AFTER such a surreal game as this, it is hard to know where to start.
When Stocksbridge captain Liam McFadyen nudged the ball into his own net nine minutes into the second half, it gifted to Witton a 4-1 lead.
“Well that’s that then,” said one Steels supporter in response.
Albion apparently felt the same way.
Yet it was their players who were grateful to here referee Andrew Smith’s final whistle half an hour later.
Exactly as they had done seven days earlier against Shaw Lane, Carl Macauley’s men conceded twice in as many minutes.
Harrison Biggins’ free kick from distance arrowed into the top corner, then Adam Hinchliffe’s dipping drive deceived goalkeeper Ryan Crump.
The bounce was awkward, and Witton wobbled in the aftermath.
Their manager sent on Anthony Brown to restore order in defence, switching to a five-man line.
It worked, although they still needed Crump to redeem himself with a smart reaction save to divert Scott Ruthven’s attempt at the back-post after Hinchliffe’s set-piece skidded into his path off Matty Devine’s head.
By the finish, Albion were unrecognisable from the side that had tore into Steels during the opening half-hour.
They scored three times – although one of those was a gift from Ryan Laight when he sliced past custodian David Reay – and swarmed forward at every opportunity.
Steels risked being swept away.
Steven Tames’ effort was deflected wide by a defender after Brad Bauress and Devine had combined on the left.
Then Laight, conscious Rob Hopley was waiting to swoop, diverted Bauress' cross over his goalkeeper’s head.
The hosts steadied themselves, and Ruthven was guilty of a glaring miss when he headed high from inside the six-yard box after Jack Poulton had wriggled away from Anthony Gardner.
They drew level on 18 minutes, Hinchliffe clipping a cute finish past Crump after Ashley Burbeary had timed perfectly a pass into his path.
It served only to jolt Albion, who were in front again when Will Jones – making his first start since completing a switch from Colwyn Bay – steered in Devine’s driven cross to finish a move he had started.
Hinchliffe then lapsed by passing to Bauress, who applied sanction with a swish of his left boot that left the ball nestling in the corner.
Reay smothered Hopley’s angled attempt, then Jones was denied a second when he drilled straight at Josh Meade on the goal-line after Gardner had sneaked behind George Grayson's back onto Michael Wilson’s long pass.
A pattern of Albion dominance appeared set to continue when McFadyen, with Tames breathing down his neck, toe-poked Jones' pass beyond Reay shortly after the half-time.
Steels were spirited though and, inspired by Biggins’ brilliant blast, they made Witton sweat.
Hinchliffe barely disguised his glee when his speculative effort crept past Crump, but Brown’s arrival stopped them getting up a head of steam.
Albion had to be similarly stubborn in defence to see off the league leaders and, while less convincing this time around, they still collected maximum points.
Steels | 4-4-2 | Reay (GK), Meade, Laight (Thompson 83), McFadyen, Grayson, Burbeary (Rhodes 32), Adam Hinchliffe, Biggins, Poulton, Litchfield, Ruthven Subs not used Hobson, Lumsden Goals Adam Hinchliffe 18, 65 Biggins 63
Witton | 4-4-2 | Crump (GK), Gardner, Lycett, Wilson, Devine, Tames (Brown 68), Haywood, Owens, Bauress (Noon 78), Jones, Hopley (Omotola 55) Subs not used Williams, Jamie Hinchliffe Goals Laight 5 (own goal), Jones 22, Bauress 24, McFadyen 54 (own goal) Booked Haywood (dissent)
Referee Andrew Smith