FC Halifax Town
’s record of six games unbeaten finally came to an end tonight as the slumped to a 2-0 defeat to playoff rivals Atrincham.
After a inseparable first-half, the Robins found the decisive spark and carved a weakened Town side open with two well worked goals.
Nicky Clee opened the scoring as he whipped an effort into the bottom corner from 20 yards.
And quickly, former AFC Halifax man Matt Doughty made it two as he completed a flowing passing move by cooly slotting into the bottom corner.
After securing their playoff place on Saturday, Neil Aspin made eight changes to his side that battled to the 1-1 draw with Guiseley
One of those changes was the long-awaited return of Liam Hogan
, who has missed the last few months after surgery on a knee injury.
His usual defensive partner, Danny Lowe
, was rested for the first time this season, meaning Matt Glennon
was gifted the captains armband
also returned to the side after his three game suspension, but in the heart of midfield rather than his more regular right-back position.
Town had the best of the early opportunities as Alex Johnson
, who impressed from the bench on Saturday, battled his way past two challenges before fizzing a low shot across goal.
quickly looked to press their superiority however, and the ball nearly fell fortuitously to Reeves in the box as Matt Jackson hacked clear at the second attempt.
Johnson, eager to impress, was Town’s best attacking outlet during the opening sparring and an audacious run and strike whistled over the bar.
Danny Glover also looked lively for the Shaymen as he patrolled the channels well, but apart from Town winning a few corners, the attacking threat for both sides was being largely cancelled out.
In a somewhat uneventful first-half, the physio’s were being kept busier than the keepers as both sides showed aggression.
James Knowles coming off worst in a clash of heads with Gianluca Havern and having to be bandaged up for the remainder.
Town were arguably playing the better football and came closest to an opener when Johnson swiveled on Gareth Seddon
’s knock-down to fire agonizingly over the bar.
, who were clinical in the 4-3 thriller at the Shay earlier this month, continued to struggle in attack during the first-half as Hogan commanded the Town defence.
But their first - and golden - opportunity fell to top-scorer Reeves who, uncharacteristically, blazed over the bar from eight yards when latching onto Watmore’s scuffed shot.
This sparked the hosts into life somewhat and a long range effort from Boshell looked to test Glennon, but a excellent intervention from substitute Matty Pearson thwarted the midfielder.
Contrary to the first-half, the second-45 started in a much livelier fashion with the hosts taking the lead almost immediately.
Carl Rodgers turned St Juste expertly on the edge of the box before setting Clee, who curled his precise effort past the reach of a lunging Glennon.
Buoyed by that opener, Altrincham
continued to press and nearly found a second when Clee whipped a dangerous cross into the box that Pearson cleared acrobatically with Watmore poised.
Town continued to counter quickly, and Jason St Juste
nearly produced something magical as he dribbled from his own half before unleashing a drive against Scott Leather.
The Robins, enjoying much more in attack, came agonizingly close to a second when a goal-mouth scrambled ensued after substitute Patrick Lacey’s telling cross wasn’t cleared.
As a melee of legs attempted to command the ball, it was eventually cleared as far as Moult who lashed it wide.
’s pressure soon told as they put together a beautifully crafted team move before Doughty showed guile to slot past a stationary Glennon.
One again, Johnson was to come closest for the visitors. Town built expertly from the back before St Juste burst to the byline. His cross was drilled low and Johnson’s guiding first time effort flicked wide.
From the resulting corner, Pearson rose highest but saw his header hooked off-the-line desperately by Leather for another corner.
And finally, Town’s spell of pressure ended as Seddon met the resulting corner first, but headed well wide.
This was the last clear opening for Town, with a blocked snapshot from Johnson the only sight on goal as the game drew to a close.
The Shaymen, who now slip into fifth place, face table-toppers Chester on Thursday in their remaining game-in-hand.
Goals: Clee, Doughty
Attendance: 990 - 192 away fans