WITTON say prudence, not performances on the pitch, is the reason for releasing Ashley Stott following last night’s Mid-Cheshire FA Senior Cup success against Middlewich.

The striker, who scored twice in Albion’s promotion play-offs final success in April, was told before kick off that the club could not afford to keep him,

He insisted on playing though, ending his second spell in Wincham with two goals in a 9-1 win.

“I can envisage a day when this decision comes back to bite us on the backside,” rued manager Brian Pritchard.

“I don’t want to lose Ash, but the club comes first.

“It’s been an agonising decision to make about a player who will be fondly remembered for his contribution, particularly during the run-in last season.”

Stott, 24, will not be short of offers.

His goals tally for this term is 11 from 18 starts in league and cup, leaving him with a fine haul of 31 in 55 appearances overall.

However the arrival in the past fortnight of Oliver James and Steve Foster, the reigning Evo-Stik Northern Premier League player of the year, means Witton’s weekly wages spend is now higher than that budgeted for.

“It’s always the manager’s choice how the budget is spent, but we have to make sure the books are balanced, that’s the number one priority,” said chairman Mark Harris.

“We have to be prudent; our business model has been built on sustainability, and I fully intend for it to stay that way while I’m here.”

Stott’s departure is a surprise with Witton placed fourth in the Premier Division table with a six-points cushion inside the play-offs places.

Harris told the Guardian that the decision does not display a lack of ambition.

He added: “Does it mean we’re ruling out a push for promotion? No, of course not but it isn’t a case of trying to go up at any cost.”

Pritchard can still call upon a formidable attack with Foster and Shaun Tuck, the current Division One North Golden Boot holder following a fine season with Skelmersdale United.

Both were on target against Middlewich too.

“Something had to give,” added the Albion boss.

“In the past, when decisions like this have been made, they’ve been for football reasons and not economic ones.

“If the situation were to change, then I wouldn’t hesitate to have him back.

“It’s important to make clear though that this is not a crisis, rather a case of us being sensible to as to avoid any problems further down the line.”

Stott signed for Witton in February from New Mills, returning to a club he left for Welsh Premier League club Aberystwyth Town in January 2011.

He supplied assists for two of Albion’s three goals in a play-offs semi finals hammering of Farsley, scoring two of his own in the final against Curzon Ashton days later.