12:42am Thursday 27th March 2014
By Andrew Simpson
FC UNITED of Manchester have grown used to leaving Northwich without winning, no matter if Witton or Vics hosted them.
That was then.
In a week Albion have spent forgetting much of what they previously knew, this was the most sobering reality check of all.
From teams that met in a promotion play-offs semi final little more than year ago, much has changed.
Karl Marginson’s men are not making their customary sprint to the season’s finish line; their performance was more purposeful than that.
The Reds raced into a three-goal lead in half an hour, but did not relent.
Witton, enterprising initially, were swatted aside.
Even when they rallied, their guests did not flinch.
While the merits of FC United’s tenth successive victory are not in dispute, they should be grateful for a kick-start for they were second best, if only slightly, in the opening stages.
Referee Michael Hanley was generous on 15 minutes to award a free kick for a foul on Liam Brownhill when he seemed to stumble.
The former Albion full back’s cross from the resulting free kick, curved inwards, was headed into the net by Charlie Raglan.
It had a galvanising effect.
Raglan swept a pass into Tom Greaves’ path for the forward to double the visitors’ lead, finishing with the same ruthless efficiency four minutes later when firing Jerome Wright’s centre past goalkeeper Matt Cooper.
Witton flickered when Alex Titchiner drilled low to make it 3-1, but their hopes of a recovery were dashed when Michael Norton steered in a fine fourth goal for United after Callum Byrne threaded a pass through a porous defence.
Albion boss Brian Pritchard sent on new recruit Ross Davidson for the second half to bolster a midfield badly missing the authority and assurance of Michael Powell.
It brought some dividend.
When Scott Bakkor squared for Titchiner after sneaking behind the Reds’ backline, a goal seemed certain.
But his strike partner dithered, shooting first against a retreating defender and then too close to net-minder David Carnell.
Next the visitors’ custodian saved Jon Dawson’s fizzing drive.
Danny Andrews’ dribble ended with an emphatic shot that crept in off an upright to reward the hosts’ improvement, which was undermined when they conceded a ninth goal from the past two games within minutes.
Similar to the opening goal they again failed to clear a set piece, leaving Matthew Wolfenden to roll past a stranded Cooper.
Before that, Greaves’ header had thumped the woodwork from another Brownhill free kick.
FC were in that sort of mood; more steely, and less forgiving than previous versions to have visited Wincham Park.
“They’ve an aura about them I’ve not seen before,” admitted Witton boss Brian Pritchard afterwards.
His side has endured a harsh week.
With eight games left, and placed a single point above the relegation zone, they can ill-afford many others.
Witton (4-4-2) Cooper (GK), Brown, Harrison, Bodie, Moyo (Davidson 46), Andrews, Jackson (Sheehan 67), Gardner, Dawson, Titchiner, Bakkor Subs not used Plant (GK), Hancock, Moseley Goals Titchiner 36, Andrews 61
FC United (4-2-3-1) Carnell (GK), Brownhill, Davies, Raglan, Neville, Stott, Byrne (Birch 75), Wolfenden (Mulholland 75), Greaves (Daniels 65), Wright, Norton Subs not used Jones, Fox Goals Raglan 15, Greaves 28, 32, Norton 45, Wolfenden 66 Booked Neville (foul)
Referee Michael Hanley
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