FC Halifax Town
built on their unbeaten Bank Holiday weekend by securing a second home win in succession, following an impressive 3-1 win over Oxford City
’s two strikes, along with a goal-of-the-season-contending effort by Paul Marshall, sealed the win for Town in what was the first competitive fixture between the two sides.
The Shay was treated to a musical cacophony from the Anchormen Street Band’s beating drums before play got underway, and it was to this upbeat tempo that the match swaggered into life.
Playing in a change strip of the same all-yellow nature as their bitter inner-city rivals, Oxford United, City looked to show that they belong at this level – the highest they have been in their history.
With barely two minutes on the clock, Jamie Cook gathered the ball on the inside-right channel. After a neat dummy to elude Jason St. Juste, he chipped into the box where the ball fell kindly for Chris Willmott to side-foot home from close range.
Town’s reply was instant and emphatic as the scores were levelled just seconds later. Ryan Toulson
’s long throw into the Oxford box – won after a rare surging forward run by Jason Jarrett – found Johnson, who struck low into the corner of Warren Carter’s net.
The Shaymen almost completed the turn around inside 20 minutes, having efforts blocked on the line three times in 60 seconds.
First Lee Gregory
showed skill to turn his man on the edge of the box, before rounding Carter and shooting from an acute angle, but Adam Learoyd managed to scramble back to tend a post, blocking the effort.
Jarrett then had an effort saved superbly by Carter, after the goalkeeper managed to somehow palm away his headed effort from barely three yards out.
It was from the rebound of the save that Gareth Seddon
then had an shot blocked, though Oxford threw a number of bodies in the way to prevent the ball from crossing the line.
Coming up from the Evo-Stik’s Southern Premier League, City showed no evidence of stage fright playing in a big stadium, as the influential Cook attempted an audacious chip over Matt Glennon
from the edge of the area, only to see his effort bounce just wide.
Paul Marshall then stretched Carter, forcing Oxford’s stopper into more acrobatics. The midfielder collected the rebound of his first, poor corner but at the second attempt he curled in a dangerous left-footed delivery that the goalkeeper did well to tip over.
However, by now Town had grown into the encounter, restricting Oxford’s advances to fewer in number than at the match’s start but the side from Oxfordshire were by no means unthreatening.
It nearly proved so, were it not for a gladiatorial block by club captain Danny Lowe
. What at first appeared to be a poor free kick into Town’s box was not cleared and, after an ugly melee, Lowe blocked the goal-bound effort.
The first half action was not over still, with St Juste this time coming close. The full back, in an advanced position, used his pace to glide past Kynan Issac, before chipping across goal. It may not have been his intention, but the effort shaved Carter’s far post.
The same post saw more action moments later but this time the ball deflected the other side of it. Seddon’s poor ball was picked up by Marshall who took two steps and unleashed a left-footed strike that flew into the corner.
Marshall nearly made it two goals in two minutes either side of the break, after his curling free kick nearly found the net. In fact, it would have nestled in the bottom corner of Carter’s goal, had the ‘keeper not been alive to tip around the post at full stretch.
Glennon was then called into action for Town, pulling off a save much the same as Carter’s not long before. However this time it was a right-footed free kick from Jack Mills that forced the goalkeeper to tip around the post.
Another Marshall delivery caused concern for City as his cross, whipped in from the left, was met by a darting run toward the front post by Gregory, whose flick ran agonisingly in front of the mouth of goal.
It was not long until Town furthered their lead. Yet again Marshall played architect, starting the move with an accurate cross-field ball to the advancing St. Juste. The full back turned his marker inside-out with a series of dummies, taking him into the Oxford box.
Once there he pulled back for Chris Worsley
to hit from the edge of the area, his effort was saved well by Carter but Johnson was on hand to gobble up the left overs from the save, tapping in from three yards.
The striker came within a shoe size of snatching his hat-trick thanks to a delicate chip from Jamie Rainford. The forward, on for Seddon, dinked a ball over the defence but Johnson’s toe could not quite make contact in front of goal.
There was just enough time for Phil Bolland to make his debut for Town, coming on for the ever-impressive St. Juste. The experienced central defender slotted in next to Liam Hogan
, with Lowe shifting to left back for the remainder of the match.
Though it was at the other end where Town really impressed after more sumptuous attacking play, this time between Rainford and Gregory around City’s box resulted in the latter’s goal-bound effort being blocked.
Perhaps this result is a symbol of things to come for Town at The Shay. At their bass is where Neil Aspin wants to snare more points than last year and at the same time send visiting teams high-hacking back to where they came.
If it is to Anchormen Street Band’s drum beats that Town are to set their tempo of play, they may well be invited back for future fixtures.