Report by John Edwards

Picture by Luke Reynolds Photography

It looked very much as though Loan Watch was heading into cold storage after the big freeze decimated the local pre-Christmas programme, but thankfully Widnes FC’s 3g pitch at the DCBL Stadium was passed fit on Saturday and they were able to stage their Pitching In Northern Premier League West Division fixture with promotion-chasing Runcorn Linnets.

All the other games that would have included Altrincham players out on loan were postponed, but the robust nature of 3g pitches meant we can bring you news of how Sharif Deans and Josh Jordan (pictured) fared in their latest outing for Michael Ellison’s side.

Both Alty youngsters were named in the starting line-up and both once more emerged with great credit as the Whites continued their recent improvement with another performance that gives them renewed hope of climbing away from the relegation places.

Sharif underlined his attacking threat as early as the fifth minute with an effort that tested visiting keeper Danny Taberner, as the home side made a bright start.

There was a setback for Widnes in the 43rd minute when Steven Irwin was shown a red card for a foul, and in a fiery end to the half, manager Ellison and Alty centre-back Josh both went into the referee’s book in quick succession.

The 10 men looked to be up against it in the second half against a team who were second in the table going into the game, but they made light of their numerical disadvantage as they sought to build on a 3-2 win over Glossop North End last time out.

Runcorn hit the bar soon after the restart, but the action was mostly unfolding at the other end, with strong Widnes penalty appeals turned down in the 69th minute and the deadlock broken in the home team’s favour five minutes later when Jay Roberts rounded off a lightning break with an unerring finish.

The Whites were denied a second goal by an offside flag in the 82nd minute but would have been pegged back seconds later, had it not been for a goal-saving block by Josh.

Runcorn substitute Zack Clarke looked sure to score, only for Josh to block his path to goal with a brilliant piece of defending that earned him the accolade ‘imperious’ on the Widnes twitter feed.

With the clock ticking down, the focus was on safeguarding their slender lead, and Sharif, who was on the scoresheet on his debut against Glossop, did his bit with some excellent hold-up play that, despite the attentions of two Runcorn defenders, won his side a corner.

Widnes threatened again from the resulting flag-kick, but, in agonising fashion, the lead was surrendered in the fourth minute of added time, as Runcorn's Jamie Rainford bundled the ball home after a scramble to deny the Whites a second successive home win, as they were forced to settle for a 1-1 draw.

Runcorn knew they had been in a game and dropped a place to third, after Leek Town overtook them with a 3-2 home win over Bootle, while Widnes are now a point clear of Ramsbottom United at the foot of the table and closing in on those above them.

Sharif and Josh are both clearly relishing the opportunity of first-team football at such a competitive level and are rising to the challenge in a way that speaks volumes for them - keep it going boys!

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