WITTON Albion don’t win these sorts of games often.

Or at least they haven’t recently.

A victory away to higher-ranked opponents, who finished the game with eight men after having three sent off, means they will contest an FA Cup fourth qualifying round for only the second time since 1996.

They had also lost on all but one of their previous visits to FC United of Manchester.

However they are a different animal under Carl Macauley, and a feeble surrender to the same hosts in this competition three years earlier was never likely to happen to one of his sides.

They were far from their best, something he admitted afterwards, but they were still too good – as they had been at the previous stage – for a National League North team.

However the fact Albion didn’t need to be anywhere near the level they reached against Spennymoor is as much a sad indictment of FC United as it is a compliment to them as underdogs.

In short, the home team were woeful.

And they were playing catch-up too from the moment James Foley, assisted by a slight deflection off a defender, drilled low past goalkeeper Dave Carnell on 11 minutes.

Witton, pressing aggressively, had already sounded a warning after twice robbing a dithering opponent of possession before shooting at goal.

It was a template for success which made their retreat – perhaps in an attempt to preserve energy – midway through the opening half feel curious.

FC were emboldened, and River Humphreys timed brilliantly a block to divert Kurt Willoughby’s shot to safety.

The host continued to probe, albeit without ever threatening to penetrate, until they were rewarded on 33 minutes when Jack Banister cut inside from the left before angling a well-struck shot into the far corner.

Witton responded, and Billy Smart toe-poked a shot inches past an upright from Rob Hopley’s cross.

Smart played a supporting role in the first-half’s biggest talking point moments later, dragging back Willoughby to stop him moving forward to join a counter-attack following a quickly-taken free-kick.

As the duo fell to the floor, the striker struck the ex-Marine midfielder in the face with a hand and was shown a red card.

Smart, for his part, was booked by referee Ben Speedie.

Witton didn’t, at least initially, seize the initiative though.

A slow start to the second-half, flat in comparison to what had happened before the interval, was enough to persuade Macauley to send on Delial Brewster to form a three-man attack.

His courage was rewarded, and Josh Wardle’s pass invited the substitute to run into a space from where he prompted another replacement, custodian Jordan Perrin, to smother.

The outcome was settled from the resulting corner, Hopley reacting instinctively to smash a ball diverted his way by Humphreys’ header into the net.

It had a galvanising effect.

The visitors ought to have made the closing stages less fraught by scoring again, but Hopley’s header dropped wide after he met Foley’s free-kick.

Smart blazed over from Hopley’s lay-off and Danny McKenna’s attempt was a tired one after he skipped away from Chris Lynch.

Tension then crept in.

It remained even after Harry Winter was dismissed as punishment for being cautioned a second time.

Albion survived a scare too after they failed to clear a free-kick sent to the back-post, and a scramble inside their penalty area ended with Hopley throwing himself in the path of Mike Jones’ goal-bound shot.

FC substitute Elliot Simoes was then shown a second yellow card after kicking the ball away before Speedie’s final whistle acted as a signal for Witton to celebrate.

They made the most of it.

FC United | 4-2-3-1 | Carnell (GK) (Perrin GK 46), Tattum, Lynch, O’Halloran, Thompson, Mike Jones, Winter, Crawford (Simoes 72), Donohue (Mansell 46), Banister, Willoughby Subs not used Palinkas, Lonsdale, Logan, Brierley Goal Banister 33 Booked Winter (foul), Simoes (dissent) Sent off Willoughby (violent conduct), Winter (second booking, foul), Simoes (second booking, kicking the ball away)

Witton | 4-4-2 | Hall (GK), Gardner, Humphreys, Wardle, Devine, McKenna, Cesaire (Brewster 60), Smart, Foley, Will Jones (Booth 88), Hopley Subs not used Yates, Wilson, Noone Goals Foley 11, Hopley 64 Booked Smart (foul)

Referee Ben Speedie

Attendance 1,234