11:14pm Saturday 28th December 2013
By Andrew Simpson
THE value of something is often truly appreciated only after it has gone.
Michael Powell’s absence from Witton Albion’s midfield has been keenly felt, and on this evidence there can be no question how pivotal a player he is in their battle to avoid relegation.
Debate about his disciplinary record is a distraction from that.
The former Chester man scored two goals, the second a merited leveller in the fourth minute of stoppage time.
More importantly, he inspired those around him.
During the first half in particular, this was a Witton recognisable to their followers.
Reconfigured in Chris Simm’s enforced absence, with Josh Hancock playing centrally behind lone front man Scott Bakkor and Jon Dawson recalled, they were encouraged by establishing a lead inside five minutes.
After Hancock had flicked on Anthony Gardner’s cross from the right, Martyn Jackson – unmarked inside the penalty area – steered a placed shot past goalkeeper Kieran O’Hara.
Trafford, in the midst of their best run of results since being promoted, were taken by surprise.
Leading scorer Shelton Payne flashed an attempt wide of an upright when they ventured forward but Witton, with Powell in command, dominated.
Gardner combined with Danny Andrews on 27 minutes, shredding the hosts’ defence on Albion’s right flank.
The latter’s pass gave Bakkor a glimpse of goal, but his swept shot scraped a post with O’Hara helpless to intervene.
Callum Jones came to Trafford’s rescue twice after that, first intercepting an assist that would have left Bakkor clear before denying the Witton forward shortly afterwards with a brilliantly-timed block tackle.
The home team’s improvement after half time was immediate though.
They restored parity within three minutes, Paul Ashton sending a volley past net-minder Matt Cooper after Ben Harrison had inadvertently helped on substitute Michael Oates’ cross.
Albion, less authoritative than previously, still promised more when attacking.
They were grateful to Harrison for his intervention on 68 minutes when Payne scampered into space on the right, while at the other end Jones’ alertness again denied Bakkor.
Powell drilled too high, then Bakkor forced O’Hara to save low after Andrews and Hancock had led a swift counter raid.
Witton, without a point during December, appeared on course to claim three when Powell – timing his run from midfield to perfection – thumped a header past O’Hara from Ally Brown’s centre.
They had seven minutes to hang on, but could not.
Steve Mason smuggled an equaliser for Trafford with three left after Albion made a mess of clearing Andrew Smart’s free kick.
Worse was to follow.
In stoppage time, Nia Bayunu sneaked in a header at the near post after meeting Smart’s corner from the right.
Witton players, in some cases literally, dropped to their knees.
That they rose again so quickly, and defiantly, will be of comfort to manager Brian Pritchard.
Powell reacted quickest to jab in the loose ball after Rob Bodie leapt highest to head down Bakkor's corner.
With such episodes as a catalyst can seasons change course.
Witton Star Man: Michael Powell. As complete an individual performance as an Albion player has put in this season.
Stamped his authority all over the contest in the first half, delivering a trademark goal to put Witton ahead with seven minutes left.
Then was in the right place to scramble home a merited leveller for the visitors in stoppage time.
Trafford (4-5-1) O’Hara (GK), Mason, Jones (Nsangou 85), Bayunu, Smart, Payne, Schofield, Martyn Andrews (Palmer 67), Fallon, Ashton, Mbalanda (Oates 46) Subs not used Welsh, Meadowcroft Goals Ashton 48, Mason 87, Bayunu 90 (+1) Booked Mason, Jones (both fouls)
Witton (4-5-1) Cooper (GK), Gardner, Bodie, Harrison, Brown, Danny Andrews, Jackson, Powell, Hancock, Dawson, Bakkor Subs not used Moyo, Breeze, Crofts, Blundell, Moseley Goals Jackson 5, Powell 83, 90 (+4) Booked Hancock, Bodie (both fouls), Harrison (dissent)
Referee Michael Hanley (Liverpool)
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