Brad Bauress; he can do everything and anything, right?
If Saturday was the last time we see Brad Bauress in a Witton shirt, and that seems likely, then it is fitting he delivered one of his most memorable moments.
The technical execution of his strike – a chest touch to take the ball away from an incoming opponent, then a nudge with his head to tee up a volley on his weaker foot – was breath-taking.
The piece of mind, not to mention courage, to try it in such a big game is why he’ll be playing at a higher level in the near future.
Bauress turned 21 on Friday, and increased his goal tally for the season to 27 when he opened the scoring against Spalding.
His triumph is Carl Macauley and Gary Martindale’s too; he arrived at Wincham Park as a defensive midfielder, and leaves as the best attacking player in the division thanks to their vision and coaching.
Freeze that frame; a textbook Witton goal
The next time somebody asks why this Albion side is so good, play them the 20-second clip of their winner.
It says everything without words.
A transition from defence to attack, after Spalding launched a long throw into their box, left their guests literally gasping for air trying to keep up.
To score a goal like that requires stamina, and physical fine-tuning.
But to do so in a game with so much at stake, and after being stunned by Leon Mettam’s spectacular equaliser, perfectly encapsulated the desire that has taken this team to their target.
There were four red and white shirts in the penalty area, other than that worn by goal-scorer Anthony Gardner, when the ball hit the net.
In praise of Albion’s defence
While attention is, quite rightly, focused on the attacking potency of Brad Bauress, Rob Hopley, Will Jones and Steven Tames it would be folly to ignore what happens at the other end of the field.
The sight of Spalding striker Bradley Wells, with 25 league goals to his name this term, being withdrawn with eight minutes let will have felt like a white flag being raised.
After all, the Tulips trailed.
But their star turn had barely touched the ball, and failed to score against Albion in three attempts.
The same goes for another in-form forward, AFC Rushden & Diamonds’ Nabil Shariff, who drew a blank too against this backline.
Anthony Brown is arguably its outstanding individual, but the contributions of Scott Lycett and Michael Wilson should not be underestimated.
Brad Bauress, right, and Will Jones celebrate after Witton Albion take the lead against Spalding United yesterday. Picture: Paul Heaps
Did Spalding’s gamble on goalkeeper Michael Duggan backfire?
The custodian sustained an injury, caused by a kick to the kidneys, during his side’s semi-finals success after extra time against Stocksbridge Park Steels.
It severely restricted his movement, and central defender Kern Miller took goal kicks at Wincham Park.
A moment at the end of the first half, when Duggan spilled a simple catch under pressure from Steven Tames, gave Albion further encouragement according to manager Carl Macauley.
“We talked at half-time about putting more pressure on him,” said the Witton boss.
“He was really struggling, and we wanted him to kick from his hands to exploit that.”
With an outfield player taking kicks, Spalding struggled to get out of their own half.
Duggan, included in the Northern Premier League First Division South team of the season, was not directly responsible for either goal.
But his defenders knew they needed to protect him, and instinctively that pushed them back.
Tired Tulips; the price of playing extra time
After Gardner’s goal, Spalding were running on empty.
They could not muster much by way of a response, save for a header diverted into Danny Roberts’ hands during injury time.
The last thing they needed is to be up against one of the league’s fittest sides, a fact demonstrated by their lung-bursting counter-attack to re-take the lead in the minutes after Leon Mettam’s stunning equalising goal.
“We did well in patches – but Tuesday night probably took a little bit more out of us than we had thought,” manager Chris Rawlinson told the Spalding Guardian afterwards.
“We were not quite at our best and we looked a little bit tired.”
Witton started the second half aggressively, forcing their guests onto the back foot.
That period of pressure, which included a series of corners that took Albion’s flag-kick total into double figures, led to Bauress breaking through.