FC Halifax Town
moved one point closer to securing a play-off place despite being denied victory against Oxford in the final moments of the game.
With Harrogate losing, victory would have meant Town needed just a draw against Harrogate this Thursday to confirm a play-off spot. However a contentious free kick resulted in Oxford scoring an equaliser and Town having to settle for a draw.
Town had come from behind after Filipe Barcelos put the hosts ahead in the twelfth minute. But two goals in the space of ten minutes courtesy of James Bolton and Dan Gardner
had put the visitors on track for their thirteenth away win of the season before Adam Learoyd’s header in the last minute of normal time meant Town had to settle for a share of the spoils.
However the major talking point after the game was the decision of referee Adrian Quelch to not give Alex Johnson
a penalty after being pulled to the ground as Town went in search for a third and decisive goal, a decision that Town were clearly aggrieved by with visible protests at the end of the game.
Neil Aspin opted to stick with the 3-5-2 formation that Town deployed in their victory over Boston three days previous. Matt Pearson replaced the suspended Ryan Toulson
while Liam Needham
and Danny Glover replaced Jon Worthington
and Alex Titchiner.
was the first keeper to be tested after being forced into saving Jamie Cook’s deflected strike.
Yet it was the Shaymen who should have taken the lead in the eighth minute. Danny Glover’s lofted pass found the unmarked Lee Gregory
, but Town’s top scorer couldn’t convert in a one-on-one position.
Neil Aspin’s side were duly punished just four minutes later. James Knowles failed to deal with a long ball up field and Brazilian Filipe Barcelos expertly beat Danny Lowe
before looping a shot over the onrushing Matt Glennon
to give the hosts an early lead.
Town, despite enjoying their fair share of possession, were failing to create anything in the final third of the pitch while Oxford continued to push forward for a second goal. Mark Bell’s free kick was claimed at the second attempt by Glennon and shortly afterwards Andy Gunn should have done better from Bell’s dangerous free-kick.
James Knowles was cautioned after a number of fouls and Aspin was duly prompted into replacing the defender with Dan Gardner
just 33 minutes into the game.
It was a substitution that sparked the Shaymen into life. Glover and Gregory both came close after Townsend failed to deal with a free kick, before Gregory again found space but failed to convert Scott McManus
’ precise cross from six yards out.
Gardner’s presence had shifted momentum in Town’s favour as the visitors began to increasingly penetrate Oxford’s defence. Gardner’s spectacular long range effort was equally matched by Townsend’s acrobatic save while Matt Pearson’s header was hacked off the line by Liam Malone soon afterwards.
and Darren Pond exchanged chances in the opening stages of the second half before Town got their equaliser. It was once again Gardner who caused havoc in the Oxford ranks, weaving his way into the area with ease before his precise lay-off was guided home by James Bolton for his second goal in three games since his loan move to The Shay.
But Town were by no means content with a point on their travel down south, a point reinforced by Neil Aspin’s decision to bring striker Alex Johnston to the fray.
And ten minutes later Town turned the game on its head. After Liam Needham
missed a glorious chance from six yards out, Gregory was bundled to the ground by Townsend and the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. Gardner stepped up and sent the keeper the wrong way after a stuttering run up. It was a confident finish from the former Droylsden
midfielder who had missed his previous penalty in Town’s stalemate against Bishop’s Stortford.
Needham once again came close after his scuffed shot crawled wide of the far post, before Johnson was wrestled to the ground after racing on to Gardner’s astonishing 70 yard pass, however the referee disagreed.
Despite their solitary goal advantage, Town looked in no danger of conceding despite throwing on experienced striker Steve Basham.
Unfortunately, Town conceded in the dying embers. A free kick was pumped into the box and substitute Learoyd rose highest to slam his header over Glennon and into the roof of the net.
1, Nick Townsend 2, Declan Benjamin 3, Paul Stonehouse 4, Liam Malone 5, Andy Gunn (Adam Learoyd, 62) 6, Chris Wilmott © 7, Nick Stanley (Callum McNish, 62) 8, Darren Pond 9, Filipe Barcelos 10, Jamie Cook (Steve Basham, 74) 11, Mark Bell Subs not used 16, Zac McEachran 17, Louis Joyce
FC Halifax Town
1, Matt Glennon
2, Matt Pearson 3, Scott McManus
4, James Bolton 5, James Knowles (Dan Gardner
, 33) 6, Danny Lowe
© 7, Chris Worsley
, 8, Sean Williams 9, Danny Glover (Alex Johnson
, 61) 10, Lee Gregory
11, Liam Needham
Subs not used: 12, Phil Senior
16, Jason St Juste
Goals: Filipe Barcelos (12) James Bolton (58) Dan Gardner
(68) Adam Learoyd (90)
Yellow Cards: James Knowles (30) Sean Williams (55) Nick Townsend (67) Steve Basham (78)
M.O.M: Dan Gardner