Evo-Stik Northern Premier League | Tuesday 19 March 2019
Stafford Rangers are becoming hard to beat and so it proved again at Witton Albion on Tuesday night although it needed a last gasp goal from Paul Bignot to extend their unbeaten run to six games. It wasn’t one of Rangers’ best performances. They were wasteful in possession and too often delivered balls into the area that were meat and drink to Witton’s tall central defensive pairing. The Stafford side showed one change from the starting XI that defeated Warrington on their last league outing 10 days earlier with Andrai Jones coming in for Joe Cuff. Witton, meanwhile, went in to the games as the league’s leading form side having won five of their last six matches.
Injury hit Witton could only name two substitutes and their situation became worse shortly before kick off when Danny McKenna picked up an injury. A quick reshuffle left them with just one in reserve. The home side were first to show with both Billy Smart and James Foley having shots blocked inside the opening three minutes. Rangers soon got into the game and enjoyed decent ten-minute spell, but their attacks were unproductive. Former Rangers man Osebi Abadaki forced Adam Siviter into the first save of the evening on 13 mins and Luke Jones felt the full force of Will Jones’ follow up. A couple of minutes later, Siviter was in action again after Rob Hopley and Tom Owens linked well, the Rangers’ keeper saving well from the Owens.
A Stafford counter attack produced their first shot on goal, but Andy Haworth ended a good move with a shot wide of the near post. Siviter denied Abadaki again with a save at his near post but it was Stafford who were now asking more of the questions. Their best opening came when Tom Thorley put Haworth in, but his first touch gave Matty Devine the opportunity to hack clear. Dan Burns and Matt Hill both went wide for Stafford while Luke Jones had his shot saved by Greg Hall.
Witton were increasingly frustrated at the lack of decisions in their favour but it was from a free kick that they got the breakthrough a couple of minutes before half time. The ball into the area was cleared out to Cesaire Lingouba whose returned it back to the danger zone. Will Jones flicked it out to Josh Wardle who squared for Ben Harrison to slot home. Hopley came close to adding a second a minute later after Hill had lost the ball to Abadaki on the left but Luke Jones cleared the lines. Rangers needed to inject some life into their game and made a double substitution ten minutes into the second half with Cuff and Ben Mills replacing Andrai Jones and Haworth.
Cuff was soon involved as his low centre resulted in Tom Thorley getting in a low drive, but Hall saved low to his left and Cuff himself had a low drive deflected wide. Stafford’s Peter Williams came on for Jack Sherratt who had received a kick in the first half while Witton were forced to use their one substitute on when Devine went off with a dislocated shoulder. Williams had a shot blocked and penalty appeals for hand ball were turned down. Further penalty appeals were rejected after Luke Jones’ shot struck Wardle. Stafford increased the intensity as time pressed on, but Thorley wasted a good chance by sending his free kick high over the stand while Hill was denied by Hall.
Witton sub Owen Wynne had a chance to double his side’s lead when he beat the offside trap, but he was forced to shoot from near the right touchline and Luke Jones was able to get back to clear. Witton then had two of their own penalty appeals turned down. Cuff missed another golden chance for Stafford, but they finally got their goal three minutes into added time when Bignot fired through the crowd from around 15 yards.
Witton: 1 Greg Hall, 2 Cesaire Lingouba, 3 Matty Devine, 4 Josh Wardle, 5 Ben Harrison, 6 Billy Smart, 7 Osebi Abadaki, 8 Tom Owens, 9 Rob Hopley, 10 Will Jones, 11 James Foley. 12 Owen Wynne
Rangers: 1 Adam Siviter, 2 Paul Bignot, 3 Matt Hill, 4 Luke Jones, 5 Dan Burns, 6 Jack Sherratt, 7 Theo Bailey-Jones, 8 Tom Thorley, 9 Jake Charles, 10 Andrai Jones, 11 Andy Haworth. Unused Subs 12 Joe Cuff, 15 Sim Thandi, 15 Louis Briscoe, 16 Ben Mills, 17 Peter Williams
Cautions: Smart (Witton)
Referee: Nik Storey
Report by Chris Elsley