Depleted Albion denied by last-gasp equaliser
By Derek Buckley
Valiant display but points are shared.
Report kindly supplied by Paul Harper.
Witton Albion 1-1 Stafford Rangers (19 March 2019)
It was a valiant display by Witton Albion who were seconds away from an improbable but well deserved victory.
Hit by a hosts of injuries, both before and during the game, Albion took the lead at the end of the first half through returning Ben Harrison on his second debut until a 93rd equaliser by Paul Bignot wrestled away a home win.
Harrison came straight into the side at the heart of the Albs defence following his loan move from Altrincham this week, partnering Josh Wardle. Missing from the squad were Anthony Gardner, River Humphreys, Luke Offord, Will Booth and Chris Noone while the injury list grew bigger before kick-off when Danny McKenna was withdrawn during the warm up, leaving the hosts with only one player on the substitutes bench.
Albion started the game brightly with Osebi Abadaki causing problems down the right hand side, putting in a number of dangerous crosses into the box which were well dealt with by the Stafford Rangers defence.
Further chances came and went for the hosts in a bright opening 15 minutes. A Will Jones piledriver was well blocked before Tom Jones did really well to break into the penalty area, playing a 1-2 with Rob Hopley but he was unable to convert a one-on-one with goalkeeper Adam Siviter staying big and making a good save.
The game then swung in the opposite direction, with Stafford enjoying a healthy spell of possession and they had chances of their own.
But they were generally from distance, Andrew Haworth firing wide from a free kick and Matt Hill dragging a shot wide from 25 yards, whilst they also looked threatening from set pieces with a header narrowly wide following a right wing corner kick being the closest they came to scoring.
A couple of minutes before the half time interval, Witton broke the deadlock from a set piece of their own. A free kick was played into the penalty area, flicked on by Will Jones and Josh Wardle’s low driven cross was side footed home by Harrison for a goal on his return to the club.
Hopley almost added a second moments later with a header which was cleared off the line before the sides went in at the break with the home side a goal to the good.
Stafford went in search of an equaliser in the second half, but on the whole, were kept to long distance efforts by the Albs’ defence.
Thomas Thorley’s long range shot was well tipped around the post by Greg Hall before Jack Sherratt fired wide from a similar position.
Carl Macauley’s injury problems worsened midway through the second half with full back Matty Devine picking up a shoulder injury and having to be replaced by Academy player Owen Wynne to make his senior first team debut.
It meant a reshuffle with Hopley moving into defence, Wardle shuffling across to left back with Wynne taking Hopley’s place in attack.
With no more subs available, things went from bad to worse with Abadaki over-stretching to make a clearance. He stayed on but was a passenger for the remaining 20 minutes with his movement severely restricted.
That spurred the visitors on and Hill forced another smart save from Hall as they attempted to up the tempo.
That said, Witton were dangerous on the break and teenager Wynne almost capped his debut with a goal. Racing on to a flick on by Will Jones, the youngster got to the ball before the goalkeeper, went around him but his effort from a narrow angle went across the face of goal before the Rangers defence cleared their lines.
There was a penalty shout too as Owens again used his energy to burst into the penalty area. He went down under a challenge from a Stafford defender but the referee waved play on.
Three minutes into injury time, Rangers got themselves an equaliser. The ball was pinballing around the Albion penalty area before Paul Bignot stuck his foot through the ball and slammed home from 15 yards.
It was harsh on the home team who fought bravely against the odds and were on course for their third home win in a row. But it wasn’t to be, nevertheless, a performance to be proud of.
Witton Albion: Hall, Lingouba, Devine (Wynne 67’), Wardle, Harrison, Smart, Abadaki, Owens, Hopley, Jones, Foley. Booked: Smart (Foul).
Stafford Rangers: Siviter, Bignot, Hill, L. Jones, Burns, Sherratt (Williams 63’), Bailey-Jones, Thorley, Charles, A. Jones (Cuff 56’), Haworth (Mills 56’). Subs not used: Thandi, Briscoe.