Evo-Stik Premier Division
Witton Albion 2, Buxton 4
AN OUTSTANDING Buxton display at third-placed Witton not only earned three points but also gave promise of a surge towards the table’s upper reaches in the New Year.
Now unbeaten in the last six away games and with only one defeat in 11 on the road, the Bucks had nonetheless dropped points from dominant positions at Grantham, Nantwich and Stafford, but on Saturday in milder Cheshire they reaped a full reward despite still lacking the injured trio of Kallum Keane, Mark Reed and Michael Towey.
Manager Martin McIntosh’s team selection proved inspired, with Steve Istead playing further forward than usual, just behind lone striker Lee Morris, who had arguably his best day in a Buxton shirt, carrying home the match ball as a memento of a well-taken hat-trick.
Istead’s performance was likewise excellent as he prompted, probed and pressurised the home rearguard, while Scott Maxfield behind him protected the back-four and Matt Thornhill, approaching full match fitness, produced his most telling display to date.
The game opened well with Witton passing the ball at pace to bring their attacking full-backs into play, but it was the visitors who threatened first as Marc Roberts headed narrowly over the bar from a Kevin Sandwith corner-kick.
On the quarter-hour the Bucks took the lead as Sam Duncum netted with his first goal to become the club’s 14th different scorer of the season.
The in-form Neil Stevens was the provider for Istead to advance on the right and lay on a precise diagonal pass for the winger to slot home from ten yards.
Albion equalised just prior to the half-hour as the dangerous Josh Hancock blasted home a 25-yard free-kick. Then Ian Deakin made a good save from Foster at the climax of a fine Witton move.
However, on the approach to half-time another penetrative Sandwith corner-kick passed untouched across the face of goal but shortly afterwards the left-back’s curling, inswinging free-kick from the right was headed on by Stevens for Morris to nod in at the far post.
The Bucks began the second half in impressive style to create a succession of openings. Centre-back Harrison thwarted Morris as he was put through, then the striker and Istead combined for Thornhill to advance and shoot low from 20 yards with keeper Cooper making a save.
Istead then ran through the centre to shoot, Cooper saved and the rebound came back off the visiting skipper for the grounded Cooper to catch.
Morris doubled Buxton’s advantage in the 64th minute. Thornhill’s accurate pass set-up the striker on the left and his precise lob from 18 yards found the net.
Now in full control, Grant Black fired a free-kick over the bar and Morris neatly caught out Cooper with a 35-yard lob, but the striker did complete his hat-trick in the 73rd minute, benefitting from Sandwith’s second ‘assist’ of the afternoon.
Istead was body-checked 20 yards out and when Cooper could only parry the defender’s powerfully-struck low free-kick, Morris was first to the loose ball.
With Witton down and out, substitute Kieran Lugsden could well have scored twice but missed the target, yet the Bucks continued to press forward and it was their ambition to score a fifth which cost them an 86th-minute Witton consolation.
On an Albion break, the right side of Buxton’s defence was exposed and Foster netted with a shot deflected wide of Deakin.
Buxton: Deakin, Black, Haggerty, Roberts, Sandwith, Stevens, Thornhill (Bradbury, 83), Maxfield, Duncum (Nix, 77), Istead, Morris (Lugsden, 74). Att: 419.