CARL Macauley urged his players to believe in themselves before meeting the league leaders and it turns out they listened.

Substitute Will Jones scored a decisive goal to condemn Nantwich Town to only a second defeat of the campaign in front of their own supporters.

Witton Albion deserved it too.

The Dabbers were unbeaten in their previous eight matches in the Northern Premier League, and started 2019 with a four-point lead at the table’s summit.

However on the few occasions they did have sight of goal their finishing was flaky.

They were unconvincing in defence too, and the visitors punished them at their most shoddy.

There was little danger on 69 minutes when goalkeeper Will Jaaskelainen received a back-pass from a teammate and he lazily stroked it towards Louis Barnes.

Jones darted forward, panicking the full-back into giving up possession before steadying himself and spearing a rising shot into the net before the Dabbers’ custodian could recover.

It was a near-identical goal to one scored by Tom Owens against Farsley Celtic last weekend.

And, this time, Witton protected their advantage.

They had to survive a scare or two, notably when Greg Hall produced a brilliant save to thwart James Lawrie after Jamie Morgan had slid a pass across goal.

The Nantwich midfielder appeared certain to score, but fired too close to the falling goalkeeper.

Hall was in the right place as well with three minutes left when Joe Malkin steered Barnes’ cross towards goal.

The Dabbers sent on two more strikers, Callum Saunders and Danny Glover, but to no avail.

Instead it was changes from the bench made by Carl Macauley, who also introduced Danny McKenna early in the second-half, that made a defining impact.

Nantwich had found precious few gaps in Witton’s defence, boosted as it was by the return after an illness of River Humphreys, in the opening period too.

Sean Cooke’s shot was deflected to safety after former Winsford United wide-man Nathan Cotterell and Barnes had combined on the left.

Cotterell scampered away from Anthony Gardner midway through the first-half and teed up Cooke, but Josh Wardle blocked his attempt.

The Dabbers’ best chance fell to Malkin, who inexplicably headed wide from close-range after rising to meet Barnes’ cross.

Albion were doubly-relieved; a poor clearance from Hall set the move in motion.

He was untroubled when Barnes tried his luck from distance, while James Foley’s free-kick was the only time Witton made Jaaskelainen work before the break.

Nantwich might have taken the lead before much of the four-figure crowd at Weaver Stadium had returned to their position after the interval.

Cooke’s glorious cross picked out Malkin, and his looping header was tipped over the bar by Hall.

Jordan Cobley spun into a shooting space at the other end but failed to hit the target, then Joe Mwasile’s cut-back rolled across the face of goal after he had bustled past Humphreys.

Jones’ arrival then swung the contest Witton’s way, and on this occasion there was no late twist.

Nantwich | 4-2-3-1 | Jaaskelainen (GK), Morgan, Mullarkey, Stair, Barnes, Hughes, Lawrie, Mwasile (Glover 85), Cooke, Cotterell (Saunders 70), Malkin Subs not used Bourne, O’Riordan, Walsh Booked Malkin (foul), Cooke (dissent)

Witton | 4-4-2 | Hall (GK), Gardner, Humphreys, Wardle, Devine, Smart (McKenna 61), Booth, Owens, Foley, Cobley (Jones 54), Hopley Subs not used Yates, Cesaire Goal Jones 69 Booked Smart, Humphreys (both fouls)

Referee Daniel Hitchell

Attendance 956