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Witton Albion come from behind to send Congleton Town out of Cheshire FA Senior Cup
CONGLETON deserve credit for causing Witton to worry, in the first half at least, before adversity brought the best from Albion late in the contest.
They departed with a place secure in the semi finals of a competition they won last in 2006, ironically when now Bears boss Jim Vince was manager at Wincham Park.
The Evo-Stik Northern Premier League outfit, without a win in league and cup since the previous round, claimed two late and decisive goals their second half showing just about merited.
However they ought to have trailed earlier by more than to Michael Koral’s deflected strike.
The former Crewe Alexandra junior’s clever movement twice led him to positions from which he threatened to score, denied first by an upright and later by Albion custodian Stuart Plant.
Congleton’s initial superiority was complete; the hosts were more cohesive on a playing surface that cut up badly, restricting their higher-ranked guests to sporadic attacks.
Koral curved a near perfectly-placed shot against a post, then ex-Albion midfielder Rick Bailey’s effort scraped the woodwork soon afterwards.
When Jack Graham played in Koral midway through the half, Plant pushed his drive to safety at the near post.
Witton would have stolen the lead from their next attack had Joe Shaw, in a hurry, not blazed over after Shaun Tuck nudged the ball into his path.
Koral swept in the game’s opening goal on the half hour, his shot taking a decisive deflection off Ben Harrison after full back Ian Willis had cut back from the touchline.
Albion’s response was instant, Steve Foster’s chip leaving Danny Andrews face-to-face with goalkeeper Martin Pearson only to skew off target.
The visitors, distinctly second best, were relieved to reach the interval.
They assumed control quickly afterwards though, Congleton fading in part because Witton’s players pressed them in possession with greater efficiency than before.
With ball won back quicker, and retained for longer, the Bears deigned disruption to be the best defence.
It worked, for Witton’s territorial domination rarely translated to chances.
There was an aura of inevitability about Albion’s leveller, which arrived eight minutes from time when Shaw improvised brilliantly, contorting his body to send a bouncing ball looping over Pearson.
When Congleton’s net-minder blocked Ben Harrison’s header, from Anthon Sheehan’s cross, the urgency was Witton’s.
Worse was to follow for the hosts in the fourth minute of added time, some seconds of which were probably punishment for Bears’ deliberate dithering.
Andrews slipped a pass into Foster’s path, the striker supplying a finish of unerring accuracy from the narrowest of angles.
Witton celebrated as if the prize was greater than it is, but psychological scars from back-to-back league defeats healed a little when the whistle blew.
Witton Star Man: Joe Shaw. After a quiet first half, imposed himself much more on the game as Witton assumed control. Clever improvisation for his goal, a precious one for Albion, eight minutes from time.
Congleton (4-4-2) Pearson (GK), Willis, Andrew Alston, Bayley, Louis James, Graham, Bailey, Worrall, Fallon (Ben Alston 71), Smith (Doherty 81), Koral (Turner 74). Subs not used Middleton, Williams. Goal Koral 30. Booked James, Worrall (fouls), Turner (kicking the ball away).
Witton (4-4-2) Plant (GK), Sheehan, Ben Harrison, Meadowcroft, Wood, Andrews, Shaw, Glover (Gardner 81), Hancock, Tuck (Jamie Harrison 67), Foster. Subs not used Clayton, Oliver James, Moseley. Goals Shaw 82, Foster 90 (+4). Booked Andrews (dissent), Shaw (foul).
Referee Thomas Kirk