FC Halifax Town claimed a hard-fought point away to Bradford Park Avenue yesterday, in a game that saw the Shaymen lose their leading scorer Gareth Seddon to a second-half red card.
Town were dominant in the game until Seddon’s sending off, though showed great resilience to deny their hosts a second goal, especially during large spells when Bradford looked to utilise their one-man advantage.
The match was a feisty one, both on and off the field, with Bradford’s fielding of a number of former Town players merely adding spice to an already hot Blue Square North derby recipe.
There was early action for former Town man Danny Holland, who moved to Bradford in the summer. After being put through by Paul Walker, the striker lost his footing in the box, much to the amusement of the travelling hoards of Town.
Holland found himself the centre of attention during the first half. Liam Hogan was too eager toward his old team mate, hugging him to the ground.
The resulting free kick eventually found its way to another former Halifax man in Richard Marshall, who struck from range but the 30-yard effort skipped past Matt Glennon’s right-hand post.
Holland was again in the mix of things when he was penalised for bringing Ryan Toulson. The Town reaction from the stands was less than endearing, bringing a smile from the striker, who would later go on to be a thorn in Neil Aspin’s half time team talk.
However, before then Town began to dominate, with Jason St Juste getting a first sight on goal. An inch-perfect through ball from Jason Jarrett set the winger free and through on goal, but he could not evade the last-ditch tackle from full back Michael Duckworth.
Lee Gregory registered Town’s first attempt on target, after an early cross from Toulson found the striker but the loopy delivery prevent Gregory from enforcing any power on the effort, Tim Deasy saved comfortably.
However, just minutes later Town took the lead. Again Ryan Toulson provided the delivery from the right wing but a slip from Bradford centre back James Knowles allowed Gareth Seddon to pluck the ball from the air, turn and prod home.
Bradford nearly doubled Town’s lead for them soon after. Paul Marshall whipped in a free kick from the right channel, where Knowles met the ball, heading just wide of his own post.
The right wing provided more drama when this time Chris Worsley raced down it to cross for Seddon. However, the powerful delivery proved too high for Seddon to direct on goal from six yards, with the ball ballooning over the bar.
However Bradford, hitherto dormant, sprung to life, after Paul Walker hit a post from long range.
His strike, hit from all of 40 yards, cannoned back off the upright where another snap shot headed toward the opposite corner but Glennon did impressively well to scramble back across the mouth of his goal to claw away the effort one-handed.
Town’s fans, the influx of which increased the attendance to over five times to norm here at The Horsfall, would not go into the break satisfied when Holland levelled for the hosts.
Just seconds before the half time whistle blew, Town gave away a free kick on the wing in a dangerous-looking position.
They were made to pay. Martin Drury’s low left-footed delivery wound its way into the Town box, where none other than Danny Holland was on hand to deflect the ball in off the far post.
Town started the second period with intent as Jarrett struck the ball on the volley, forcing Deasy to acrobatically tip over the 35-yard effort, which looked bound for the top corner.
However, Town’s afternoon took a turn for the worse when after an off-the-ball incident – and a lot of deliberation between the referee and his assistant – Gareth Seddon was shown a red card.
Bradford instantly looked to make their extra man’s advantage pay dividends, pushing their full-backs forward.
Duckworth’s ball low into the box was so nearly met in front of goal by a diving Jordan Deacey but his outstretched boot could not quite make contact.
Aspin, however, responded by bringing on Dale Johnson, who partnered Gregory in attack, leaving Town with three in midfield.
Tempers flared when Worsley wriggled his way into the box, ending up on the floor just inside the area. The ensuing appeals for a penalty were strong, both from the pitch and the stands, though were waved away by the referee.
However, Gregory nearly put the Shaymen ahead anyway, after being played through by Worsley. The striker was instantly closed down by goalkeeper Deasy, who did well to deflect around the post.
Holland then had a chance to further put his former side to the sword, though could only direct his header inside the six yard box straight up in the air for Glennon to collect.
Town played out the remainder of the match in somewhat uneasy fashion as the ball landed in troubling areas inside the Town box.
However, the Shaymen defence battled to prevent the numerous crosses from turning into something of more value to Bradford.
Glennon’s superb reflexes denied their hosts a last-ditch goal, when Drury’s free kick was deflected and the stopper adjusted himself well to tip wide.
He then had to leap to his left to tip a Richard Marshall effort onto the right post, following a strike from just outside the area.
Town did have the opportunity to snatch a winning goal late on when substitute Jamie Rainford was put clear and, but for a last ditch tackle by Nathan Hotte.
Given the spells of dominance each side had throughout the match, it is difficult to calculate whether Neil Aspin will view this as a point gained or lost. The resilience of his defenders, though, will no doubt be a tick in the positive.
1. Tim Deasy, 2 Michael Duckworth, 3 Martin Drury, 4 Richard Marshall, 5 James Knowles ©, 6 Adam Clayton, 7 Rob O’Brien (Tom Greaves 67), 8 Nathan Hotte (Matt Dempsey 90), 9 Danny Holland, 10 Jordan Deacey, 11 Paul Walker Subs: 14 James Riley, 16 Liam Wakefield, 13 Ben Higginson