WARRINGTON Town took the long way around before arriving where they wanted in the end.

Substitute Tony Gray’s stoppage-time goal, his second after an interval introduction, was a slap in the face for Witton Albion.

It stung, and will do for the next few days.

They had been stubborn only to be ground down eventually, beaten into submission after spending almost every minute after the break on the back foot.

It leaves them more remote from a play-offs place, although they can take heart that a makeshift back four shorn of three regular members resisted as long as they did.

That was helped by Yellows’ cautious approach during the first-half, when Jamie McDonald was left isolated at the point of their attack.

After losing their previous two Northern Premier League matches, conceding eight goals in the process, they were understandably reluctant to risk too much.

That changed with Gray’s arrival, and his clinical finishing proved the difference between the teams.

Albion had a crisis in defence, and rushed through the signing of Joel Bembo-Leta from Altrincham in the hours before kick-off to avert it in the short-term.

He met his new teammates for the first time during the warm-up, and promptly delivered an assured performance.

Witton resisted the temptation to switch Rob Hopley to a defensive role, and he prevailed in a battle with Jack Higgins at the other end to justify that choice.

The hosts went closest to scoring on 29 minutes when Hopley combined neatly with Will Jones before clipping a cross to the back-post.

Owen Dale arrived on time to meet it, but could not divert the ball over the line at full-stretch.

Albion broke through shortly afterwards, helped by Higgins failing to cut out a pass intended for Hopley.

The front man ran clear, and his shot was diverted by a defender’s intervention into Jones’ path.

The power of his attempt was too much for goalkeeper Tony McMillan to stop it.

Former Witton attacker Scott Bakkor made way for Gray, who joined McDonald up front after half-time.

Warrington immediately showed more purpose, and Albion custodian Calvin Hare scrambled to his left to parry William Hayhurst’s free-kick after it took a deflection.

Yellows took every opportunity to send the ball high into Witton’s box, with Rory McKeown’s long-throws the most frequent route.

They levelled on 78 minutes when Jay McCarten flicked on Hayhurst’s angled pass and Gray took one touch to steady himself before blasting past Hare.

He was similarly ruthless in added time when McCarten drilled low across the box after the ball fell kindly from another free-kick, this time instinctively jabbing into the bottom corner.

Albion, drained by defending for so long, could be forgiven for thinking they’d hung on, which is why the game’s decisive goal inflicted greater pain.

Witton | 4-4-2 | Hare (GK), Haywood, Bembo-Leta, Wilson, Devine, Tames, Foley, Owens, Dale, Jones (Evans 87), Hopley Subs not used McKenna, Cesaire, Neild (GK) Goal Jones 33 Booked Jones (foul)

Warrington | 4-2-3-1 | McMillan (GK), Adam Carden, McCarten, Higgins, McKeown, Goulding, Sean Williams (Kinsella 66), Bakkor (Gray 46), Vassallo (Milne 69), Hayhurst, McDonald Subs not used Jennings, Barrigan Goals Gray 78, 90 (+3)

Referee Dale Baines

Attendance 503