1:55pm Sunday 2nd March 2014
By Andrew Simpson
THIS was a draw that should not leave Witton downbeat.
That substitute Brandon Zibaka salvaged a point for title favourites Chorley with the game’s last kick, five minutes into added time, was – initially at least – of course deflating.
It is also proof of Albion’s progress in the past seven days.
Brian Pritchard’s men have picked up four points since surrendering feebly to Stamford, including one against the Premier Division’s pacesetters.
It might have been more, but the Magpies can make a case they merited a share of the spoils.
Twice did Garry Flitcroft’s men fire spectacular attempts against the woodwork, while custodian Matt Cooper was one of Witton’s outstanding performers.
Still, the hosts deserved a two-goal lead they protected for almost an hour.
Their goalkeeper’s first intervention, arcing his back to tip James Dean’s stunning overhead attempt onto the bar, preceded Josh Hancock’s opening goal.
Albion’s top scorer was predatory, pouncing on a misplaced pass, skipping a challenge and firing precisely past goalkeeper Sam Ashton.
The home team’s second, three minutes later, was a prize for persistence.
Alex Titchiner’s presence panicked Keil O’Brien into a weak pass backwards towards his net-minder, who slammed his clearance against the defender.
Witton’s striker, who ended a 10-month wait to score with a double in Tuesday’s 3-2 win against Nantwich Town, gleefully steered the ball into an empty net.
Chorley, yet to lose successive league matches this season, were rattled at the prospect.
Paul Woolcott’s drive, shovelled to safety by an unsighted Cooper, proved not a catalyst to recover.
Instead Albion attacked more incisively, with Titchiner shooting wide after meeting Anthony Gardner’s clipped pass before Ashton blocked attempts by former Magpie Ally Brown and Titchiner in the same movement.
The leaders, victors only once in nine most recent visits to Wincham Park, were composed again though after half time.
They appeared certain scorers when Dean delivered a volley goalwards, only for Cooper to react brilliantly with an instinctive stop.
If anything, it discouraged Chorley.
Michael Powell headed wide Hancock’s corner, then Martyn Jackson failed to connect cleanly with Danny Andrews’ chipped assist with the goal at his mercy.
In a frenzied 60 seconds, Powell steered too close to Ashton then Chorley captain Dale Whitham thundered a sweetly-struck shot against the woodwork.
Albion raided again instantly, but Jackson tried to loft a finish over Ashton – who saved comfortably – after Powell’s pass sent him clear.
The table-toppers halved their deficit with on 82 minutes when Chris Almond’s effort jabbed into the floor and looped in.
Substitute Adam Roscoe stretched to glance wide a corner before fellow replacement Zibaka picked a perfect moment to score his first goal for the club when prodding in a loose ball.
Worksop stole a point at a similar stage last month, though the circumstances then were contrasting.
Pritchard said: “There was no mental weakness, nor did we fold.
“We gave a great account of ourselves against a team that will probably finish first. I’m happy, and the players should be too.”
Witton Star Man: Josh Hancock. Outstanding in a support role to Albion’s lone front man Alex Titchiner. Opportunist, and then ruthless, in exploiting defensive hesitation to score Witton’s first goal.
Witton (4-5-1) Cooper (GK), Brown, Harrison, Bodie, Gardner, Andrews, Jackson (Sheehan 85), Powell, Hancock, Dawson (Breeze 66), Titchiner (Bakkor 81) Subs not used Spencer (GK), Moseley Goals Hancock 23, Titchiner 26 Booked Cooper (wasting time), Gardner (foul)
Chorley (4-3-3) Ashton (GK), Ross, Teague, O’Brien, Mather (Roscoe 54), Woolcott, Cottrell (Jarvis 50), Dorney, Whitham, Dean (Zibaka 83), Almond Subs not used Grundy (GK), Vermiglio Goals Almond 82, Zibaka 90 (+5) Booked Ross (foul)
Referee David Croft
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