TOM Owens returned to action following a seven-week lay-off on a night when Witton Albion exited the Integro League Cup.

The midfielder, ruled out after having surgery on a hand injury, played for the final half-hour of a contest that had appeared on course to be decided by a penalty shoot-out.

However Jacob Twyford’s goal in the second minute of added time, swept into the corner after Will Saxon had teed him up, secured a first ever win for Kidsgrove Athletic against the Northwich club.

“It’s a killer blow to lose like that,” said Gary Martindale, Witton’s assistant manager, afterwards.

“I thought we might nick it after the substitutions we made gave us a lift, and I certainly didn’t think we’d lose.

“But we’ll have to take it on the chin and learn from it.”

Witton handed a debut to goalkeeper Jake Eastwood, a regular for their under 21s side this season, after making seven changes to a side that had started last weekend’s FA Trophy encounter with Whitby Town.

They took the lead too when Cesaire nudged over the line a loose ball that had bounced at his feet after deflecting first off custodian Dom Kuraski and then an upright from James Foley’s corner.

The visitors levelled when Twyford dispatched a penalty after James Yates had been rash to scythe down Saxon after he had sped into the area.

And they ought to have led after Ant Malbon’s perfectly-weighted pass sent Rumenio clear but he dragged his shot wide.

Witton conceded another spot-kick when River Humphreys tripped Rumenio and he had Eastwood to thank after the net-minder stopped the wide-man’s feeble attempt from 12 yards.

Michael Wilson and Will Jones, another replacement, saw headers drop off-target before Twyford netted the winner with a smart finish.

But the return of Owens provided cheer even after a defeat.

Martindale added: “It was a big lift to be able to put him on.

“Everybody knows just how important he is; we’ll have to be patient, but even in the short-time he was on the pitch he made things happen with his movement.”

Witton | 4-4-2 | Eastwood (GK), Yates, Wilson, Humphreys (Wardle 60), Gardner, Booth, Cesaire, Noone, Foley, Arnison (Jones 60), Williams (Owens 60) Subs not used McKenna, Hall (GK) Goal Cesaire 21 Booked Yates (foul)

Kidsgrove | 4-5-1 | Kurasik (GK), Freeland, Butler (Baker 63), Jepson, Bergin, Rumenio (France 69), Rhodes, Twyford, Williams (Thompson 69), Saxon, Malbon Subs not used Austin, Cole Goals Twyford 30 (penalty), 90 (+2) Booked Freeland, Jepson (both fouls)

Referee Daniel Hitchell

Attendance 127