ON a windy night in Cheshire a brace of goals at the end of each half were enough to see Skelmersdale cruise through to the last eight of the Doodson Sports Cup (NPL League Cup) and set up a date with Farsley at the West Lancashire College Stadium on February 25.
Fielding a strong team, Tommy Lawson’s men never really looked like losing, despite the opening half-hour of the game not producing much in the way of goalmouth action.
From around the 25th minute Skelmersdale started to get the upper hand and the Skelmersdale supporters congregated behind the goal they were attacking came to life with a vociferous penalty appeal after 31 minutes for handball after Dean Astbury fooled the home defence with a clever turn. But referee Martin Woods probably got it right by waving the shout away, because the Witton defender had no chance of getting out of the way of Astbury’s driven ball.
A corner was given and Witton swiftly counterattacked for arguably their best chance of the night, but an excellent sliding tackle by Shaun Holden snubbed that out.
In the 41st minute Skelmersdale opened the scoring. Holden found Neil Prince on the left and he curled the ball behind the Witton backline, Alistair Brown fearing an attacker was behind him, played the ball instantly, but found it heading into his own net.
A couple of minutes later it was 2-0. Prince prodded the ball to Astbury, he delicately pushed it through the Witton defence and Adam Morning rounded Witton goalkeeper Stuart Plant before tapping home.
Tommy Lawson made three changes at the interval - Rob McIntosh, Lewis Field and Sean Miller all coming on. The former two were returning from fairly long periods out injured, while Miller was making his debut on loan from Chester.
Witton pressed, but barring going close in the 58th minute didn’t have much to inspire them. Zac Hibbert making a great block at Neville Thompson’s feet before the rebound was driven away.
Skelmersdale weathered the Witton fight back and from the 64th minute looked the most likely to score out of the two teams.
Field brought a magnificent save out of Plant after he had saved from Morning, then the keeper thwarted Morning again at his near-post.
Prince was clean in on goal in the 70th minute when he was dragged back by Witton captain Rob Brodie, who was shown a red card. That was effectively game over.
With three minutes left, Astbury harassed a defender into giving him the ball, before firing it past Plant for a third goal, followed by a follow up with seconds remaining. It had been a comprehensive success.
l WITTON ALBION: Plant, Gardner, Moyo (Brown, 33 mins), Harrison, Brodie ©, Jackson, Dawson, Breeze, Bakkor (Titchiner, 51 mins), Thompson, Crofts Subs (not used) Hancock, Andrews, Cooper
l SKELMERSDALE UNITED: Hibbert, Strickland (Field, 45), Holden, Hardwick © (McIntosh, 45), Wylie, Dunn, Morning, Burton, Astbury, Prince, Ince (Miller, 45) Subs (not used) Greene, Peet
l Referee: Martin Woods (Bolton)
l Attendance: 143