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Witton Albion earn merited share of the spoils against title hopefuls Hednesford Town
Evo-Stik Northern Premier League Premier Division
Witton Albion 1
Hednesford Town 1
HEDNESFORD have a habit of leaving it late to score against Witton.
Each of their goals against Albion this term have arrived with time running out, Ben Bailey’s leveller prompting sighs of relief for the Pitmen while the hosts despaired.
Those same emotions were relevant at half time too, except the other way around.
For at the break Hednesford heads were scratched after they wasted a list of chances against opponents reduced to 10 men after Danny Meadowcroft’s sending off.
They were strangely second best from that moment on though, Darren Campion’s dismissal for a wild tackle on Steve Foster an episode that embodied the visitors’ frustration after the interval.
In contrast Witton, victors only once on their own pitch this season against guests from the table’s top half, were rewarded for their obduracy in adversity.
So completely did momentum change direction, the hosts had reason to feel a tinge of regret not to have won.
That sensation would have appeared alien when the Pitmen, pressing with persistence high up the pitch, assumed control during the early exchanges.
During those moments did Witton goalkeeper Stuart Plant excel, blocking Elliott Durrell’s drive and parrying Dave MacPherson’s shot to safety in successive attacks.
By the time he clawed clear Durrell’s driven free kick, Witton were hanging on.
Josh Hancock did at least force Hednesford custodian Dan Crane to save smartly low to his right, but it was an isolated attack as Aaron Rey skied a sitter from six yards for the visitors.
Meadowcroft’s dismissal followed, the defender deservedly shown a red card after pulling back Neil Harvey when the forward took the lead in a foot race for a ball that had bounced over Witton’s last man.
Nathan Woolfe swerved the resulting free kick against an upright.
The hosts, with Michael Powell and Foster playing adjusted positions in a tweaked formation, were more aggressive – with and without the ball – after the interval.
It knocked Hednesford off balance.
Rey was wasteful, shooting straight, after breaking an offside trap while Danny Andrews’ attempt soon afterwards scraped a post when he picked accuracy over power.
When Campion saw red, literally and metaphorically, Witton took advantage.
Andrews ought to have scored on 74 minutes, failing to make a decisive contact with Mathew Wood’s cross with Crane a distance from the goalline.
Albion almost paid a price, but Plant thwarted Durrell again.
They led when Bailey tripped Andrews, clumsily, inside the penalty area, Anthony Gardner scoring from the spot despite Crane reaching his kick with both hands.
Bailey made up for his misdemeanour five minutes later, firing a loose ball through a crowd after Andrews had blocked an initial attempt by Francino Francis with his hands.
Witton were not done though; Hancock and Andrews combined to put Foster clear in stoppage time, but his effort was wide from an angle.
“I feel different now than after 40 minutes,” said Albion assistant boss Mike Moseley, referring to his side’s recovery in the second period.
So did everybody else.
Witton Star Man: Michael Powell. Slipped seamlessly into defence from midfield following Danny Meadowcroft’s first half dismissal, the former Chester man showed no less authority.
Word should be saved too for goalkeeper Stuart Plant after his best game to date between the posts. His saves early on proved pivotal later.
Witton (4-4-2) Plant (GK), Gardner, Meadowcroft, Glover, Wood, Andrews, Sheehan, Powell, Hancock, Tuck (James 71), Foster. Subs not used Horne, Grocott, Shaw, Moseley. Booked Powell (ungentlemanly conduct), Gardner (foul). Sent off Meadowcroft (professional foul). Goal Gardner 83 (penalty)
Hednesford (4-4-2) Crane (GK), Disney (Barnes 69), Bailey, Francis, Campion, Durrell, MacPherson, Osborne, Woolfe, Harvey (Patterson 60), Rey (Lennon 78). Subs not used Wright, Fincher. Booked Osborne, Bailey (both fouls). Sent off Campion (foul). Goal Bailey 88.
Referee Ollie Yates (Stoke on Trent)