A double over the Dabbers

NOT many teams will beat Nantwich Town in both Northern Premier League fixtures this season.

Witton Albion were more uncomfortable at the second time of asking than they had been while recording a 2-0 win at Wincham Park in August.

This is a different Dabbers side to then, one that started 2019 four points clear at the top of the Premier Division table and unbeaten in their previous eight matches.

Nantwich had lost only once previously at Weaver Stadium in the league this season too.

They were shut-out again though, in part because of goalkeeper Greg Hall who produced two outstanding saves to thwart both Joe Malkin and former Middlewich High School student James Lawrie.

‘Watching Witton away’…

…appears to be infinitely more rewarding than it has been in Northwich this season.

A sixth away victory of the campaign, and a fourth in their past five Premier Division fixtures out of town, is proof of their growing resilience on the road.

Carl Macauley’s men have now collected 19 points on their travels – a figure that is almost double that from home games.

In fact, only back-markers North Ferriby United have a worse return in front of their own supporters.

Another remarkable statistic relates to taking the lead; Albion are unbeaten away from home in games when they have scored first.

Their record in those matches is truly impressive: P6 W5 D1 F13 A1 Pts16 (from 18 on offer).

A huge, and vocal, travelling support was in appreciative mood following the final whistle.

Northwich Guardian:

Witton Albion's supporters had plenty to celebrate after seeing their side prevail at Nantwich Town in a Northern Premier League fixture on New Year's Day. Picture: Karl Brooks Photography

Avoiding a late hiccup

Of course beating the league leaders on their own path is a boost to confidence.

However a bigger psychological hurdle was to resist the Dabbers’ efforts to pinch a late leveller during a spell of pressure in the closing stages.

Don’t forget Witton had been denied a positive result in successive matches at Christmas after Warrington (1-2) and Farsley Celtic (2-3) both landed late blows.

“It was vital to keep a clean-sheet because that boosts the lads’ belief,” said manager Carl Macauley afterwards.

“Everybody worked hard together, and not just our defenders, to make sure we got three points.

“It’s also why the boys celebrated like they had won a cup final; it was relief coming out after they’d been floored by a sucker punch in our past two matches.”

In praise of Will Booth

The Knutsford-based midfielder delivered his best performance since leaving Colwyn Bay to sign for Witton.

He occupied a position in front of the defence and was tasked with limiting the influence of Nantwich captain Sean Cooke, who tried to exploit space behind striker Joe Malkin.

Booth, making only his fifth league start, did exactly that and more.

The 21-year-old broke up countless attacks, and lasted the distance too – playing more regularly is clearly benefitting him.

With Jordan Lussey’s brief spell at the club already over, there is a vacancy in that role that the versatile Booth could make his own.

Another New Year’s Day joy ride

Perhaps we ought to have seen it coming.

Witton went to Altrincham – the then Northern Premier League leaders – for their opening fixture of 2018 and celebrated a thrilling 4-3 win thanks to a stunning volley by Will Jones.

He delivered again on January 1 this time around.

His finish was less spectacular, but no less well-executed after pinching possession off former Northwich Victoria full-back Louis Barnes and rifling the ball past recovering goalkeeper Will Jaaskelainen.

Carl Macauley will be hoping it sets a tone ahead of a testing run of fixtures to come during January.