IF it wasn’t for a cameo by new recruit Alex Titchiner, Witton Albion boss Brian Pritchard could be forgiven for wishing this match never happened.
His side was second best to Skelmersdale United for the most part, succumbing to a defeat that matches the heaviest of his tenure as manager.
Titchiner, given permission to play by the Football Association earlier in the day, could not inspire a comeback from two goals adrift at the interval.
The hosts, with five different names on the teamsheet from the start than played from the first minute against Worksop Town at the weekend, had the best chance of the opening half hour.
Jon Dawson led a counter attack following a Skem corner, rolling a pass sideways for Anthony Gardner.
He could not control, but the ball squirmed back into Dawson’s path who, after rounding goalkeeper Zac Hibbert, sent a goal-bound shot too close to retreating back-marker Shaun Holden.
Skem took the lead four minutes before the break when Neil Prince’s cross from the left was sliced by substitute Ally Brown, on for injured Cliff Moyo, past custodian Stuart Plant.
The visitors doubled their lead shortly afterwards when former Witton forward Adam Morning reacted quickly to Dean Astbury’s shot deflecting into his path.
He danced around Plant to score smartly.
Witton’s best spell followed the interval, Josh Crofts forcing Hibbert to smother his shot after Neville Thompson had kicked fresh air attempting to connect with Dawson’s assist.
The front man fared better after an hour, but Skem’s shot-stopper was equal to his effort after substitute Titchiner had created the chance.
When Rob Bodie was sent off against his former club for dragging back Prince, the contest was over.
Astbury, scorer twice at Wincham Park while playing for Marine earlier in the season, repeated the trick.
He forced a defensive error to roll in a third goal for the Premier Division title hopefuls with a minute left before steering in from close range in stoppage time.
Skem’s reward for reaching the quarter finals is to host lower-ranked Farsley later this month.
Witton (4-4-2) Plant (GK), Gardner, Harrison, Bodie, Moyo (Brown 33), Crofts, Jackson, Breeze, Dawson, Bakkor (Titchiner 51), Thompson Subs not used Cooper (GK), Andrews, Hancock Booked Jackson, Gardner (both fouls) Sent off Bodie (foul)
Skem (4-3-3) Hibbert (GK), Strickland (Field 46), Hardwick (McIntosh 46), Wylie, Holden, Holden, Dunn, Prince, Morning, Astbury, Ince (Miller 46) Subs not used Greene, Peet Goals Brown 41 (own goal), Morning 45, Astbury 89, 90 (+2) Booked Hardwick (foul), Miller (dissent)
Referee Martin Woods (Bolton)