By Steve Sharman:
Two goals inside the opening ten minutes saw Nantwich Town end their losing run in the league with a 3-2 victory over Witton Albion at the Weaver Stadium.
In a week where the Dabbers progressed to the First Round of the FA Cup, an own goal from Rob Hopley and Sean Cooke saw the hosts take firm control of the game in the opening exchanges.
But Hopley netted 15 minutes before half time to pull a goal back for Witton before Matt Bell extended the lead again with a fine second half free kick.
Paul Williams penalty ten minutes before the end made it a nervy end for the Dabbers however they held on and ended a run of five league defeats in a row.
Manager Dave Cooke made one change from the midweek cup win over Kettering Town as Joe Mwasile came in for Jordan Davies who dropped to the bench.
The Dabbers made a flying start to the game as Courtney Wildin’s dangerous low cross was cleared for a corner with the resulting set piece flicked on by skipper Sam Hall and bundled in to his own net by Witton striker Rob Hopley to give the Dabbers an early lead.
Within a minute and the visitors could have been level as Tom Owens burst into the box but his shot was brilliantly saved by Will Jaaskelainen and the resulting loose ball cleared on the goal line by Toby Mullarkey.
That proved to be critical as in the eleventh minute Caspar Hughes found Sean Cooke with a cleverly worked free kick leaving the latter to do the rest as he buried his shot past the helpless Calvin Hare in the Witton goal.
After a fast paced start to the game, Witton began to take control as they kept possession well but were unable to create any clear opportunities on the Dabbers’ goal.
Owens then had his second chance of the game as he was allowed time and space in the box but saw his curling effort go narrowly past the far post.
Five minutes later and Witton did pull one back as Hopley found the right net, as he twisted and turned in the box allowing him to fire low into the corner.
The Dabbers were struggling to create anymore opportunities as Witton looked for an equaliser although Joel Stair’s header across the face of goal from Matt Bell’s cross, was close to finding Harry Clayton.
This was the only notable chance in the final ten minutes of the game as the weather played a huge part in making the game very difficult for the players as the wind and rain swirled around the Weaver Stadium.
Witton began the second half as they had ended the first and Jaaskelainen had to be alert to palm away Danny McKenna’s curling free kick early on.
Steven Tames then saw his flying shot from range go past the far post as Albion looked to level the game up.
Having withstood the early pressure from their opponents, the Dabbers’ struck the woodwork as Bell’s cross from the left found Joe Mwasile inside the box, who saw his effort strike the crossbar and bounce away to safety.
But five minutes later it was Bell who increased the Dabbers’ lead as he struck a perfect curling free kick from 25 yards into the bottom corner.
Despite conceding again, Witton kept looking for a way back in the game and Hopley saw his attempted overhead kick fly wide before Jaaskelainen made an incredible save, as he tipped over Williams’ ambitious lob from the half way line.
The visitors did then get a goal back ten minutes before time as Nathan Cotterell was adjudged to have brought down Hopley inside the box by referee Mr Bruce.
Up stepped Williams who sent Jaaskaleinen the wrong way to reduce Witton’s deficit to just one goal.
But despite five minutes of added time, the Dabbers’ defence held on firmly to end a fantastic week on the pitch.
Next up for Cooke’s team is the FA Trophy First Qualifying Round next Saturday away at Rushall Olympic with a 3pm KO.
Nantwich Town: Jaaskelainen, Bourne, Wildin, Stair, Mullarkey, Hall (c) (Cotterell 66′), Hughes, Bell, Clayton (Forbes 84′), Cooke, Mwasile (Davies 86′)
Subs not used: Morgan, McDonald
Witton Albion: Hare, Gardner, McKenna, Ryan, Brown (c), Foley (Lingouba 86′), Hedley (Evans 75′), Owens, Hopley, Jones, Tames (Williams 67′)
Subs not used: Wilson, Neild (GK)
Referee: Mr D Bruce
Photos courtesy of Jonathan White and Mark Welton
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