Witton are happiest when travelling

Albion’s success on Saturday preserves an unbeaten run on the road to date this season.

They have lost only one of their past dozen Northern Premier League fixtures away from Wincham Park – a 1-0 reverse at Shaw Lane in April.

Their previous reverse before that was in January when they lost 3-2 at Market Drayton.

Indeed Carl Macauley’s men collected more points than any of their First Division South rivals from away games last season, winning 15 of their 21 fixtures.

That trend has continued this term, and they have claimed draws at Mickleover and then Workington – on both occasions after taking the lead – and beaten Barwell on their travels.

A case for the defence

While a four-goal win away from home will earn Albion’s attackers merited praise, they shut-out hosts Stafford Rangers at the other end in relative comfort.

That takes their clean-sheet tally to four for the campaign, and no side has conceded fewer goals than the Northwich side in the Northern Premier League’s top-flight so far.

Calvin Hare’s form between the posts is one reason for such an encouraging statistic, as is the growing influence of new recruit Nick Ryan in the heart of Witton’s defence.

They have shown their versatility too, switching to a three-man defence last month to help the ex-Stalybridge back-marker to settle in.

A superb block during the closing stages on Saturday prevented the hosts notching a consolation.

Northwich Guardian:

Michael Wilson and his fellow defenders have kept clean-sheets in half of Witton Albion's games since they were promoted back to the Northern Premier League's Premier Division. Picture: Keith Clayton

When three does go into two…

Carl Macauley has picked all of his main attackers – Rob Hopley, Will Jones and Steven Tames – in the past two games.

And it is no coincidence that Albion’s attacking threat has increased as a result.

Tames played with intelligence at Marston Road, adjusting his position when Witton had possession – and moving inside from a starting position on the right flank – to find pockets of space.

Full-back Kai Davis did not know what to do, and was caught out badly for the visitors’ opener when Nick Ryan’s lofted pass invited Tames to run clear.

Macauley said afterwards that the sacrifice of his three forwards without the ball has made it possible to pick them from the first minute.

And on Saturday’s evidence, he can keep doing so in the weeks ahead.

Something borrowed

Carl Macauley’s ability to make an astute loan signing is established, and he has repeated the trick in the form of Morecambe midfielder Ben Hedley.

The 18-year-old had his best game since switching to Wincham Park at the weekend, occupying a central position with James Foley and Prince Haywood either side of him.

Together the recovered a high percentage of second balls, which allowed Albion to keep their hosts under pressure.

His ability to pass vertically sets him apart from his teammates, an attribute Witton have been without following Bradley Bauress’ transfer to Barrow in the summer.

They are hopeful of persuading Shrimps boss Jim Bentley to allow Hedley to continue his development in Northwich for at least another month.

In praise of work-rate

Late in the second half, a boot slipped from Rob Hopley’s foot when he challenged an opponent.

Rather than stop to put it back on, the striker sprinted half the length of the field to track a Stafford player that had made a forward run after his side won back the ball.

Danger averted, the 32-year-old paused to tie his laces again.

It was a snapshot of a glaring difference between the sides, and Boro manager Neil Kitching acknowledged as much when admiring Witton’s ‘high-energy’ approach during a  post-match interview.

An Albion player was first to almost every second ball and, while their own passing turned sloppy after the interval while they cruised, they still out-ran Stafford to ensure their lead was never under threat.