STRUGGLING to find form or confidence, Tuesday night's comprehensive defeat at the hands of local rivals Nantwich Town was a bitter blow for Nigel Deeley's Witton Albion.
Although the scoreline suggests a hard-fought battle, in truth the Dabbers were the better side and could have scored five or six had they taken their chances.
Albion gave recent signing Reuben Wiggins-Thomas his first start on the right wing while familiar face to Northwich Vics fans Val Owen began his two-week loan stay at Wincham Park in central midfield.
Backed by just 60 hardy Wittoners braving the cold at the bright new Weaver Stadium, Albion failed to get an early foothold in the game while the energetic hosts threatened Greg Smith's goal twice in the first four minutes.
On eight minutes, the Dabbers took a deserved lead when impressive striker Dave Walker latched onto a loose ball in the box to place a measured shot inside Smith’s left-hand post.
Witton central defender Gary Burke, who was in the wars all night, showed his frustration and was booked for a late challenge.
Albion finally won some possession and new boy Wiggins-Thomas showed lightning pace first and then a lovely piece of skill to work the ball into the box for Rod Thornley but the striker smashed his shot just over the bar with the goal at his mercy.
Buoyed by the missed opportunity, Witton began to build but lacked enough creativity to create any clear cut chances although Mark Drew and Dave Thompson tried their luck from distance.
Nantwich having lost control momentarily soon signalled their attacking intentions and went close to doubling their lead when Michael Lennon hit the bar.
Right winger Ashley Carter was to give Witton left-back Paul Donnelly a torrid time all night and he soon stung Smith's hands with a rasping shot.
Somewhat against the play, Witton had their second and final gilt-edged chance of the game when Val Owen's shot was deflected over the flatfooted defence giving Wiggins-Thomas a free shot on goal eight yards out but the 20-year-old debutant could not make contact.
With half-time approaching the Dabbers began to look dangerous and three attacks speared by tricky left-winger Danny Griggs saw Town come close to adding to their lead.
Brian Pritchard, who was earlier booked for dissent, made a rare error in judgment letting the ball run through for Carter but he blazed his shot high and wide.
After the break, it was all Nantwich and only a sublime last-ditch tackle from right-back Gary Scott saved Witton from going two down. Griggs then hit the Albion crossbar with a curling free kick.
Albion's only chance of the half came on 60 minutes when Witton were awarded a free kick on the edge of the box. Mark Drew stepped up but his piledriver was tipped wide by home keeper Lee Jones.
As the game neared its completion, and still just one goal down, Albion always had hopes of stealing an unlikely point but with ten minutes to go the hosts sealed the points.
A long punt up field was not dealt with and midfielder Mark Beeston placed the ball beyond the reach of the helpless Smith while Albion's defence screamed for an offside decision that never came.
A disappointing result for Nigel Deeley's men who have still not won in the UniBond Premier since September 2. The Wincham Park boss will continue to search for new faces to bring and try and steady what has become an uneasy red and white ship.
Witton: G Smith, Donnelly, Pritchard, Burke (Dunne), Scott, Owen (Warwick), B Thornley, Drew, Wiggins-Thomas (Thaker), Thompson, R Thornley. Subs not used: S Smith, Linford.
Match rating: 3/5