WITTON Albion slipped to a defeat in their final pre-season friendly but more of a blow was the sight of three key players leaving the field after sustaining an injury.

Captain Rob Hopley’s early exit caused most concern after he appeared to twist his right knee while challenging for a loose ball inside his own half.

The front man left the field on a stretcher and was taken to hospital by teammate Chris Noone, who wasn’t part of the squad.

He is near-certain to be absent for this weekend’s Northern Premier League opener at Whitby.

Manager Carl Macauley, keen for his side to benefit physically from playing an extra game after struggling during the closing stages of a draw with Marine on Friday, experimented with a three-man defence.

And they went closest to scoring during a drab first-half when Liam Goulding’s strike from distance prompted Kidsgrove number one Kieron Harrison to stretch fully and save with his fingertips.

New recruit Ryan O’Hare’s shot curled past an upright too shortly afterwards.

The home team conceded twice in quick succession after the interval, former Witton wide-man Kyle Diskin and Charlie Scott both finishing emphatically, to leave themselves with work to do.

That task felt more daunting after Danny McKenna had to be helped from the field after an awkward fall on his shoulder before full-back James Short injured a groin in added time.

In between substitute Will Jones stayed calm to fire low past Harrison and halve Albion’s deficit after pressure high up the field had forced an error by the visitors.

Witton | 3-4-3 | Neild (GK) (Renshaw (GK) 62), Anson, Trialist, Sorensen, Cesaire, O’Hare (Edwards 46), Goulding, Short (Wardle 90), Murray (Jones 62), Hopley (Trialist 32), McKenna (Smart 75) Subs not used none Goal Jones 85

Referee Adam Davies

Attendance 90