WITTON, still a work in progress, are at least heading in the right direction again.
This victory, Albion’s first in the league since squeezing past Matlock in November, was as convincing as the score suggests.
Unbeaten now in four league and cup matches, their reward is to move within a win of a position of safety.
Chris Simm’s first goal at Wincham Park set them on course, though Stocksbridge were not sunk until Danny Andrews’ double in the closing stages.
There was a moment, in the minutes before the wide man arced in the hosts’ third goal, when Steels made Albion squirm uncomfortably despite leading.
Nick Swirad stretched to divert a cross from the right past goalkeeper Matt Cooper to halve the visitors’ arrears at 2-1, though they were denied a chance to make Witton wobble when
Andrews teased substitute Jon Dawson’s assist into the net soon after the restart.
In truth Stocksbridge, victors on this pitch only once in eight previous visits, rarely looked likely to improve that statistic.
Although they started brightly, the home team controlled the game from the instant Simm swept them in front from close range midway through the first half.
By then the teams had swapped chances, first when Josh Hancock’s low attempt prompted Steels’ goalkeeper Jack Ward to save smartly low to his right.
At the other end, Matt Cooper blocked Spencer Goff’s shot after he burst clear.
Hancock, invited to attack Steels’ retreating backline prompted by Martyn Jackson’s burst forward from midfield, saw his next attempt deflected by a defender into Simm’s path. His finish was emphatic.
Michael Powell, a teammate of Simm when they finished first in this division while with Chester, steered in a stylish second goal shortly after half time following a swift counter attack led by Anthony Gardner.
Powell’s dipping drive from distance forced Ward to palm clear, then Gardner sliced horribly off target after Jackson and then Andrews were incisive in another raid from one end of the pitch to the other.
Simm seemed certain to score when Witton forged forward again, served by Andrews’ cute assist, but back-marker Brett Bowden-Lovell timed his stretching tackle perfectly to nudge the ball to safety.
Stocksbridge rose from their slumber when skipper Alex Callery fizzed a shot wide of the far post, conjuring their best chance on 79 minutes.
Top scorer Nathan Joynes and strike partner Danny South combined, the latter splitting Albion’s defence to send substitute Chris Ovington clear.
But his finish, dragged badly wide, betrayed their fine approach play.
Swirad poked past Cooper, but Steels’ hopes of a recovery were dashed quickly when Andrews arced in Witton’s third.
He saved the best until last, curving a perfectly-placed shot out of Ward’s reach after dribbling directly at the visitors’ defence in a central position.
Although the table makes better reading for Albion, who have at least two games in hand on each of teams above them, they play opponents occupying play-offs places in two of their next three matches.
Witton Star Man: Danny Andrews. Asked by manager Brian Pritchard before kick off to improve on recent performances, the Albion winger showed glimpses of his best form. His second goal, caressed into the top corner after a dazzling dribble, was a highlight of the contest.
Witton (4-5-1) Cooper (GK), Gardner, Bodie, Harrison, Brown, Danny Andrews, Jackson (Dawson 73), Breeze, Powell, Hancock, Simm (Crofts 90) Subs not used Plant (GK), Moyo, Moseley Goals Simm 22, Powell 57, Danny Andrews 84, 90 (+3)
Stocksbridge (4-4-2) Ward (GK), Cadzow, Swirad, Bowden-Lovell, Jack Andrews, Hamshaw (Lipka 77), Knowles (Royles 77), Callery, Goff (Ovington 67), South, Joynes Subs not used Scott (GK), Ring Goal Swirad 83
Referee Patrick Mahon (Warrington)