Report by Paul Harper

WITTON Albion led twice but had to settle for a solitary point from a hard-fought contest against Stafford Rangers.

Goals from Billy Smart – one in each half – had twice put Albion ahead, but a brave effort from the visitors drew the game level on both occasions.

The home side had a couple of early opportunities on goal, Tom Owens firing wide while James Foley's long-range effort was straight at Rangers goalkeeper Jonathon Brown.

Smart broke the deadlock on 15 minutes – Josh Wardle helped the ball on with a high ball into the penalty area and the Albion midfielder took a touch before slotting home past Brown with a tidy finish.

The visitors began to come into the game more as the half grew on, with Joe Cuff testing Chris Renshaw in the Witton goal with a free kick from distance before Bradley Grayson turned past Wardle but hit his shot wide of the target.

Tall striker Brandon Diau levelled the game at 1-1 on 38 minutes – a ball played in from the left found the striker and he sent a controlled effort past Renshaw into the net.

It was the visitors who started the second half on top and Diau was close to a second only to see his header fly over the crossbar from close range.

On 54 minutes, Witton restored their advantage with a superb strike.

A cross into the box was half-cleared and fell nicely for Smart, who rifled a sweetly struck volley into the bottom corner from 20 yards – another goal of the season contender.

Stafford kept plugging away and got back level 14 minutes later when Jon Moran fired home from close range following a hotly disputed corner awarded to the visitors.

Diau again missed the target from close range while Isaac Baldwin hit a free kick over the crossbar in the latter stages of the game as both teams had to settle for a point apiece.

Albion move on to an away game at Ashton United next weekend, still sitting in seventh position in the BetVictor NPL standings.