Widnes have been a club that has been making huge strides since being founded in 2003 as The Dragons AFC and transferred to their current guise in 2014, a couple of seasons after they joined the North West Counties League.
Our paths have crossed five times since they were promoted to the NPL after finishing runners-up in the NWCL Premier Divison behind Runcorn Linnets in 2017/18.
And thus far, the Rams have won twice and Widnes once with a couple of draws – both of which coming in Widnes’ home games at two different venues.
The 9th October 2018 was our first visit to Cheshire and we returned from Widnes’ temporary home of Barnton FC with a 1-1 draw. Dale Korie-Butler put Widnes ahead after just seven minutes with a misplaced header from the Rammy defence landed nicely for Widnes man who lofted the ball over Sam Ashton in the Rammy net. The Rams were produced plenty of chances before, with just 18 minutes left, Rammy skipper Jerome Wright smashed a fierce low shot that the keeper couldn’t keep out to equalise and take a share of the spoils.
On the return fixture at the Harry Williams Riverside Stadium, the Rams would suffer back-to-back home defeats when another defensive mistake left the Widnes striker Ben Hodkinson to intercept a rogue pass and produce a fine finish to snatch a 1-0 victory with the 74th minute strike.
Exactly like last season, the 2019/20 league season in the NPL Division 1 West kicked off with a home game with Widnes and we would come from 2-0 after only 19 minutes to grab a last-gasp 3-2 win.
It was Hodkinson once again who opened the scoring with a well taken goal on 11 minutes and the visitors doubled their lead as Conor Ready struck a rasping shot from the edge of the penalty area for 2-0.
However, just before half-time, Widnes were reduced to ten men when defender Danny Shaw upended Iyrwah Gooden running towards the penalty area, giving the referee no choice but to give him his marching orders.
A close range strike from Nic Evangelinos immediately after the restart brought the Rams back into the game and it was Tom Kennedy’s excellent free kick that found Gooden and he blasted it home to level the scores. In added time came the winner as both sides gave it everything – but it was Kennedy’s delightful cross landed on the head of Ruben Jerome to slam it into the back of the net to seal all three points in this quintessential game of two halves.
The fourth meeting came just prior to Christmas last year on the artificial surface of the Halton Stadium, where social distancing – before it was a ‘thing’ – was not a problem for the 92 spectators in the 13,350 capacity stadium! It took until the 28th minute for the deadlock to be broken when Karl Jones’ cross from Jerome to tap in from close range but two goals in four early second-half minutes from James Steele and Hodkinson, once again, launched the hosts ahead. The Rams made all three changes in quick succession, including Greg Daniels on 76 minutes for his first Rammy appearance for over 16 months. Within sixty seconds, he was in the referee’s notebook!
Time was running out but skipper Kennedy’s free kick was prodded forward by Kelvin Lugsden and substitute Josh Hmami forced the ball over the line for the equaliser and the game closed, on a chilly December afternoon, 2-2.
We would meet before the 2020/21 season came to a screeching halt when we headed to the Halton Stadium and returned with a thumping 4-1 victory. Widnes goalkeeper Cameron Terry was awarded with an own goal for the Rams on 15 minutes before Mason Fawns doubled the advantage on 33. James Steele pulled one back for the hosts soon after the restart but Sefton Gonzales (50) and an Aaron Burns penalty right on full time gave the Rams the comfortable success.
So it is a welcome back to the HWRS for Widnes, for the first time since the opening day of the 2019/20 season in August 2019.
HEAD to HEAD: Rammy 2, Widnes 1, Draws 2
at the HWRS: Rammy 1, Widnes 1, Goals 3-3
at Widnes home ground: Rammy 1, 2 draws, Goals 7-4