9:28pm Sunday 30th March 2014
By Andrew Simpson
WITTON have inched further away from a trapdoor marked ‘relegation’, though it remains ajar.
However, following a week during they shipped nine goals in successive defeats, this victory is cathartic.
The distance to the drop zone is now four points, a position Brian Pritchard’s men have not been in since November.
Josh Hancock inspired them to establish a two-goal lead, and they were not cowed when Grantham halved the deficit in the seconds before half time.
Instead they reached the finish relatively unruffled by their opponents.
That hasn’t happened often in what has been a testing season.
A 14-point yield makes March their most productive month, one that they started adrift in the bottom four.
They will be relieved too that referee Dan Watson’s gaffe not to award a penalty following a blatant handball by a Gingerbreads’ defender during the early exchanges – a mistake he admitted to at the interval – was not a pivotal moment.
Momentum changed direction in a curious 60 seconds midway through the opening period.
When leading scorer Gregg Smith sent strike partner Paul Grimes clear, the visitors appeared set to score first.
However the front man, under pressure from a retreating Ally Brown, skewed horribly wide.
Albion attacked from the restart, Hancock darting into a space between midfield and defence from which he drilled low past goalkeeper Dan Haystead’s right hand.
Alex Titchiner had a clear path to goal when a kick from custodian Matt Cooper bounced over Grantham’s backline, but a heavy first touch cost him a chance.
The former Fleetwood forward was less forgiving on 38 minutes, steering first time into the net after Hancock’s pass dissected the defence.
Grantham, victors in the corresponding fixture last season, replied when Michael Towey stooped low to head Jack McGovern’s free kick in off the crossbar.
They ought to have restored parity in the moments following the interval, but Smith was wasteful when meeting Lee Potts’ centre.
It proved to be their best opportunity.
Witton, spine strengthened by the return of Anthony Sheehan alongside Ross Davidson in midfield, were durable after that.
They attempted to impose themselves further forward too, though created little.
Anthony Gardner pounced on a partial clearance from a corner, his deflected effort not deceiving Haystead who saved smartly.
Grantham, experts at pilfering points from this fixture, then stirred.
Substitute Jordan Hempenstall’s drive was blocked by Cooper’s boot after Grimes had flicked on before another replacement, Gary Smith, shot too close to Witton’s net-minder from a free kick.
They were mere episodes, neither acting as a catalyst to cause discomfort.
Not since 1982 had Albion beaten Grantham in a league game on home turf, so they picked a perfect moment to alter that statistic.
Witton Star Man: Scott Bakkor. A petulant, and pointless, caution aside his best performance since signing for the club. When he turned to dribble directly at Grantham defenders, they hated it. In the mood, an exciting addition to Albion’s attack.
Witton (4-4-2) Cooper (GK), Brown, Harrison, Bodie, Gardner, Andrews, Sheehan (Dawson 76), Davidson, Hancock, Titchiner, Bakkor Subs not used Breeze, Jackson, Burleigh, Moseley Goals Hancock 24, Titchiner 38 Booked Andrews, Titchiner, Brown (all fouls), Bakkor (throwing the ball away)
Grantham (4-4-2) Haystead (GK), Purcicoe, Meikle, Ridley, McGovern, Lewis, Towey (Walker 80), Potts (King 82), Grimes, Smith (Hempenstall 62) Sub not used Hawes Goal Towey 45 Booked Smith (foul)
Referee Dan Watson (Rochdale)
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