Widnes manager Dave Dempsey has praised his players for their response in the FA Trophy after their defeat to Prescot Cables.
Kevin Lynch’s side cruised to a 3-0 win at the DCBL Stadium, last week, leaving the Widnes management team and squad to mull over their showing.
They needed a late Lloyd Dean equaliser to send their FA Trophy clash with Skelmersdale United to penalties on Wednesday.
During the shootout, shot-stopper Owen Wheeler was the hero as he denied Richard Brodie’s side from progressing into the next round.
For Dempsey, he felt their luck in the meeting was a stroke of fortune after they suffered a similar ill-fate at this stage of the competition last season – when Bootle scored late on before winning the tie on penalties.
He told Off The Park: “We never played pretty football, we went back to the drawing board, I was more bothered about the application, work-rate and the endeavour to get through the round and into the hat.
“They showed fight, courage, togetherness, we never passed Skem off the park by any sense, we went back to front, we changed it up ever so slightly in terms of the shape – we missed key players.
“We had to do what we had to do on the evening, luckily we were the victors in the end, it’s not a nice way to go out on pens, we feel for Skem – but the boot was on the other foot with Bootle and ourselves, last minute equaliser then we lost on pens.
“What goes round comes around, I suppose, we were lucky to be given the opportunity to go to penalties but the fight and endeavour from the players was a lot better and we showed character coming off the back of the Prescot result.”
Three first-half goals was all the Cables needed last Tuesday as they got one over of their rivals leaving Dempsey with a number of questions.
But after a choice words in the dressing room, the Widnes boss looked to quickly move on and felt the win over Skem was the spark needed.
He continued: “It was just flat, to be honest, there was a lot of emotion after the game, a few words said. We just expect so much more, we expect to be so much better than we were that evening.
“Obviously being a local derby I expected more from the players but that’s been and gone now, we’ve drawn a line under it as a group.
“We’ve trained hard, we’ve had the beauty of a cup game with Skem at home and we’ve managed to progress so it’s give us that little bit of belief, little bit of fight back in the group.
“There’s been one or two additions that you haven’t seen just yet because they were cup tied.”
Domestically, Widnes are still without a win in the league picking up two points from their opening matches.
For the Whites manager, going back to the drawing board was one of the key actors behind the win.
“It will take shape, it’ll be a slow build again but Tuesday was certainly the building blocks to start the season and a positive note.
“I asked the players personally to not play a lot of football last night, we’ve gone away from playing out from the back, trying to play football and pick teams off through good possession and it hasn’t worked for us.
“We’ve had joy at times, don’t get me wrong, but I said be direct, be hard to beat, make sure your distances are right, compact out of possession. They’ve done us after 30 minutes, Skem, with a great ball from Elliott Morris and a flick-on, you’re going to get those moments in games but we’ve had chances yesterday through playing that way. We’ve played with energy, tempo, it was more like it.
“Still not perfect, we can play with more composure and have a bit more of the football. What I asked them there’s always a time and a place people love pretty football – myself included – it’s good on the eye but sometimes you need to go route one, back to the drawing board and grind a win out and credit to the boys that’s what they did.”
Following their win, Dempsey believes the questions they raised following their midweek disappointment were added. Looking ahead, he has emphasised their ambitions with Macclesfield in the next round and Newcastle Town on the horizon.
“Last week I’m not going to hide or paper over anything, there was question marks asked, a lot of players, the togetherness, the willingness, whether they wanted to play for the club or they were just there to pick up the money.
“That was answered, they worked, they looked together and celebrated that success after the game. We need to continue in that path we’ve created for ourselves, go to Macclesfield in the next round and go at them but the Newcastle game on Tuesday is one I’m looking at and wanting to pick up three points.”