FC Halifax Town
cruised back to winning ways at home against Vauxhall Motors
last night, in a match that saw four goalscorers, three debutants and a red card.
After a series of unwanted recent results, Town were back to their sumptuous best on a cold autumnal evening. There was a story to warm the hearts of the 858 fans inside The Shay, as Dan Gardner
made his long-awaited debut.
He wasn’t the only debutant, as loanee Alex Titchiner and new signing Alex Johnson also appeared, with each grabbing a goal alongside Gareth Seddon
and Jon Worthington
Vauxhall’s substitute Mark Winslade saw red for a late challenge on Scott McManus
, but by that stage, with 15 minutes remaining and Town three goals up, the affair had already been decided.
Flair, quick passing, fluid interplay and a number of successful dummies were on show by the Shaymen, as a new attacking band seemed to instantly strike a chord.
Town’s squad was hit by illness prior to tonight’s game, with Ryan Toulson
and Liam Hogan
missing out on the match day squad altogether and Lee Gregory
able only to make the bench.
This meant Chris Worsley
was asked to fill in at right back and also a first league start for loanee Titchiner.
The busy striker made an almost instant impact as part of a forward three with Gareth Seddon
and Dale Johnson
. A long ball up-field from Matt Glennon
was flicked on by Seddon, onto which latched Titchiner, who made no mistake in placing past Zac Jones in the Vauxhall goal after ten minutes.
The young striker’s eagerness in closing down the opposition seemed to spread through the side like the virus that had crippled Neil Aspin’s side, as the Shaymen looked to write-off Motors within the first 20 minutes.
Seddon ran onto another long pass and snatched away from the advancing Jones. High in the air, the ball was headed goal-ward by Johnson – on his return to the side – only to see Andy Nicholas in the right place to nod off the line.
McManus then drilled the loose ball at goal but Jones had found his line in time to push wide.
Calamity struck for Vauxhall as Town’s pressure paid dividends, albeit through unconventional circumstance, after a second goal in as many minutes.
Paul Marshall’s corner was headed toward goal by an unmarked Seddon. The striker has Lady Luck to thank as what should have been a routine save for Jones dribbled through his legs.
Titchiner came close with a delightfully ingenious effort. After the ball worked its way wide to McManus on the left, the full-back pulled the ball back into the box, where, almost with his back toward goal, Titchiner managed to flick on target, with only a sharp Jones reaction denying him his second home debut goal.
Despite Town’s dominance, there were occasions when Motors threatened.
Michael Burns was the first to test a goalkeeper, hitting a sweet strike from distance that, for a moment, looked to be troubling Glennon before the veteran stopper athletically parried away to his right with both hands.
He almost committed the second goalkeeping howler of the night, spilling a deep cross low to The Shay’s leaf-littered turf, with canary yellow-shirted strikers bearing down on him.
He managed to grab the ball in time, and looked equally nonchalant after the ball pinged off his near right-hand post following a bundled effort at goal from a corner.
The second half started on a bright note, with the introduction of Gardner for Dale Johnson
. The midfielder slotted in behind Seddon and Titchener and straight away his quality on the ball was evident – vindicating Aspin’s making his signature a top priority over the summer.
However, it was not Gardner who was involved in the Shaymen’s third score, despite it oozing pleasant aesthetics.
The swirling wind inside The Shay often dislodged the fallen leaves sitting atop the Skircoat stand, resulting in a confetti-like display which seemed especially appropriate to celebrate this goal.
Worsley, in an advanced position, guided a cross-box pass to the also-advanced McManus, who headed back across goal for Worthington, who had ghosted into the area, to place home.
Titchiner then proved evidence that the universe works in balance, as, following the beauty of Town’s third goal, the loan striker somehow managed to miss the target when sliding in from five yards after Seddon and McManus combined down the left flank.
Glennon, untroubled for the majority, still had to be wary however, as substitute Winslade looked a lively addition to the visiting side. The orange-booted striker forced Glennon into a sharp one-handed save to his left after wriggling into the box.
Gardner’s comeback did not last long, as he was replaced by Jason St. Juste after 20 minutes on the field. With no obvious signs of injury, the Shaymen supporters – who gave him such a warm reception on his first competitive introduction – will hope it was merely precautionary.
His teammates seemed not concerned – Worsley’s effort was parried away by Jones as the home side continued in their search for goals.
Though it was Danny Lowe
who evoked unwanted memories of the last home match, as his slip allowed Tom Rutter a one-on-one situation with Glennon but the Motors striker was diverted away from goal by the ‘keeper’s road block.
The impressive Titchiner then made way for another home debutant, this time in the form of young striker Alex Johnson – signed until the end of the season by Neil Aspin last week.
Almost instantly, as Town introduced a face, Vauxhall lost one. A late challenge by substitute Winslade on McManus saw him receive a straight red card.
The referee’s decision validated by the velocity with which Winslade’s studs struck McManus’s boot, the impact of which was clearly audible in the Skircoat stand, underneath where the incident took place.
The dismissal rounded a dismal afternoon for Motors, which could have got worse still had Seddon’s strike skipped inches wide of the other side of the post, or Marshall’s effort planted in the bottom corner, instead of whizzing past the opposite upright.
There was time, it turned out, for Town to snatch a fourth. Alex Johnson heading home with ease from close range.
The win – which was Town’s first home victory since September’s 5-0 mauling of Gloucester City
– will set the Shaymen up nicely for Saturday’s F.A. Trophy tie versus Cammell Laird.