Albion left to rue not finishing what they started
By Phil Chadwick
Match Report kindly supplied by PAUL HARPER
After taking an early lead and dominating the opening stages, Albion fell to a 3-1 defeat at home to Stalybridge Celtic at a wet and blustery Wincham Park.
It was a game of missed chances for Carl Macauley's side, especially in the first half when they could have been out of sight after getting out of the blocks rapidly.
But the profligacy in front of goal was to prove costly, as when the visitors got chances themselves, they took them and that was the difference between the two sides.
River Humphreys returned to the matchday squad, making it onto the substitutes' bench after illness had ruled him out of Saturday's 1-0 win over Lancaster City.
The early stages saw the home side dominate. Early corner kicks caused no ends of problems for the Stalybridge defence and goalkeeper but the vital touch to turn the ball over the line was absent.
But it wasn't to be long until Albion took the lead. Billy Smart burst into the penalty area and was brought down by visiting goalkeeper Paddy Wharton. The referee pointed to the spot, and that was the only punishment for the Celtic number one as he remained out of the notebook of Mr Issawi!
James Foley stepped up and made no mistake from 12 yards, firing a low unstoppable shot into the bottom corner to give Witton a deserved lead.
Foley then had a goalbound shot blocked, while further crosses into the box caused further mayhem in the Celtic penalty area with the defence scrambling the ball away from danger under intense pressure.
Wharton made a good save to deny Will Jones who rose the highest from a right wing free kick by Danny McKenna, his header going towards the corner of the net until the shot-stopper, on loan from Tranmere Rovers, stuck out an outstretched right arm.
On 24 minutes, against the run of play, the visitors were level. An excellent cross was swung in from the right and it found its way to striker Matty Wolfenden at the back post who had the easy task of nodding home from 10 yards.
Witton's lead was almost restored five minutes later after a lovely passing move played in Matty Devine bursting forward down the left. The full back raced into the penalty area and squared the ball across the six yard box where Tom Owens guided the ball goalwards only for Wharton to somehow keep it out.
Albion went incredibly close with five minutes to go before the break, with a combination of woodwork and Wharton denying Jones. Again he got his head to a cross from the right and his flick header came off the inside of the far post and rolled along the line before Wharton scooped it to safety.
For all the domination of possession and chances, it was to be the visitors going in at the interval with the lead. It was a carbon copy of their earlier effort as another cross came in from the right and Wolfenden was on hand once more to steer the ball into the net.
Seven minutes after the restart, Celtic full back Liam Tongue gave a flavour of things to come, hitting a piledriver of a free kick towards goal only for Anthony Gardner to get his head in the way of it and clear it over the crossbar.
But Tongue had a taste for the free kicks, and after Tom Owens had brought down Scott Bakkor 25 yards out, it was the full back who punished him for the error. Hit with pace and precision, his shot flew into the top corner of the net to double Stalybridge's advantage.
From there on in, there was little in terms of goalmouth action. Bakkor attempted to make the most of a mix up in the heart of the Witton defence but his shot was well saved by Greg Hall.
At the other end, a Rob Hopley shot from distance which looped over the crossbar and a deep cross from the left which Billy Smart couldn't quite steer back towards goal were all that Albion could muster as they tried to get back into the game.
And so Stalybridge took the spoils back to Greater Manchester and Witton will try and put things right on Saturday afternoon when AFC Rushden & Diamonds visit Wincham Park in the Buildbase FA Trophy (3:00pm kick-off).
Many thanks, once more to VIJAY ANTHWAL for the video clips and to KEITH CLAYTON & KARL BROOKS PHOTOGRAPHY for the match photos