By Christopher Sweetman
Click here for Castle Manager, Robin Van der Laan's, reaction to todays 3-1 victory.
Two goals and an assist from Nathan Morley saw Newcastle Town to their first win in eight matches as they beat Widnes 3-1 at the DCBL Stadium.
With both sides in desperate need of a win, the atmosphere on the pitch occasionally boiled over, with two players and a manager show red cards during the game.
Newcastle went ahead early on, as great interplay between Will Lloyd and Morley saw the latter fire home for his first of the season.
There was a fiery end to the first half as Widnes’ Jordan Simpson and Newcastle’s Callum Lovatt were both sent off following an altercation.
Bottom of the league Widnes came back strong in the second half, and eventually equalised when Will Jones’ header squeezed between the keeper and the post.
Newcastle retook the lead as Morley brilliantly controlled Ethan Vale’s long ball, before rounding the keeper to slot in.
Widnes coach Chris Lawton was sent off for backchat, before the visitors added their third late on, with Morley unselfishly feeding Callum Parker.
Newcastle got off to a positive start, looking to attack the Widnes area from the off, with Mikey Conlon firing an early chance at Widnes keeper Cameron Terry.
The visitors then should have made more of a great chance as Lovatt and Morley seemed to get in each other’s way, before Lovatt scuffed his shot despite having plenty of time.
Widnes looked dangerous on the break throughout the game, and showed their first sign of that early on.
Sharif Deans got into the Newcastle box, and found himself one on one with their keeper Joe Slinn, but he could only find the side netting.
Moments later Newcastle took the lead, after Morley had fed Lloyd who couldn’t find room for a shot, so returned the ball for Morley to hammer into the top corner.
That was Morley’s first goal since suffering a serious injury he suffered almost exactly a year ago, and was greeted with rapturous celebrations by the rest of the Newcastle players.
Widnes almost hit back immediately after going behind, as a Newcastle mistake put Stephen Rigby in on goal, but his attempt to chip Slinn rebounded off the crossbar.
At this point it was hard to argue that Newcastle did not deserve their lead, but lapses in concentration were giving Widnes chances.
For their part, Widnes were letting themselves down with a lack of accuracy and silly mistakes when going for goal.
However, it was Newcastle who were next to inaccurate in front of goal, after an excellent long ball by James Askey found Morley, who could not control as Terry gathered safely.
There then followed a controversial passage of play, as Newcastle claims for a handball penalty were denied, while it looked like the officials missed Terry palming the ball out of play.
Widnes played on, and only a careful block by Luke Dennis prevented Rigby collecting what could have been a scoring pass, which Slinn gathered instead.
With the break looming, there came the major flashpoint of the first half, as both sides were reduced to ten men.
Lovatt and Simpson both chased back as Newcastle threatened to break, with Simpson fouled in the process, but his reaction saw him red carded on the spot.
The incident sparked outrage from both teams – players and coaches – and once they had restored calm, the officials took a lengthy discussion, before Lovatt was also sent off.
To the credit of both teams, that incident did not appear to lead to any ill-feeling creeping into play, as the first half ended without further incident.
However, the halftime whistle came just seconds before monumental deluge of rain that, while mostly less forceful, would continue throughout the second half.
Widnes began the second half strongly, and they almost equalised within moments of the restart, as Slinn missed a cross, but Rigby could not react as the ball bounced off him and wide.
Vale then came close to doubling the visitor’s lead, as his free kick beat everyone, but ended up in the side netting.
Jones then had two great chances to put Widnes level, as he first send a header wide from a central position, then minutes later headed straight at Slinn.
Newcastle were looking nervy at this point, encapsulated as Slinn could only push a routine cross towards Deans, who was swamped by defenders before he could react.
Widnes had been the better team throughout the second half, and they got their reward on the hour mark, as Jones squeezed a header past Slinn, who could not stop it creeping behind the post.
The goal was no more than Widnes deserved for their second half performance, and they almost took the lead as Rigby rattled the post from range.
However, the scores remained level for just eight minutes, before Newcastle restored their advantage in style.
First, Askey cut out a Widnes pass in defence, before feeding Vale who charged forward, before firing a long ball towards Morley.
Morley expertly controlled the pass, before rounding Terry to give himself an empty net to tap into.
The goal was exactly what Newcastle needed, as Widnes had been threatening to take control of the game up to that point.
However, the hosts still looked dangerous, and broke through Matty Rain who went down in the box, but the referee denied the penalty and booked him for diving.
Minutes later, the referee stopped the game with Widnes in possession as Vale went down injured, with home coach Chris Lawton sent off for his reaction to the decision.
The hosts were still dominating possession, despite the deficit, but Newcastle also looked dangerous, as Morley intercepted and fed Tommy van der Laan, who fired wide.
Minutes later Newcastle made sure of the result, as Morley charged 50 metres up field, before cutting into the box.
Morley looked to have a shooting chance, but – on a hattrick – he unselfishly squared for Parker to fire home his first goal for the club.
The goal secured a much-needed win for Newcastle – their first since beating City of Liverpool in November – and lifted them to 12th in the league.
However, Newcastle face a tricky assignment next match, as they host league leaders Macclesfield Town next Saturday, before travelling to Workington the week after.