THIS is exactly what Witton needed.

If there is a sense that performances have been better than a sequence of five defeats from the past seven matches suggests then they’ve bucked that trend.

By the finish, Albion looked authoritative.

They had broken Stalybridge’s spirit during a dominant opening to the second-half that saw them strike a post twice before Tom Owens nudged Rob Hopley’s flick-on into the net to double their lead.

It sapped the hosts, who never looked likely to mount a comeback.

Bridge were better in the first-half and can make a case they were unlucky to trail.

A linesman’s flag spared the blushes of Dan Cockerline after he steered wide of an open goal from Douglas Nyaupembe’s cross inside the opening five minutes.

Carl Macauley’s men took the lead from their first cohesive move when Hopley glanced a header into the net from Danny McKenna’s beautifully-arced cross.

It jolted their opponents and Andy Scott’s attempt flashed wide before Matty Wolfenden, so often Albion’s tormentor, saw his effort whistle wide of an upright after Cockerline teed him up.

Celtic looked vulnerable defensively, and got lucky when Will Booth pinched the ball from a slovenly Olly Marx before shooting straight at custodian Paddy Wharton.

It might have proved costly had Greg Wilkinson made cleaner contact with Wolfenden’s pass, but instead his scuffed shot was blocked by Witton number one Greg Hall with a knee.

Macauley revealed after the game he had demanded more from his attacking players during the interval and the message certainly got through.

Josh Wardle’s speculative drive hit the woodwork, as did McKenna’s curling effort two minutes later after Osebi Abadaki has skipped away from full-back Josh Solomon-Davies on the left.

The winger puffed his cheeks after a deflection off substitute Liam Tongue saw his own shot drop inches off-target before Wharton instinctively jabbed a boot in the way when Booth drilled low through a crowded penalty area.

Witton needed to score while in the ascendancy and duly did when Owens was alert to meet Hopley’s header after Anthony Gardner launched a long throw into the home team’s box.

A side with a defensive record second only to the Premier Division leaders then did what they do best and shut down dispirited opponents.

Former Albion attacker Scott Bakkor spun and shot narrowly over while Tongue’s curling free-kick scraped a post on its way past.

Gardner then stretched fully to prevent Bakkor from turning in Greg Wilkinson’s wicked cross.

Those moments of danger were fleeting, and a seventh victory on the road for Witton will feel cathartic.

There is work to do but a distance to the relegation zone, increased to six points, is more remote now.

Stalybridge | 4-4-2 | Wharton (GK), Solomon-Davies (Tongue 57), Marx, Smalley, Nyaupembe, Bakkor, Rule, Wilkinson, Scott (Kengni 57), Wolfenden (Dent 68), Cockerline Sub not used Winterbottom (GK) Booked Rule (foul)

Witton | 4-2-3-1 | Hall (GK), Gardner, Humphreys, Wardle, Devine, Foley, Booth (Smart 90), McKenna, Owens, Abadaki, Hopley Subs not used Cesaire, Cobley, Jones Goals Hopley 16, Owens 63 Booked Wardle, Humphreys (both kicking the ball away)

Referee Anthony Tankard

Attendance 301