Workington Reds 2 Widnes 0: Workington Reds showed their character once more to grind out three precious points against Widnes on a day when they were far from their best.

Widnes kicked off and had the first chance after three minutes when they fired just past the post after a quick break, but the flag was up for offside.

Nathan Waterston, who started the game after his impressive hat-trick against Kendal Town in midweek, forced some fancy footwork out of Widnes goalkeeper Owen Wheeler when he closed him down in the box early on.

Reds were forced to hack the ball out for a throw-in when a free-kick from the visitors bobbled dangerously around the penalty spot, but it came to nothing in a scrappy start to the game.

A fierce David Symington free-kick was blocked by the wall and Ceiran Casson’s attempt from the rebound sailed high over the bar.

Another free-kick in the 17th minute was floated to the far post by Brad Hubbold but Sam Smith couldn’t quite get a toe on it as it ran out for a goal kick.

The visitors had heart in mouths for the 389 supporters at Borough Park after 20 minutes when a powerful Michael Grogan strike rattled the bar, then Lewis Buckley headed over the bar seconds later.

Widnes were more than matching their hosts but they almost fell behind when a terrific solo run from Hubbold saw him tee up Scott Allison for a shot on the break and Reds’ manager Danny Grainger felt strongly that his effort was blocked by a hand.

The game was fast and flowing from end to end after 25 minutes, and Dan Wordsworth had to be alert to make a stunning last-ditch block to keep the score at 0-0 before Symington drove a shot straight at Wheeler.

Neither side looked in control of the game but Hubbold was seeing plenty of the ball and looked as likely as anyone to provide the creative spark Reds were looking for.

It was the other Brad in midfield who opened the scoring, though, when he capitalised on confusion at the back to nick in ahead of Wheeler, round him and virtually walk the ball in after 30 minutes.

Hubbold did almost get on the scoresheet when he drew a fine low save out of Wheeler two minutes later and Allison’s attempted backheel on the rebound drifted wide of the post.

Reds continued to ride their luck at the back but were defending well to block shots when their opponents did open them up.

It was a physical battle in midfield and Liam Brockbank was shown a yellow card just before half-time for what Widnes claimed was an elbow but referee Ian Gittins decided was not so serious.

Captain Sam Sheen had the latest Widnes effort at goal when his volley went high and wide before Hubbold scuffed a weak shot into the keeper’s arms from the edge of the area in what was the last notable action before the half-time whistle.

Reds had been sluggish in the first half but they led anyway and would be confident of the three points if they could up their performance levels in the second half.

They came out with much more energy and almost doubled their lead when Symington raced down the right wing and lofted a cross over, which fell just too far away for Waterston to turn it in.

But they were indebted to Wordsworth for a fortunate survival in the 49th minute when Wordsworth had to clear a Harry Brazel shot from close range off the line, with Alex Mitchell beaten.

A free-kick on the right wing after Allison was fouled allowed Symington to lift the ball into the area but several attempted shots from Reds players were blocked and the away side were able to clear.

Captain Conor Tinnion was introduced for Hubbold after 60 minutes as Grainger looked to help his side find the elusive second goal to give them a more comfortable lead.

Danny Shaw clipped the heels of Waterston after the Reds forward beat him to the ball and tried to sprint clear in on goal, but he was only shown a yellow card for the foul and his team-mate Keenan Quansah picked up another two minutes later as the away side resorted to fouls to stop the home side asserting themselves.

The game was going flat in both boxes but Wheeler was still paying attention in the Widnes box as he tipped a Casson cross over.

He wasn’t concentrating enough, though, when the resulting corner was whipped in by Tinnion and the Widnes goalkeeper fumbled the ball over the line to hand Reds the second goal they had been looking for after 75 minutes.

It was a two-goal cushion Widnes could possibly feel aggrieved to be on the wrong end of but Reds had been clinical when chances presented themselves and enjoyed some good fortune in the box.

Ben Hodkinson had been a nuisance for the Workington defence since his introduction from the bench after 50 minutes and he earned a corner in the 83rd minute which Sam Smith rose well to head away.

The second goal looked to have slowed the tempo on a hot afternoon at Borough Park on Saturday but Reds couldn’t afford to coast through the final minutes of what had been a tough encounter.

In the end, they held on with little drama to speak of in the latter stages for another three points, which were even more sweet given they came on an off-day.