GARY Martindale was happy after Witton Albion fought back to draw with Barwell, but admitted surprise at their slow start.

Rob Hopley scored in stoppage-time to earn a share of the spoils from a 2-2 draw in which his teammates had to come from behind twice.

They also played for 70 minutes with 10 men.

“It’s a point gained without a shadow of a doubt,” reflected the assistant manager afterwards.

“I couldn’t ask for more by way of a response after we had a man sent off; they dug in, and frustrated Barwell.

“It’s a testament to their spirit that they still didn’t give in even after going 2-1 down.”

Defender Joel Bembo-Leta, who made his debut against Warrington on Boxing Day, was shown a red card after being cautioned twice in the space of five minutes for handball.

Barwell took the lead when Matt Stenson sent a free-kick into the bottom-corner following the second offence.

Witton levelled after an hour through Steven Tames’ penalty, only to trail again after Jake Heath curled a shot past goalkeeper Calvin Hare.

However Hopley, who had filled in as a defender following Bembo-Leta’s dismissal, swept in James Foley’s cross to thwart the Canaries.

Martindale said: “We looked jaded in the first-half; it was the opposite to what I expected, and had asked for, after losing in the way we did [on Tuesday].

“It’s tough when you’re a man down, and I had to ask people to raise their game.

“We had to adjust our tactics because we couldn’t chase them – we’d have been picked off.

“It was a case of being awkward without the ball, and staying in the game for as long as we could.

“With the speed we have up front, I felt we’d always have a chance to get something.”

He was reluctant to discuss referee Conor Brown’s performance, save for giving his verdict on Bembo-Leta’s early exit.

The defender will now sit out next weekend’s game at Stalybridge, his former club, as a result.

“The first offence was a yellow card but there’s no way the second one was deliberate,” said Martindale.

“I don’t think it was the right call – do you think Joel is that stupid to blatantly do the same thing so soon after the first incident?”