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Ben Harrison scores for Witton Albion as they share the spoils with FC United of Manchester
IN seven days Witton Albion have changed expectation of what they can achieve in the Premier Division on their return.
Victors at Chorley, Brian Pritchard’s men put a blemish on FC United of Manchester’s perfect start after a second half performance in stark contrast to the passivity of their first.
There is proof enough in their matches so far that they belong back at this level after three years away.
The manager, frustrated in part that his team is still short of a conviction that it can compete with promotion hopefuls like the Rebels, was roused at a recovery from a deficit.
Don’t forget, his Witton is not used to being behind in a game.
They deserved to be after half an hour of this one for FC United, able with an extra man in midfield to dominate possession, played with more purpose.
Indeed that added body, Nicky Platt, ghosted into a position from which he could thump a diving header past goalkeeper Matt Cooper from Stephen Johnson’s superb centre.
It was not a catalyst for more chances though.
Instead, referee Jonathon Hunt provided that when he harshly punished Kyle Jacobs for a foul after the full back had collided with Mathew Wood in the penalty area on 38 minutes.
James Spencer’s stop from Anthony Gardner’s spot kick, diverting the ball onto the bar, was stunning.
Albion were at last alive though, Shaun Tuck making the former Northwich Victoria custodian work when his set piece was on target soon afterwards.
The hosts carried that momentum into the second half, forcing their guests to retreat for the first time.
They survived a scare, Adam Jones’ clipped pass sending Lee Neville into a space from which he picked out Platt, again with no Witton player nearby.
Gone though was the composure with which he put his team ahead, slicing horribly wide with a clear sight of goal.
There was no mercy, Ben Harrison leaping highest to meet Rory Fallon’s centre with a emphatic header of his own to restore parity on 55 minutes.
Ashley Stott scampered clear soon after the restart, but Spencer took the ball off his toe with impeccable timing.
His next save was best, clawing Stott’s low drive around an upright after Tuck had picked out his strike partner following a raid down the right.
FC United’s net-minder was alert again when Neville deflected Gardner’s cross towards goal following Danny Andrews’ quickly-taken free kick.
Witton, insistent, were not favoured by fortune when Stott steered Gardner’s assist against namesake Dean, who arrived in the nick of time, on 75 minutes.
There was time left for drama at both ends, Hunt not spotting a decisive deflection by substitute Matthew Wolfenden’s hand, held aloft, from Hancock’s header.
Jake Cottrell’s skidding shot thudded against a post in stoppage time, so both sets of supporters sighed with audible relief.
Witton’s point was not grabbed, but their rivals’ attention probably has been after a fortnight in which they have scored eight points in four games.
Witton Star Man: Josh Hancock. His best game so far. Moves with intelligence in from the touchline, not only to make room for Mathew Wood to maraud, but also to attack from a central position. Escaped the attention of defenders doing exactly that, and often.
Witton (4-4-2) Cooper (GK), Gardner, Harrison, Booth, Wood, Andrews, Sheehan, Fallon, Hancock, Ashley Stott (Buchan 81), Tuck (Moseley 86). Subs not used Glover, Schofield, Woolley. Goal Harrison 55. Booked Wood (foul).
FC United (4-5-1) Spencer (GK), Jacobs, Jones, Dean Stott, Neville, Johnson (Krou 85), Platt (Wolfenden 70), Birch, Cottrell, Wright (Roca 77), Norton. Subs not used Anderson, Cheetham. Goal Platt 26.
Referee Jonathon Hunt (Liverpool)