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Josh Hancock's late penalty for Witton Albion sets up FA Trophy replay with FC United of Manchester
FC UNITED of Manchester have never won on this pitch.
While watching Josh Hancock salute Witton’s supporters after converting a last-minute spot kick, one they could argue was dubious in its award, the Rebels may wonder whether they ever will.
Penalty or not, Albion did enough to merit a second chance at reaching the next round.
For them, the shadow of September is finally a fading one after extending a sequence without defeat to six matches in league and cup.
Going forward, with Hancock and Danny Andrews at last displaying the verve that swept Brian Pritchard’s men to so many victories last season, they possessed greater menace than their guests.
It is a cause for concern then that they entered the closing stages 2-1 adrift.
Hancock’s calm restored parity after referee Peter Gooch judged ex-Albion goalkeeper Jon Worsnop to have prompted Dave Walker’s tumble when reaching low to his left.
The visitors, victors only once in their previous eight games, had scored twice during their best spell of the contest.
Matthew Walwyn curved in a perfectly-placed free kick after Anthony Sheehan had clipped Matthew Wolfenden’s ankle in a central position 20 yards from goal.
Wolfenden supplied an equally emphatic finish with eight minutes left, steering with power – and on the volley – a looped centre from Liam Brownhill past Matt Cooper.
Witton, no longer frail in character, were sturdy enough to recover.
They ought not to have needed to, for the first half largely belonged to them.
Andrews deserved better than to see his guided header hit the bar, with Worsnop a spectator, from Kyle Wilson’s cross after a quarter hour.
Within a minute, Lee Neville’s attempted chest pass fell into Walker’s path.
Perhaps surprised at his good fortune, the on-loan front man – with only the goalkeeper to beat – shot hurriedly.
Prompted by Matthew Walwyn, FC United responded.
He shot too high after skipping clear of Ally Brown, then delivered a low cross that flashed inches in front of Tom Greaves as he arrived at the far post.
From a free kick, further away from goal than he would be later, he forced Cooper to scramble to his right to parry.
Witton edged ahead in the seconds after half time when Andrews nudged the ball to Wilson inside the area.
The former FC United forward’s shot took a deflection off substitute Dave Birch to leave Worsnop, expecting the ball to take a different route, with no time to react as it squirmed in.
Albion ought to have added to their advantage on 59 minutes after Hancock ended a slalom through the Rebels’ backline by sending Wilson clear. His finish was forgiving though, dragging a shot wide of an upright.
Walwyn levelled a minute later.
Andrews again conjured a chance, this time for Walker, but he blasted too close to Worsnop at the near post.
Wolfenden’s goal appeared likely to signal a change in fortune for his side, but defeat would have been harsh on the hosts.
Witton Star Man: Josh Hancock. His best performance of the campaign so far. Direct, and always attacked a space that the visitors’ defence will not have wanted him to occupy. Held his nerve to convert a late penalty with aplomb.
Witton (4-4-2) Cooper (GK), Brown, Harrison, Powell, Joseph, Andrews, Breeze, Sheehan, Hancock, Wilson (Thompson 81), Walker Subs not used Plant (GK), Dawson, Purcell, Moseley Goals Wilson 47, Hancock 90 (penalty) Booked Joseph (foul), Walker (kicking the ball away), Sheehan (dissent)
FC United (4-2-3-1) Worsnop (GK), Brownhill, Iqbal (Davies 80), Pearson, Neville (Stott 49), Rodriguez (Birch 46), Daniels, Greaves, Wolfenden, Walwyn, Norton Subs not used Mulholland, Byrne Goals Walwyn 61, Wolfenden 82 Booked Brownhill, Worsnop (both fouls), Birch (dissent)
Referee Peter Gooch (Warrington)
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