Johnson snatches key win away from Widnes

Salford 14 - Widnes 13
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The Independent Online

A late try from the Salford centre Andy Johnson left Widnes still deep in danger of relegation from Super League, despite a gutsy show at The Willows.

A late try from the Salford centre Andy Johnson left Widnes still deep in danger of relegation from Super League, despite a gutsy show at The Willows.

The Vikings dominated the game, only to have it snatched away from them when Johnson ran on to Kevin McGuinness's pass in the 74th minute to score.

Defeat, undeserved as it was, leaves Widnes just four points ahead of the bottom club, Castleford, who have a winnable game today at Huddersfield in hand.

Salford can now regard themselves as completely safe, but this was not a display from them that merited that sort of reward.

Still, Widnes had to soak up all the early pressure. But from their first real attack, John Robinson took the Australian stand-off Jules O'Neill's long pass after the ball had gone through a series of hands, and dived low under the covering tackles to score the first try of the game against the run of play. O'Neill converted and then made a tremendous tackle to avert an instant reply from Johnson.

O'Neill was having the sort of game where he looked capable of carrying his team to safety on his own. He could do nothing, however, about the try that cut his side's lead to two points midway through the first half. Stuart Littler burst through the middle and although he was eventually hauled down by Paul Devlin he rolled away a pass, of sorts, for Andy Kirk to gather and score.

Despite that setback, Widnes were playing with a purpose that has often been missing this season and they spent long periods pressing the Salford line. They were not able to turn all that possession into points, while Salford's efforts to take the initiative were often spoiled by a tendency to over-elaborate.

Salford finally hit the lead thanks to a genuine length-of-the-field try from the winger Joel Caine. Intercepting O'Neill's pass on his own tryline, he went the full 100 metres, leaving the chasing Simon Finnigan and Tim Holmes in the silver and bronze medal positions.

Caine was the villain 10 minutes later, squandering possession by trying to slip a ridiculous pass away near his own line. Widnes capitalised by switching the ball across field for O'Neill to plunge over, losing his shirt from his back in the process, and then kick the goal to reclaim the lead.

A Willie Peters drop goal stretched that lead, but the same player fell short with a last-minute effort that could have brought Widnes a valuable draw.

Salford: K Fitzpatrick; J Caine, S Littler, A Johnson, A Kirk; K McGuinness, G Clinch; N Baynes, M Alker, S Rutgerson, A Coley, M Shipway, C Charles. Substitutes used: P Highton, A Brocklehurst, S Baldwin, G Haggerty.

Widnes: T Holmes; P Devlin, J Robinson, D Bird, C Giles; Jules O'Neill, W Peters; Julian O'Neil, S Millard, S McCurrie, A Hay, M Whitaker, S Finnigan. Substitutes used: S Myler, D Mills, D Frame, T Gallagher.

Referee: K Kirkpatrick (Warrington).