FC Halifax Town
comfortably brushed aside a struggling Worcester City
today, as a four-goal haul from Lee Gregory
marked a successful return to West Yorkshire for the Shaymen.
The five-goal rout was Town’s first game back at The Shay after their temporary lease of Rochdale’s Spotland, though it was like they were never away as Neil Aspin’s side completely dominated the Blue Square North fixture from first whistle to last.
All eyes were on The Shay’s turf, as the playing area was under investigation as to how well it would hold up after a week’s enforced respite.
Despite the odd player’s boot slicing through a soft top layer and a patchwork of drainage holes filled with sand, the pitch yielded few demons and provided the perfect platform for four Gregory goals - which were supported by another strike from Alex Titchener
Town were simply in a different class to their opponents, especially in the first 45 minutes. The Shaymen straight away, back in familiar surroundings, settled into the habit of knocking the ball neatly and swiftly around their opponents.
After such a bright start to the afternoon – which saw Neil Aspin and Dan Gardner
receive the Manager and Player of the Month awards respectively – darkness soon blocked the rays of sun that had, until then, soaked The Shay.
received a yellow card for catching Danny Edwards late, after Chris Worsley
had earlier been hacked to the floor.
There were more scuffles soon after and referee Coy was forced to reprimand both captains, warning them to keep control of their players.
Town retaliated to Worcester’s physical style with a goal. Titchener looked to have been fouled outside the box, but kept going under the referee’s advantage into the area, squaring to Gregory. The striker took one touch and placed home side-footed, albeit via a handy deflection off opposition captain Stuart Whitebread.
Worcester goalkeeper Glyn Thompson had no chance thanks to the deviation off his captain, though was in superb form to bat away another Town effort seconds later.
Toulson made it three close calls in the same number of minutes as he battled forward, surviving two strong tackles to come away with the ball, and struck from the right-angle of the area, though his shot squirmed agonisingly wide of the far post.
Gregory then managed to hit the cross bar after Titchener was released and squared to him in mirror-image fashion to Town’s first goal. Gregory again took one touch, and his shot again took a deflection, but the ball ballooned up and bounced off the bar.
Worcester, meanwhile, where doing all they could to get into the match, though that meant, on numerous occasion and much to the frustration of the 1,275 fans inside The Shay, fouling blue shirts.
It did not help referee Coy’s determination to stop play for the smallest misdemeanour, though the Town faithful took great satisfaction in seeing Worcester’s main benefactor, Mike Symons, forced off the field with what looked a serious knock to his ankle.
Not that witnessing the visitors’ top scorer leave the field distracted Town from their ongoing onslaught. A dangerous cross from Touslon in front of goal was met by Gregory, whose lateral run towards the delivery forced just a slight redirection of the ball. Goalkeeper Thompson was well placed to block.
Town had two after half an hour. An initially poor-looking clearance from Glennon somehow bobbled through Worcester’s midfield and was picked up by Gardner. The midfielder used his creativity to produce an almost blind reverse pass, slipping through Titchener.
Through on goal, Town’s loanee Welshman had no trouble in beating Thompson, placing a left-footed effort into the far corner.
Town should have had the opportunity to further their lead from the penalty spot almost immediately. Titchener showed great strength to win the ball from Whitehead in the area, and looked to be tugged back by the visiting captain.
Despite the pleas raining down from the stands, referee Coy, who had hitherto no problem in awarding similar infringements as free kicks, was having none of it.
Town so nearly created a third of their own anyway, but Gardner’s strike – hit fresh from his free kick’s deflection back to him – cannoned off the bottom of Thompson’s right post.
The second merely warranted more of the same. After Sean Williams’ scuffed effort somehow dropped wide of the Worcester post and Gardner had another Shaymen penalty appeal dismissed, Titchener forced Thompson into a low save to his left.
It wasn’t long until Town sealed the match. The move’s source was from a superb tackle by Williams, who won the ball back in midfield. He played to Worsley, who spread again to Toulson advancing on the right.
Toulson swung in a cross which the Worcester defence made a mess of clearing and the ball fell to Gregory, who could not have wished for a kinder placing as he chipped into the net from close range.
The goal not only sealed the game for Town, but also prompted Aspin to give Adriano Moke a home debut for the Shaymen, as he replaced Gardner.
With the match won and little sign of Worcester creating anything, Town’s fans settled for cheering City mistakes – of which there were many. Right-back Tyler Weir took a ball to the face in front of the East Stand, whose members were quick to remind him to ‘pick up his teeth on the way out.’
Meanwhile Moke was looking to prove an adequate replacement for Garner in the hole behind Gregory and Alex Johnson
– who came on for the hard-working Titchener. His pace caused more problems for the struggling Worcester defence, and forced Thompson into a save from outside the area.
There was also time for another Town debutant, this time in the form of Rochdale loanee Matt Pearson.
Not long after his introduction, Town added a fourth. Moke latched on to a long diagonal pass and entered the box, where he shot from a tight angle.
Thompson was forced to block twice after the rebound fell to Williams who also shot, but he could do nothing about Gregory, who ghosted in to tap home his hat trick goal.
By now Worcester had completely imploded, as they gave away a corner to rapturous cheers from a jubilant Shay crowd.
It wasn’t long before they were cheering another goal, however, as Gregory snatched a fourth with minutes remaining, nodding in off the cross bar after neat work on the left from Moke.
The win sees Town’s play-off push truly in motion. If the Shaymen produce performances like this on a regular basis until the end of the season, a place in the top five beckons.
FC Halifax Town
1, Matt Glennon
|2, Ryan Toulson
|3, Scott McManus
|4, Liam Hogan
|5, Liam Needham
|6, Danny Lowe
(C) |7, Chris Worsley
|8, Sean Williams |9, Alex Titchener
|10, Dan Gardner
|11, Lee Gregory
(Subs: 12, Phil Senior
|14, Matt Pearson (Worsley, 81) |15, Alex Johnson
(Titchener,67) |16, Jason St Juste
|17, Adriano Moke (Garnder, 55))
1, Glyn Thompson |2, Tyler Weir |3, Danny Edwards |4, Tom Thorley |5, Stuart Whitehead (C) |6, Lee Ayres |7, Ellis Deeney |8, Rob Elling |9, Mike Symons |10, Danny Glover |11, Matt Birley (Subs: 12, Jacob Rowe |14, Greg Mills (Edwrads, 52) |15, Matt Breeze (Symons, 20) |16, Charlie Reece (Birley, 52) |17, Matt Sergeant)
FC Halifax Town
: Gregory x4 (12, 55, 86, 88), Titchener (30)