keep out an effort from Rigby and the keeper did even better from the corner. Jordan Barrow must have thought that he had scored when his powerful header went goalward but Roberts’ excellent reflexes saved the day.
Widnes’ progress was halted in its tracks just four minutes later, Saxon went to ground under challenge from James McCulloch and a penalty was awarded. The spot kick was despatched with aplomb by Grice even though Terry went the right way.
The visitors seemed to run out of ideas but they had one more trick up their sleeves. Rigby wove his way into the Leek area and hit a curling effort to beat Roberts. The expected onslaught from the Whites failed to really materialise though and Leek were able to manage the lengthy slice of added time to see themselves home.
Widnes players continued their protests about the decisive penalty award long after the final whistle and there could have been severe repercussions under a less lenient referee.
After the match Baker spoke exclusively to Moorland Radio and said “I thought we were fine in the first half and we could have been two up in the first ten minutes. You don’t get simpler chances than that. Will was a real disappointment in front of goal today. You always wonder when you miss those kinds of chances whether it will come back to haunt you. I won’t say it nearly did but it could have done. So, I was pleased with the first half but the first twenty minutes of the second half it was messy and they were starting to get on top. They weren’t peppering our goal but they were taking control. So, we did something a little bit different that made a difference. But Widnes are a team that don’t give up. They battled on. Credit to them. We all like to see wonderful football and score five goals every week. But that isn’t really football. We got through today. We defended well when we had to and Danny made a couple of decent saves. All in all, we won the game.”