FC Halifax Town were on the wrong end of an entertaining seven-goal game at The Shay yesterday, as the Shaymen went a fourth home game without victory for the first time under the management of Neil Aspin.
The match provided what was a contender for the most entertaining half of football played this season, as three goals in the last five minutes of the first half gave Town a 3-2 lead going into the break, before the Shaymen ultimately ended up succumbing to a 4-3 scoreline.
The Shaymen were, rather, on the wrong end of a superb performance from Duncan Watmore. The forward created all four of Altrincham’s goals and caused constant threat throughout the Blue Square North encounter.
The result was also a surprise given the domination of the home side for the majority of the first half. Dan Gardner registered Town’s first shot of the match, cutting inside off his left wing on three minutes to lash powerfully just wide of veteran Stuart Coburn’s right-hand upright – a sign of things to come in a thrilling non-stop first 45.
Town were temporarily down to ten men as Lee Gregory was forced off with a bloody nose. As physio Dan Stolworthy struggled to stop the flow from Gregory’s nose on the Town bench, Altrincham took the chance to get a foothold in the game as Danny Boshell struck from range.
His unsuccessful effort was not a sign of things to come in Gregory’s absence, as Gardner went even closer than his early effort, again cutting in from wide and striking inches wide.
However, it was Town who were next struck a blow, as Gregory’s nose bleed proved too severe, thus giving Alex Titchiner a chance to rediscover his previously impressive form for the Shaymen.
Back to their full compliment, Town, who hadn’t really surrendered ground when a man light anyway, rediscovered their full domination almost instantly.
Titchiner dragged away his marker as Chris Worsley was so nearly put through on goal, before Adriano Moke, making his third start for the Shaymen, showed skill to cut in from the right akin to Gardner though scuffed from the edge of the box.
Liam Needham then struck from afar, the ball bouncing awkwardly in front of Coburn, though due to the distance of the strike, no player was in position to pounce on Coburn’s fumble.
Still Town pressed, against the side who conceded five at The Shay in the F.A. Trophy first round back in November, as Moke picked up the ball on the right, played forward Ryan Toulson who whipped in a low ball to Needham who was but a toe’s length away from prodding in.
Less than a minute later Town went one better. Titchiner showed great strength to out-muscle Danny Hall inside Altrincham’s area, leaving the Fleetwood Town loanee to slot past Coburn from a tight angle to, almost inevitably, give Town the lead.
Town were, by now, rampant. Superb link-up play between Gardner and Moke – revelling in his starting birth – set the winger free on the right. He looked for Titchiner in the area, who cleverly jinked out of his marker’s sight and placed just wide on the half-volley.
Damien Reeves, out of almost nothing, then levelled for the visitors. The league’s top scorer notched his 34th of the campaign as Watmore was chipped through, before cutting back to a free Reeves, who just had to tap home in front a healthy travelling support.
They should have taken the lead barely a minute later. Watmore again proved catalyst, as the striker rounded Matt Pearson – on an extended stay from Rochdale – and beat Toulson for pace before rounding Glennon, though the ginger-haired frontman could not quite guide home, placing wide as Danny Lowe careered across the goal line in perfect position to block even if the effort was goal bound.
Five minutes before half time, unbelievably if considered the early domination of the home team, Altrincham took the lead.
Yet again it was Watmore the creator, as yet again he used his pace to round his marker – this time Touslon – before crossing across the face of goal for Simon Richman to tap home.
The half was not done there. Scott McManus rifled home the Town equaliser from inside the area as a result of a corner, where Lowe’s header was first cleared off the line, as the ball fell straight onto left back McManus’s boot.
Amazingly, there was still more action to come before the break. Titchiner showed all of his attributes to give Town the lead on 45 minutes, as his hard-working attitude took him to chasing down a back pass.
Coburn couldn’t clear in time and Titchiner showed brilliant skill to place home from almost on the by-line, just outside the left side of the box with a first-time finish that left you wondering how he had gone seven games previously without scoring.
The second period did not start at quite the same tempo, though we did not have to wait long for the first strike – another equaliser for Altrincham.
Richmond was at hand for another tap-in – the third-such goal that Altrincham scored in the match – after Watmore was played through one-on-one with Glennon. The goalkeeper kept out the initial effort, though the save saw the ball spill into the path of Richmond who levelled.
Watmore was nearly in again twice soon after, once from a quickly-taken free kick, though Glennon was quickly on his case, charging out to thwart the danger, the other from a long ball, which McManus followed back to make a well-timed sliding tackle.
There was nobody to stop Altrincham taking the lead in the match for a second time on70 minutes, as yet again Watmore caused problems, playing through Reeves who had no trouble placing past Glennon from just outside the area – the first time Town have conceded four at home since the last time Altrincham visited in the Blue Square North, last year.
Town pushed hard for another levelling goal, and with ten minutes remaining Moke nearly found himself through, but for a last ditch tackle from Gianluca Havern before Lowe’s header was comfortably saved by Coburn at a corner.
Despite being given six addition minutes in which to force an eighth goal in the match, two late Titchiner efforts from outside the area, both hit wide, came no closer to levelling the game for Town, who now see their Greater Manchester rivals hop above them in the play-off places.