A cup final success is important

Paul Moore, Witton Albion’s goalkeeper coach, said afterwards that a victory in the Mid-Cheshire District FA Senior Cup final will help his players’ mentality.

The team’s first final under Carl Macauley had ended in embarrassment following a 3-0 defeat against 1874 Northwich two years ago.

Since that blow they have prevailed in a winner-takes-all match to earn promotion via a play-off before resisting the challenge of Winsford United last night.

“Winning isn’t just a nice feeling – it hardens your mind-set,” said Moore.

“The supporters enjoy it, but the players gain confidence too. It doesn’t matter what level you play at.”

Winsford will feel pretty rueful

Player-manager Lee Duckworth summed it up succinctly afterwards when he asked: “How have we not won that game…?

Blues created chances – two of them with clear sights of goal for Michael Taylor and Duckworth – but could not convert either.

They applied pressure from the first minute of the second-half until the last, and it made Witton uncomfortable protecting their lead.

Moore’s visit to the dressing room after the final whistle won’t have provided comfort, but it is acknowledgement from higher-ranked opponents that they’d been made to work before lifting the trophy for the first time since beating Congleton in 2009.

In praise of Ryan Neild

The 22-year-old has made a dozen or so appearances between the posts for Witton this season, and saved his best performance until last.

It isn’t easy to act as an understudy, and the Warrington-based shot-stopper had to prove he was ready when called upon.

A save low to his left to deny Michael Koral early in the second-half was impressive, while a dart in the same direction to block Lee Duckworth’s rising effort in the last minute was as important to his side as James Foley’s goal.

It also broke the hearts of opponents who felt they deserved a draw.

Should Prince Haywood have been sent off?

Witton’s midfielder was shown a yellow card early in the second-half, during a spell when his side was under pressure, for a clumsy foul.

He had committed one or two others, and referee Karl Buckley probably felt a caution was a fair punishment after totting them up.

However a late tackle on Ryan Hopper shortly afterwards, after which play was initially allowed to continue, might have earned him a second booking.

It felt as if Albion’s management team felt the same way when they took him off less than 60 seconds later, and sent on Tom Owens in his place.

A landmark for Will Foster

Winsford’s captain made his 50th appearance of the campaign at the heart of Blues’ defence.

However he perhaps reached another milestone in his rapid development by performing so admirably against opponents that play two levels higher.

His direct opponent, Rob Hopley, is a former Blue that played early in his career at St Luke’s Barton Stadium.

Witton’s skipper has plundered 21 goals in the Northern Premier League’s top-flight during another successful campaign but Foster wasn’t frightened of him – and their battle was one to keep an eye on.

Lee Duckworth will be keen for the 21-year-old to continue his progression at Winsford, although on the evidence so far the former Altrincham youth team regular is destined to play higher up.