WITTON Albion were narrowly defeated in the second qualifying round of the Emirates FA Cup with a 3-1 loss away at Atherton Collieries.

The result only tells part of the story, with a controversial decision at the end of the game leading to Colls' decisive third goal.

Albion were able to welcome Greg Hall, Isaac Baldwin, Cesaire Lingouba and Rob Hopley back to the starting XI while Will Jones was a welcome sight on the bench after a long injury lay-off.

It was a poor start for Witton, conceding a penalty when a leg was left dangling inside the penalty area, the Colls player went over it and a penalty was awarded.

Danny Lafferty stepped up and slammed the ball home down the middle from 12 yards.

Albion thought they had drawn level midway through the first half when Hopley got on the end of a ball forward.

He steered the ball into the roof of the net only to see his effort disallowed for offside.

Atherton doubled their lead on 27 minutes when Gaz Peet sent a delightful left-footed free kick into the postage stamp from 25 yards – a terrific strike.

Witton responded well to the setback and Tom Owens struck the crossbar with a thunderous 25-yard effort, while the home side also hit the woodwork when Marcus Cusani turned and fired against the top of the bar after a lovely back heel set him up inside the box.

It was a perfect start to the second half as Hopley pulled a goal back for the visitors.

Danny McKenna fired in a low shot from the left edge of the penalty area which the Colls defence failed to clear, with the ball pinballing around before Hopley poked home from close range.

It was the ideal tonic and Albion began to dominate for long spells in the second half.

Elliot Rokka fired against the upright for the hosts whilst Hopley almost bagged a second when played in one-on-one only to fire agonisingly wide of the target.

Cusani made it three crossbar strikes for Colls with 15 minutes remaining while Witton continued to enjoy good possession and create pressure on the Colls goal.

Owens headed into the grateful arms of the goalkeeper before, in the final minute of stoppage time, a controversial moment led to the final goal of the game.

A deep Witton corner fell to goalkeeper Greg Hall, up for the corner, who took a touch and seemed to be bought down by a challenge, only for play to be waved on.

Colls broke and Ben Conway had the simple task of running the ball into an empty goal whilst Hall lay hurt at the other end.

The referee blew his final whistle while physio Carl Rutter treated the Witton number one.