An eruption of noise, jubilation and a touch of chaos greeted the final whistle from the Shaymen end, as Scott McManus’s stunning second half strike secured FC Halifax Town’s first ever FA Trophy honour with a 1-0 victory against Grimsby at Wembley.
The pain of relegation to the Conference North was eased at the home of football with an incredible performance from Jim Harvey’s side against the newly promoted League 2 opponents.
The atmosphere inside the stadium had been building well before the players came to warm-out. Yet as the teams made their way onto the famous turf, the incredible 10,000 travelling supporters bellowed their voices around Wembley as they witnessed their side grace the national stadium’s presence for the very first time.
They continued to dominate the noise battle under the famous arch throughout the 90 minutes.
The first half was always going to be a cagey affair, yet it was almost the perfect start for Halifax. A loose header fell to Jordan Burrow on 7 minutes, who swiffled but was unable to direct his strike on target at an acute angle from six yards.
Goalkeeper Sam Johnson wasn’t called into action until the 17th minute, comfortably dealing with Padraig Amond’s header during Town’s minute applause for the fallen Shaymen who were unable to attend the final.
Matty Brown managed to evade his marker brilliant but was unable to direct his free header at goal from a MacDonald corner on the half hour mark.
The game was nicely poised as the teams emerged for the second half. Richard Peniket immediately looked to change things with a driving run down the left 3 minutes into the restart.
His efforts were rewarded as he found himself in the area. Peniket’s low delivery was spilled out to the edge of the area via an outstretched McKeown and fell neatly to left-back Scott McManus, who curled home a right-foot stunner to write his name into the history books.
Grimsby looked rattled and couldn’t turn the tie, with tensions boiling in the centre circle after a challenge from Jon Nolan on skipper Nicky Wroe.
Wroe’s effort on 60 minutes was spilled by McKeown but Burrow was unable to capitalize on what would have been a tap in whilst a left footed effort from Grimsby’s Omar Bugle sailed high into the stands moments later.
The concluding stages became a nail-biter when the goal scorer McManus was forced off through injury after rolling over his ankle. Kingsley James replaced him, just 24 hours into married life.
Johnson produced a stunning save from Jon Nolan’s powerful strike as the nails began to get thinner and thinner for the Halifax supporters.
4 minutes of additional time was filled with end-to-end drama. Substitute Connor Hughes looked like he was going to seal the trophy for the Shaymen when he timed the offside trap perfectly, but Aristote Nsiala showed tremendous pace and desire to get back and throw his body in Hughes path.
Up the other end a corner for Grimsby allowed keeper McKeown to join the attack. The delivery caused pinball in Halifax’s area but was eventually thumped away, the team’s defensive heroics greeted by the roar from the supporters.
The dream became reality for the Halifax players and supporters moments later as the final whistle was greeted with incredible emotion both on the pitch and in the stand.
The captain Nicky Wroe lead his team-mates up the famous Wembley steps. He stood alongside the injured McManus at the trophy celebration and lifted the trophy as one.
As the supporters looked upon their champions underneath a sea of confetti and champagne, the wait for the club to grace Wembley with its presence was truly worth it.