Widnes showed that there’s no substitute for experience on Tuesday (19 February) night, as they beat a youthful Everton U18s 3-2 in the Liverpool FA Senior Cup.
Widnes had the first big chance of the game as Jamal Crawford delivery fell to George Webster at the back post, but his volley was blocked on the goal-line as Widnes set the pace in the first 10 minutes.
Everton had their first chance of the game in the 15th minute as Max Thompson chipped the ball in behind the defence for Rafa Garcia. Garcia’s volley was palmed away by Richard Mottram between the sticks for Widnes, but fell right into the path of Tom Warren who could not keep his rebound on target when it looked easier to score than miss.
But Warren redeemed himself just two minutes later with a beautiful through ball, through the legs of a Widnes defender straight to Max Thompson. Thompson cut inside two more defenders who were rushing back to cover, but pushed his luck one too far as the third defender got a foot in and cleared the ball from danger.
That clearance resulted in a stunning counter-attack which saw Widnes attacker Ben Hodkinson finding himself one-on-one with Everton goalkeeper Jack Barrett. Hodkinson unleashed a vicious strike from the edge of the six-yard box, but Barrett was alert to the danger and had rushed off his line to make a heroic save.
It then took to the 28th minute for the next bit of action, as George Lomax received the ball on the edge of the area before turning his defender and shooting just wide of the post.
But that shot was just a sign of what was to come, as just three minutes later Jamal Crawford headed the ball up into the air inside the Everton box. Harry Brazel rose highest above the Everton defenders to knock the ball down to Lomax who, just as he had three minutes earlier, turned his marker. But this time Lomax would make no mistake firing beyond Barrett to give Widnes the lead.
Widnes had the chance to double their lead in the 43rd minute as left-back Christopher Lomax picked the ball up on the left-hand side before cutting inside, but his curled shot was just beyond the far post and the teams went in at the break with just one goal separating them.
It had been a close encounter before half-time, however the first 15 minutes after the break were anything but.
It took Widnes and George Lomax just eight minutes to double their lead for the night as the striker received the ball just inside the area, before curling a stunning shot into the corner leaving Barrett with no chance.
Three minutes later Widnes made it three as Christopher Lomax drove a low ball into the box from the left wing, with Harry Brazel taking one touch to move the ball out of traffic and onto his right foot and slotted the ball calmly into the net with his second touch.
But it took only six minutes for Everton to strike back as Kameron Stanley found himself one-on-one with Mottram. His shot was saved and fell to Garcia, who then took the ball around Mottram who brought down the attacker, leaving the referee with no choice but to point to the spot.
Garcia and Rhys Hughes seemed to argue over who would take the penalty but in the end it was Hughes who stepped up and rifled home from the spot to give Everton a lifeline.
The goal had clearly buoyed Everton spirits, as just four minutes later Stanley rose high on the edge of the six-yard box to flick a header against the upright as the Blues looked more confident with every passing minute.
Both sides will be worrying about injuries following this game with George Lomax for Widnes and Rafa Garcia of Everton both coming off injured within minutes of each other.
With just five minutes to go and Widnes looking set to go through comfortably, Everton once again turned on the class as Stanley went around the on-rushing Mottram and despite defender Michael Grogan’s best efforts to clear off the line, Stanley fired into the roof of the net to set up an exciting final five minutes.
Everton clearly felt this game was still within their grasp and threw everything they had at Widnes, but the home side stayed strong. The Blues came close to a dramatic equaliser through a Rhys Hughes free-kick but could not get the job done, as Widnes pulled off a historic result under the floodlight of Halton Stadium.
Widnes join Prescot Cables, Rylands and Southport in the semi-finals of the Liverpool FA Senior Cup.