Albion battle through the elements & Marine!
By Phil Chadwick
Report kindly supplied by Paul Harper
Witton Albion picked up a valuable three points from a 3-2 victory away against Marine at the Marine Travel Arena.
A brace from Rob Hopley on his 150th appearance and a strike by Tom Owens secured the points as Albion twice had to come from behind to show great character to collect the vital victory.
The conditions were atrocious. Freezing cold temperatures, pouring rain and a swirling wind made things difficult, but both teams, to their credit, played some good football, which made for an entertaining 90 minutes.
Jordan Lussey, a new signing from Chorley, made his debut in midfield, while fellow new-comer Jordan Cobley was named among the substitutes.
The home team came out of the blocks quickly and took the lead within 90 seconds of the kick-off.
It was a well worked goal and an excellent finish, as a deep cross from the left was struck firmly by Craig Carney past Greg Hall in the Witton goal.
James Foley hit a free kick over the crossbar before a dangerous ball into the box by Anthony Gardner caused havoc in the Marine defence before they finally managed to clear their lines as the visitors looked to get back on level terms.
At the other end, Hall had to make a smart save to deny Danny Mitchley before the equaliser came and a superb goal it was too.
Albion, mainly through Tom Owens, kept the ball well around the edge of the Marine penalty area before it was worked to the left side of the box to captain Rob Hopley, who took a touch before lofting a delicious effort over Paddy Wharton and into the top corner of the net.
Owens himself had a great chance to give Witton the lead midway through the half, when he danced his way inside the penalty area, cutting in from the left, but he took a touch too many and that allowed a defender to get across to block his shot on goal.
He did similarly as the half was drawing its way to a close, trying to work a shooting opportunity but his effort was blocked out for a corner.
Against the run of play slightly, the home side retook the lead four minutes before the interval.
Again, it was a well worked strike. A free kick was played in from the right hand side and Chris Doyle got in front of his marker at the near post and flicked a header past Hall.
Albion dealt with a couple of dangerous balls into the penalty area at the beginning of the second half, before the hosts were reduced to 10 men.
Doyle was dismissed following a foul on Will Jones, meaning Marine had to play the final 35 minutes a man light.
Just before the hour mark, manager Carl Macauley made a change with Michael Wilson replacing Foley, with a system change seeing Witton play with three at the back.
The Mariners still carried a threat on the break and Mitchley had a shot deflected which took the sting out of it, making for a comfortable save for Hall.
Jordan Cobley came on for his Albion debut on 69 minutes, replacing Will Jones, as the visitors went in search of an equaliser.
It soon came, as three minutes later, the ball pinballed about on the edge of the Marine area and Tom Owens got a touch to steer the ball into the back of the net to make it 2-2.
Michael Elstone had a couple of shots blocked for the home team, but it was Witton who scored the decisive next goal.
After an excellent spell of possession, the ball was worked out to the right hand side where Billy Smart got to the byline and pulled the ball back to Hopley who applied a smart finish to give Albion the lead for the first time in the game.
The hosts battled bravely to try and muster an equaliser, Hall producing an excellent save in injury time to deny Elstone, but it was the visitors who took the important three points to lift them up to 17th position in the league table and still with games in hand on all the teams above them.
** Many thanks go to Paul for this report and for freezing your fingers off and to Karl Brooks for somehow managing to produce quality photographs in truly awful conditions. **