Rob Hopley’s late goal earns draw
Match Report kindly supplied by: Andrew Simpson, Senior Sports Writer, Northwich Guardian http://www.northwichguardian.co.uk/sport/
THIS time Witton Albion were happy for history to repeat. Thwarted by a stoppage-time goal on Boxing Day, they savoured scoring one of their own to pinch a point that appeared out of their reach.
They played for more than an hour with 10 men following Joel Bembo-Leta’s dismissal, and fell behind twice.
However an equaliser by Rob Hopley, swept past goalkeeper Michael Turner from James Foley’s cross, was a worthy reward for their resilience.
It was heartening for Gary Martindale, again standing in for manager Carl Macauley while he recovers from a virus, to see spirit from a side far from their fluid best. There was stamina too and with four senior players ruled out by an injury, Albion’s small squad is being tested.
They were tepid in the first-half on Saturday, although referee Connor Brown didn’t help. He was right to caution Bembo-Leta for handball after quarter of an hour, although a decision to repeat the trick less than five minutes later was unduly harsh.
The ball squirted unexpectedly off an opponent before striking the defender’s arm, and he had no time to react. To rub it in, Matt Stenson bent the resulting free-kick into the bottom-corner to put the visitors in front.
Hopley switched to a role in defence, alongside Michael Wilson, when Witton reshuffled. They were invisible in attack, save for when Barwell gifted them an opportunity.
Owen Dale intercepted Declan Towers’ sloppy pass, only for his feeble finish to trickle wide. Instead the hosts went closest when Elliot Percival, under pressure at the back-post, was left to thank custodian Liam Castle after he diverted the full-back’s sliced clearance to safety.
Albion, perhaps conscious their guests were reluctant to risk much despite having an extra man, improved after the interval.
They drew level on 61 minutes when Steve Tames’ penalty squirmed into the net (as captured above by Keith Clayton) after Dale had been felled by Castle in the area. Barwell’s net-minder was concussed by the contact, and suffered a cut above his eye too, and stand-in Turner almost stopped the spot-kick.
The Canaries rallied, and Eddie Nisevic’s low drive prompted Albion number one Calvin Hare to save smartly low to his left. The same player drilled with power straight at the goalkeeper from his next attempt.
Barwell’s spell of pressure did bring a dividend when Heath arced a shot out of Hare’s reach when a free-kick was cleared in his direction.
Albion did not wilt though, and Wilson blazed over after Tom Owens’ attempt deflected kindly. Tames then conjured an chance for Will Jones from the right, only for the front man to miss the target after failing to time his connection.
Witton levelled from their best move of the match. Tames threaded a pass into space behind Nisevic, and Foley picked out Hopley with a precise cross from the right. The striker did the rest!
Witton | 4-4-2 | Hare (GK), Haywood, Bembo-Leta, Wilson, McKenna, Tames, Foley, Owens, Dale, Hopley & Jones. Subs not used: Evans, Devine, Cesaire & Neild (GK). Booked: Bembo-Leta (handball) Sent off: Bembo-Leta (second caution for handball). Goals: Tames 61 (penalty), Hopley 90 (+3)
Barwell | 4-3-3 | Castle (GK) (Turner GK 60), Percival, Stanley, Towers, Nisevic, Hickey, Heath, Hildreth, Whitmore, Stenson (Piggon 66) & Story. Subs not used: Ball, Bates & Warmington. Goals: Stenson 22, Heath 71. Booked: Towers, Castle, Heath (all fouls), Hildreth (dissent)
Referee Connor Brown