FC Halifax Town beat an in-form Gloucester City at Whaddon Road last night to take a big step toward fulfilling their play-off ambitions.
A superb team goal, finished by Liam Needham, put the Shaymen ahead before Gareth Seddon scored his fourth in two matches to double their lead. A late converted penalty gave the home side hope of securing a point but it proved not enough, despite a glorious late chance for the hosts.
Alex Titchener’s early bustling nearly brought about Town’s first clear-cut opportunity. The Fleetwood Town loanee pressed hard, blocking an attempted clearance from right back Mike Green, though the defender did well to track back and time a superb tackle to make up for his mistake.
Seddon then had a low drive comfortably saved from a tight angle by City’s second player to be named Mike Green, the goalkeeper doing well to hold the effort, which threatened to spill out to the lurking Titchener.
Not that these chances told the story of the match’s opening stages, as the home side looked to dominate. Frequently they charged down their left wing, looking for crosses to break down a Town side that was unchanged from their weekend demolition of Droylsden.
Town, it seems, were just warming up on a bitter Gloucestershire evening. Dan Gardner split the City defence with precision, and were it not for another perfectly-timed sliding challenge from right-back Green, Seddon would have been through one-on-one.
Then came a goal of class by the Shaymen. The ball was rolled into Seddon, who swivelled with the ball to round his man on the turn. He ran towards the right angle of the Gloucester box and flicked back to Needham on the edge of the area though continued his run, taking with him a yellow and black shirt.
It opened the space for Liam Needham to take a touch, shift onto his left foot, and curl a delightfully controlled finish into Green’s top right-hand corner.
By now Town’s attacking instinct had fully warmed. Scott McManus, on one of his ever adventurous forays, knocked the ball through his marker’s legs and entered the box, pulling back to Titchener whose first time side-foot could only find the hands of Green – the goalkeeper.
The Shaymen’s fluidity was, at times, sumptuous. The porous Gloucester defence could do nothing to stem the visitors’ liquid football, as every time Town’s attacking tap was turned on, blue seeped forward with ease.
The second came on the half hour, though was not nearly as aesthetically pleasing. Another through-ball from Gardner again split City’s defence.
Seddon was behind defender Matt Coupe, who looked to have things under control before attempting to slide the ball away, but only ended up deceiving his onrushing goalkeeper, placing the ball into Seddon’s path to roll into an empty net.
Gloucester’s danger was waning as Town’s dominance increased. It was only a needless, and rare, individual mistake from Toulson – who looked to pass back to Matt Glennon, only to concede a corner, much to the annoyance of his manager – that allowed City a sight on goal, though Chris Holland, from the set piece, could only prod tamely wide.
Not that this stopped the overall pattern of play. After the break, Seddon struck at goalkeeper Green before Paul Marshall shot wide.
Titchener then went on a mazy run down the right flank, cutting into the box and towards the by-line, though his cut-back couldn’t find a blue shirt.
He nearly scored soon after but for another gladiatorial block from right-back Green. Titchener’s first touch was sublime in controlling a long ball that dropped from a sizable altitude. He then played in Marshall on the turn whilst falling over, regaining his feet in time to receive back the ball and shoot, but for Green’s untimely interception.
The home side did begin playing with more urgency and tempo, however, though became unstuck as time and time again they encountered a solid, blue defensive wall. Liam Hogan blocked substitute Adam Mann’s effort from six yards out.
It wasn’t long until Mann was again involved, winning a penalty after being fouled by Danny Lowe. He turned his marker before going over the Town captain’s outstretched leg. Danny Andrew converted to give the home side hope with two minutes of play remaining.
And they should have snatched a late point. Again Mann was the catalyst, with an initial shot that Glennon could only parry. The ball fell to an unmarked Tom Webb, but Gloucester’s all-time appearance record holder could not convert into the empty net, instead scuffing horribly wide.
Gloucester City: 0
Andrew (pen, 88)
FC Halifax Town: 2
Needham (22), Seddon (30)
1. Mike Green | 2. Mike Green | 3. Danny Andrew | 4. Matt Coupe (C) | 5. Chris Holland | 6. Tom Webb | 7. Lewis Hogg | 8. Jack Harris | 9. Stephen Davies | 10. Will Morford | 11. Sam Rawlings | Subs: 12. Adam Mann (Davies, 59), 14. Matt Liddiard (Holland, 67), 15. Scott Wilson (Green, 72), 16. Scott Wilson
FC Halifax Town:
1. Matt Glennon | 2. Ryan Toulson | 3. Scott McManus | 4. Liam Hogan | 5. Liam Needham| 6. Danny Lowe (C) | 7. Jon Worthington | 8. Paul Marshall | 9. Alex Titchener | 10. Dan Gardner | 11. Gareth Seddon | Subs: 12. Phil Senior, 14. Lee Gregory (Titchener, 9), 15. Sean Williams (Gardner, 89), 16. Connor Qualtar, 17. Tom Platt