NORTHWICH Victoria were denied a win when their guests scored in stoppage time, but manager Steve Wilkes says he saw plenty to be encouraged by.

He included three debutants, defensive duo Jordan Grant and Allen Weston along with wide man Johnny Gorman, in the starting line-up for his first home game since replacing Paul Moore.

“We’ve taken small steps in the right direction,” he reflected.

“I’m most happy with our reaction to falling behind, because a team on a run like ours could easily have folded.

“We didn’t; instead we dug deep, and deserved to go in front at 2-1.”

Widnes pinched a point when Andrew Gillespie scrambled home a loose ball after Vics defender Chris Lawton had diverted Sean Myler’s free-kick onto an upright.

The visitors had taken the lead after 70 minutes when substitute Billy Webb was first to a rebound after goalkeeper Michael Donlon had parried Jack Graham’s initial attempt.

Vics rallied though, and leading scorer Brian Matthews was alert to rifle the ball past former teammate Richie Mottram after Michael Burke had blocked his first effort.

Buoyed, the hosts edged ahead when substitute Jake Pollard’s swirling cross sailed over the visitors’ custodian and into the net.

However Gillespie’s late leveller denied Wilkes a maiden win.

The teams had traded chances in the first half.

Gillespie fired wide when well-placed after Myler had combined with Graham before Matthews’ powerful attempt was smothered by Mottram after quarter of an hour.

Graham’s strike flashed across the face of goal after he had skipped past full-back Daniel McDonnell.

Northwich responded, and Gorman’s free-kick was headed over by Matthews from close-range.

Mottram was then equal to Sam Marshall’s attempt after the wide man had surged forward before shooting with power from the edge of the penalty area.

Widnes’ best chance arrived shortly before the interval when Graham worked the ball to Myler, only for Donlon to push away his low effort.

Vics | Donlon (GK), Grant, Weston, Lawton, McDonnell (Willis 82), Bennett, Fitton, Gorman, Marshall (Jake Pollard 75), Matthews, Gyimah Subs not used Lawrence, Pino, Dale Goals Matthews 76, Pollard 86 Booked Willis

Widnes | Mottram (GK), Roberts, Sheen, Burke, Mitchell (Sweeney 82), Graham, Kev Pollard, Myler, Davies (Laverty 72), Whyte (Webb 56), Gillespie Subs not used Edwards, Donaldson Goals Webb 70, Gillespie 90 (+4) Booked Burke, Gillespie, Mitchell

Attendance 97

Match report by Jamie Dewsbury