11:15am Monday 13th January 2014
By Andrew Simpson
WITTON Albion would occupy a relegation position at the end of this game regardless of the result, though a point provides comfort for Brian Pritchard.
Frustration at not finding a way past Frickley in the first half, when the visitors were more incisive, was tempered by relief that Blues’ pressure after the break went similarly unrewarded.
A draw, particularly one earned after a first shutout in five league matches, allows for such extremes of emotion.
His side is still five points from safety in the standings but their resilience – Albion would likely have lost this game a month ago – is reason to be optimistic again.
Even more so had Witton converted one of the chances they created during the early exchanges.
Josh Hancock and Martyn Jackson swapped passes before the latter provided Chris Simm with a sight of goal, his shot squirming to safety thanks to Andy Villermann’s timely intervention.
From the resulting corner, Ben Harrison ballooned an attempt over after Rob Bodie had touched the ball into his path.
Michael Powell headed off target Danny Andrews’ flag kick, before Jackson fluffed the best opportunity.
Anthony Gardner’s quickly-taken throw reached Powell in the penalty area, and he spotted the on-loan midfielder in a shooting space on the edge of the box.
But despite using the free time to steady himself, the teenager still steered wide.
Witton did not pose as sustained a threat again.
Frickley, sluggish previously, woke up; Luke Hinsley made his a flick-on, only for Bodie to time perfectly his challenge as the striker shaped to shoot.
Captain Matt Bloor diverted Jimmy Ghaichem’s free kick narrowly wide shortly afterwards.
Sam Denton repeated the trick when Jake Picton’s corner reached him in a similar position seconds before the interval.
Spectators, short on goalmouth incident for excitement, could at least admire Harrison’s head-to-head with Frickley top scorer Gavin Allott after half time.
It was a battle edged by the back-marker, though Blues’ best player was their solitary source of danger.
His touch helped Hinsley force goalkeeper Matt Cooper to save, then he improvised a cute back-heel to provide a clearer sight of goal for his strike-partner.
Sadly, the finish was feeble reward for Allott’s invention.
Simm shot skywards at the other end, then Villermann veered an effort into the side-netting.
Frickley spent more time in Witton’s half, though the visitors defended stoutly.
Ghaichem squeezed a toe-poked effort close enough to the target to make Cooper scramble low to his right, then Picton’s blast scraped the crossbar from Allott’s latest assist.
That these teams had never played a goalless stalemate on this pitch in a Northern Premier League game gave those watching hope of a breakthrough.
Pritchard, after picking a Witton team for the 150th time since taking sole charge, would have loved such a landmark to be reached with a win.
That it was not smudged by a defeat was consolation to be thankful for.
Witton Star Man: Ben Harrison. In tandem with Rob Bodie, found a way to shackle one of the Premier Division’s most formidable attackers in Gavin Allott. And that’s not easy.
Frickley (4-4-2) Hitchcock (GK), Steve Gardner, Denton, Wilcox, Villermann, Ghaichem, Bloor, Picton, Collishaw, Hinsley, Allott Subs not used Hood (GK), Jeffs, Kenny, Mirfin, Stratford Booked Ghaichem (foul)
Witton (4-5-1) Cooper (GK), Anthony Gardner, Bodie, Harrison, Brown, Andrews (Dawson 74), Breeze, Jackson, Powell, Hancock, Simm (Moseley 87) Subs not used Moyo, Ashworth, Crofts Booked Simm (kicking the ball away)
Referee Chris Ward (Sheffield)
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