FOR Winsford United, there was no reward for a performance that in truth deserved one.

Lee Duckworth’s men will wonder quite how they didn’t at least force a penalty shoot-out after spending almost the entire second-half inside Witton Albion’s territory.

The player-manager's strike, hard and true with his left foot deep into added time, was brilliantly parried by Ryan Neild.

The goalkeeper's intervention felt of equivalent value to a goal scored earlier by James Foley that ultimately separated the sides.

It is perhaps fitting that a player considered by Carl Macauley to have been the best performer in his team this season should be one that delivered for Witton a first victory in this competition in close to a decade.

Albion gave only glimpses of their class, although their best moment of the match was decisive.

Danny McKenna’s deep cross from right to left was cushioned perfectly by Rob Hopley into Foley’s path and, after taking the ball away from custodian Matthew Green, he nudged it through the narrowest of gaps at the near post.

It was a reminder that Albion could, if pressed, produce the goods.

They might have had a larger lead by the break too had Will Foster not timed brilliantly a sliding block to divert Hopley’s drive after Prince Haywood teed him up.

And Green did the same, diving low to his right, when the former Winsford front man jabbed another effort towards goal shortly afterwards.

Paul Williams had cued straight at Blues’ number one, while Owen Dale’s attempt lacked power after he controlled a clipped pass by McKenna almost too well, during a low-key opening.

Winsford settled though, and created their best chance of the first-half when Michael Taylor glided unopposed into Albion’s penalty area before dragging wide an angled shot.

Perry Bircumshaw then prompted Neild to dirty his gloves with a rising effort.

There was sense Blues were growing in confidence, although their rhythm was disrupted when Taylor limped off after sustaining an ankle injury following a tackle.

Winsford’s best spell followed immediately after the interval, and Michael Koral flashed an effort past an upright to serve an early warning.

Albion responded with a speculative attempt from distance by Williams that had Green scrambling with worry before the ball dipped a fraction late.

It was a rare foray forward by Witton, who were grateful to Neild for turning Koral’s fizzing shot around an upright.

Substitute James Rothwell, Taylor’s replacement, fired wide too.

Albion steadied themselves, helped by the introduction of Tom Owens for a tetchy Haywood, but defending still occupied most of their attention.

Dale drilled off-target following a counter-attack, while Hopley ought to have done better after Foley conjured an opening.

Winsford were brave, sending on Declan Daniels to support Koral in attack, and Callam Gardner was next to try his luck after Rothwell rolled a pass into his path.

Their best chance fell to Duckworth though, but Neild repelled his shot as the last act of an absorbing contest.

Witton | 4-4-2 | Neild (GK), McKenna, Humphreys, Wilson, Devine, Haywood (Owens 69), Foley, Williams, Dale (Anthony Gardner 76), Hopley, Tames Subs not used Jones, Cesaire, Hare (GK) Goal Foley 41 Booked Haywood (foul)

Winsford | 4-2-3-1 | Green (GK), Skolorzynski (Daniels 56), Foster, Lee Duckworth, Clarke, Hopper, Michael Taylor (Rothwell 41), Scott Taylor, Callam Gardner, Bircumshaw, Koral Subs not used Fowles, Manko, Osborne (GK) Booked Lee Duckworth (foul)

Referee Karl Buckley

Attendance 359