FC Halifax Town succumbed to a frustrating defeat at the hands of Yorkshire rivals Harrogate Town at The Shay last night, in a match that the home side dominated but were thwarted by their visitors’ stubborn defence.
A breathtaking opening quarter of an hour provided all of the game’s goals, as Harrogate scored twice against the run of play, before Dan Gardner pulled one back for the Shaymen. From thereon in, the match was entirely dominated by the home side, as Simon Weaver’s side looked to put men behind the ball and see out the match.
Ultimately, somehow, they did manage to reach the final whistle without further concession, despite a plethora of Town chances, three of which struck woodwork.
This Yorkshire derby was being played at the third attempt. As a spectacle, the wait did not deter from the entertainment.
Twice within the first three minutes Gardner had the visitors worried. Scott McManus was tripped by Paul Bolland on the left wing, the free kick for which Gardner whipped into the box with such velocity that it evaded Craig McGilvary’s leap in the Harrogate goal and struck the crossbar.
From the same play, the ball eventually escaped the Harrogate area though fell to Gardner, who had lurked infield. He strode forward and struck low from 25 yards, an effort which McGilvary did well to touch around his right-hand post.
The action continued, but after five minutes it was Harrogate who took the lead with an ugly goal. A corner was just about cleared off the line by the Shaymen, but not cleared far enough. A mêlée ensued in the box and Matthew Bloomer found enough space to stab home.
The punch was not a sucker for Town, who looked to get back at their visitors straight away. Barely ten minutes had passed before Gardner had the crossbar rattling again. He struck left-footed from close range and McGilvary reacted superbly to tip the effort up and onto the woodwork.
The end-to-end action continued as Bolland all of a sudden found himself baring down on Matt Glennon’s goal. Cutting in diagonally from the left wing, he chipped delightfully over the Town goalkeeper, who in looking to close down the opposition captain, found himself in no man’s land.
A breathless opening 15 minutes was complete as the Shaymen grabbed a goal back. It was again Gardner with the strike, this time from inside the area, but on this occasion the ball squeezed through a number of yellow and black shirts to deviate past McGilvary.
Eventually the match evened out, as both sides became accustomed to each other. Not that this deterred Adam Bolder from testing Glennon’s concentration with an accurate punt from 40 yards, or Chib Chilaka from bursting through and dragging a shot wide.
It was in forcing Chilaka to miscue his shot that Liam Hogan sustained an injury, landing awkwardly after the challenge. He was forced to retire from the match, with Rochdale loanee Matt Pearson deputising.
Alex Titchiner, as busy as he always is, had time to turn his marker on the edge of the Harrogate area and force McGilvary into another smart save before referee Wootton blew his whistle to signify the end of a whirlwind first 45.
Gardner got the second half under way with a storming run down the right flank. He cut the ball cleverly back to Lee Gregory but the striker’s foot became entangled with ball and he couldn’t manage a shot on goal.
He had another chance soon after, though headed tamely at McGilvary from a Gardner corner as Town looked to take the game to their visitors, who were forced into changing their shape as early as five minutes into the second half.
Halifax still enforced pressure, as Williams went close with a powerful strike from range, McGilvary’s goal was only avoided via a deflection on the way through.
Gradually, however, Harrogate, who were failed to register a single shot of intent on goal in the second half, began to contain the Shaymen, forcing Neil Aspin to play his own hand, sending on Adriano Moke for Liam Needham, with Moke and Gardner attacking from wide.
The change yielded instant results, as Moke’s long winding run set up a Town attack. The winger played a delightful reverse pass to substitute Gareth Seddon, in his first appearance since suffering from tonsillitis, though the striker’s shot was batted away by McGilvary.
Chris Worsley then went within an inch of securing a Town equaliser when striking low and hard just past the post from the edge of the box.
Still Aspin’s men, buoyed by a vociferous backing from 1093 Shaymen fans, pressed. McManus struck from 40 yards, with the swerving strike causing McGilvary all sorts of problems as he spilled the effort just wide of the left-hand upright.
Cross after cross came whizzing in from the Halifax wings, though time and again, somehow, Harrogate managed to deal with the danger.
Moke went agonisingly close deep into added time. As McManus’s cross floated in, McGilvary spilled the ball and Moke, stretching at the far post, could only direct onto the corner of the woodwork.
It ended a desperately frustrating night for the Shaymen, who threw everything they physically could at a stubborn Harrogate, though ultimately fell short. The win moves Weaver’s side to within a point of the Shaymen, who now look towards a tough trip away to Solihull Moors on Saturday.