WITTON Albion had Stalybridge Celtic exactly where they wanted.

And then frustratingly let them wriggle free, quite literally in the case of Matthew Wolfenden who scored twice before the break to leave Carl Macauley’s men playing catch-up.

Troublingly, they rarely do, and only once so far this season have they collected a point from a losing position.

It was a curious evening at Wincham Park, where the home team were utterly dominant for the first half-hour.

Rob Hopley thought he had scored inside two minutes after meeting Danny McKenna’s corner with a close-range header that goalkeeper Paddy Wharton blocked with a boot.

The visitors’ custodian, a teenager borrowed from Tranmere Rovers, demonstrated his nerves when he clattered into Billy Smart after the midfielder had beaten him to a bouncing ball.

James Foley convincingly dispatched the resulting penalty.

Will Jones’ header, from another McKenna cross, lacked the force to trouble Wharton as Stalybridge, beaten in four of their previous five Northern Premier League fixtures away from home, teetered.

They were understandably grateful to be gifted an equaliser on 24 minutes when Wolfenden escaped Anthony Gardner’s attention for long enough to be free to steer Liam Tongue’s cross into the net.

It didn’t knock Witton off course though.

Instead they conjured a glorious chance when Matty Devine, invited into space behind the visitors’ backline by Foley’s pass, cut back for Hopley in the six-yard box.

However Wharton reacted brilliantly to claw his shot to safety.

When Jones directed McKenna’s set-piece against the inside of an upright with the deftest of angled headers, Albion could be forgiven for wondering if their luck was out.

Wolfenden’s second goal, glanced with perfect placement out of custodian Greg Hall’s reach from another accurate Tongue cross, will have provided confirmation.

The former FC United of Manchester attacker had again sneaked clear of a marker, making contact with the ball after running between two defenders.

Stalybridge moved out of reach on 56 minutes when Tongue, after Tom Owens needlessly fouled Scott Bakkor, curled a beautifully-weighted free-kick into the top-corner.

Hall, like everybody else inside Wincham Park, could only admire it.

It deflated Albion, and they were lucky that Bakkor showed mercy with a tame finish after Chris Sharp had pinched the ball off Liam Goulding.

Macauley sent on Will Booth, pushing Owens into a striking role close to Hopley, in an attempt to spark a recovery.

But his side, which had played for more than an hour with 10 men during a 1-0 win against Lancaster City on Saturday, looked jaded in mind and body.

Hopley’s speculative attempt dipped too late to worry Wharton, while Smart couldn’t direct a header on target after arriving at the back post.

By then Witton’s swift start seemed a long time ago.

Witton | 4-4-2 | Hall (GK), Gardner, Goulding, Wardle, Devine, McKenna, Smart, Owens, Foley (Noone 82), Hopley, Jones (Booth 67) Subs not used Michael Wilson, Humphreys, Cesaire Goal Foley 5 (penalty) Booked Goulding, Smart (both fouls)

Stalybridge | 4-5-1 | Wharton (GK), Tongue, Clarke, Smalley, Scott Wilson, Bakkor (Kengni 87), Brown (Wilkinson 80), Dent (Hughes 60), Rule, Wolfenden, Sharp Subs not used Cooke, Winterbottom (GK) Goals Wolfenden 24, 42, Tongue 56 Booked Bakkor, Wolfenden, Scott Wilson (all fouls)

Referee Daniel Issawi

Attendance 220