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Witton Albion play out goalless stalemate at Stafford Rangers in Evo-Stik Northern Premier League
WITTON Albion matches usually come with a guarantee of goals but, almost two years after their past stalemate in a league game, supporters left short-changed.
Brian Pritchard picked Shaun Tuck and Steve Foster in attack, a tandem with more than 30 goals between them this term, although neither saw sight of the target all night.
It was a contest bereft of spectacle, players prevented by the pitch – battered by the weather and worn from Northwich Victoria sharing it with hosts Stafford – from passing with conviction.
Rangers’ Fabrice Kasiama, with an isolated opportunity, came closest to a goal only for his shot to scrape a post.
As a result, Witton kept a first clean sheet of the calendar year to end a sequence of 72 Northern Premier League matches without a shut out at both ends.
A Chorley team on course, with Foster in its attack, left Wincham Park after a goalless draw in April 2011.
Albion’s goal was threatened when Kasiama raced on to Sean Kinsella’s sweeping crossfield pass on 66 minutes, firing wide of the far post with only goalkeeper Stuart Plant to beat.
The same player was cautioned, unfairly according to Pritchard at full time, by referee Nick Hopton shortly afterwards for diving in the penalty area.
His fall, likely precipitated by a trip, was theatrical in execution.
The visitors had reason to remonstrate with the match officials too, an incorrect offside flag forcing Michael Powell’s goal to be scrubbed from the record.
Witton were an infrequent threat to Ben Garratt in the hosts’ goal, their clearest chance falling to Foster only for Christian Dacres’ perfectly-timed tackle to deny him in shooting stride.
Stafford were seldom stirrers of panic either in Albion’s reshuffled backline, shorn by the break of Anthony Gardner – on his 22nd birthday – and Ben Harrison because of injury.
Dacres, from Kinsella’s corner, headed too high midway through the opening period.
Discipline deserted Witton’s defenders in the closing stages, substitute Oliver James’ needles foul on Kasiama presenting Kinsella with a chance to strike from 20 yards.
His set piece swerved straight into Plant’s palms though.
From another promising position, this time on the left flank, the former Northwich schemer sent in another crossed ball that was scrambled by Albion to safety.
They have now picked up seven points on their travels from the nine on offer since succumbing to Marine at the start of the month.
Witton Star Man: Josh Glover. Flexible; played in two positions – full back and at the heart of the defence – with the same degree of efficiency. Perfect timing in the tackle.
Stafford (4-4-2) Garratt (GK), Heler, Bolton, Walshe, Brown, Bottomer (Sheldon 83), Dacres, Carr, Kinsella, Ashton (Quinn 29), Kasiama. Subs not used Alcock (GK), Davies, Downes. Booked Dacres, Brown (both fouls), Bolton (kicking the ball away), Kasiama (simulation)
Witton (4-4-2) Plant (GK), Gardner (James 46), Harrison (Wood 29), Meadowcroft, Glover, Andrews, Sheehan, Powell, Hancock, Tuck (Moseley 85), Foster. Subs not used Grocott, Bettley. Booked Hancock, Foster, Sheehan (all fouls)
Referee Nick Hopton (Derby)