FC Halifax Town
played out a goalless draw away to Brackley Town
in the Blue Square North, to bring back a point to The Shay from one of the longest trips of the season and against the division’s early pace-setters.
Brackley’s start to the campaign, amazing as it has been, was to come under threat with the visit of Town, who represented the toughest test for the Northamptonshire side so far in terms of league position – the Saints have only faced two top-ten sides this season.
After completing his three-match suspension, Neil Aspin was able to welcome back Jason Jarrett to his squad, with the midfielder slotting straight back into the starting line-up.
Aspin’s tinkering with a 3-5-2 formation throughout the F.A. Cup ties versus Lincoln City was scrapped in favour of the 4-4-2 formation – deployed with a midfield diamond – that has brought Town the majority of their success this season.
The nearest either side came to scoring was via free kicks, three of which were awarded on the edge of the “D”.
Town received two of those, with Paul Marshall coming close on both occasions – the first saw his effort slip just wide of Billy Turley’s right-hand post, the second forcing the goalkeeper to sprawl to his left to claw away.
However the other kick was awarded to the home side, and they nearly made Town pay with the early set piece, as Owen Story’s strike hit Matt Glennon
Thereafter Town seemed to be responding well to their early scare, as they tried to warm their passing game into action, in a bitterly cold Northamptonshire breeze – Gareth Seddon
soon volleyed over from range.
However Brackley looked to thwart their visitors’ resurgence in the match, and should have worried Town more when Elliot Sandy was sent through the Shaymen’s defence.
One-on-one, the striker looked to lob Matt Glennon
from the edge of the area, but his effort cleared the goalkeeper and his goal, but also the small terrace behind it.
Despite Turley’s calmness, the effort ran barely a yard wide of his right-hand post.
The importance of Jarrett’s return became clear after just half an hour after some lovely interplay with fellow experienced midfielder Worthington.
The pair starring in a move of short, intricate passes, resulting in the advanced Scott McManus
nearly getting a head to a dangerous-looking cross.
Any sort of intricacy in general play looked improbable, however, given the uneven nature of Brackley’s St. James Park turf.
Neither side could break the deadlock before the half-time whistle. Gregory’s tame effort from a tight angle did not trouble Turley, likewise a disappointing curled effort by Seddon from the edge of the area after the striker showed strength to overcome his marker.
Town, however, came out with intent in the second period. Glennon’s long clearance found Gregory who, with his back to goal, wrapped his left boot around the ball to whip an effort on goal. Turley, again, saved easily.
Both sides seemed to be cancelling the other out throughout the second half, as Marshall caused rare concern for Turley with that close-range free kick.
That pattern did not halt when Town introduced debutant and new signing Alex Titchener – on loan for a month from League Two side Fleetwood.
Both defences were, however, stretched at times, especially toward the end of the match as a number of last-ditch blocks and tackles were made.
Ultimately, though, it was not enough for either side to snatch a goal, even despite Town’s continuous late pressure that saw the claim consecutive corners.