FC Halifax Town 1 County 3
County served up a real treat for their travelling support at the Shay Stadium today, coming away with an unexpected but thoroughly well deserved 3-1 win against Conference National newcomers FC Halifax Town.
On paper, County faced a tonking. After all we only had 14 players on our books against the 23 listed for the home side, many of them proven quality. Indeed I fully expected us to lose by several goals like pre-season 12 months ago, but it never quite materialised in that way as County gave us a performance to be proud of, never looking seriously threatened throughout.
Asked to name County`s stand out performers I would unhesitatingly point immediately in the direction of hot shot Kristian Dennis who must have added a few noughts to his estimated value by slamming home two absolute beauties! Trialist Kayde Koppin scored the other one, but he does not get the second accolade.....no...... this goes to James Tunnicliffe who took up position some way in front of the back four from where he hustled ....bustled and generally put himself about in really impressive style. What an eye opener!
The team generally worked well together - the defence defended well, and the midfield with Craney again showing up to advantage, gelled nicely with Dennis, Jevons and Turner whose varied talents had Halifax at sixes and sevens at times.
None of this looked remotely possible at 3 o`clock as the game got underway in bright sunshine.
I peered through this brightness with disbelieving eyes to see Tunnicliffe stationed some way in front of what vaguely looked like a back four. I say stationed, but that does not accurately cover the situation as, straight from the off he seemed to be in the face of anyone who moved in black/red. That said it was Halifax who got the first move going and Lois Maynard looked disappointed to see Josh Wilson unable to reach his cross and get a shot in.
Turner replied for County, taking the ball to the by-line, but Marc Roberts did just enough to see him off without disturbing former Hatter Matt Glennon the Town keeper.
Some good work by Craney was then rather let down by his indifferent strike that followed, but, if I was at all disappointed with that action I was positively apoplectic next as Halifax slung the ball forward to Kevin Holsgrove down the left. It was a decent enough ball but Holsgrove was some 10 yards ( at least) off side! No matter the near side liner`s flag stayed down, largely because he was struggling to catch up with play and losing out badly. On Holsgrove went, as we went AS in response behind the hapless officials back. Luckily for County O`Halloran was able to block the eventual shot before the ball was cleared up the park, but ,with the refereeing and line running horrors of seasons past in mind this was not a good start to the game.
Did this slightly unnerve County? I do not think so, but it was arguable I suppose, because almost immediately Ormson was in action dealing with another long ball as it headed his way in the box.
It went long from the County keeper and the blues had themselves a free kick as Hand was fouled mid way into the Halifax half. Hand`s kick was a good one, but although Charnock beat everyone to it, his header flew over the bar.
The tenth minute arrived with the game scoreless as County, and their supporters, looked on in total disbelief to see the ball with Josh Wilson and Adam Smith –both of whom were yards offside. It was another dreadful bit of officiating and we told the liner so as he struggled again to make up the ground! Once again County`s luck held though, and Wilson`s shot came out to safety off a defender, but we deserved better than this from the officials!
No matter.......they kept plugging away, but Turner was a whisker away from getting to Jacobs through ball in the box, and it was still the home side that was doing most of the attacking as Ormson saved from Smith. The County keeper was looking confident, but could only stand and watch next as Dan Gardner shot wide after linking up well with Simon Ainge.
The 14th minute came with Craney and Turner combining neatly to set Jevons up with a chance, but he sliced his effort and again Glennon did not need to move in response.
Just a minute later and the near side liner`s incompetence worked in County`s favour as a neat through ball from Gardner allowed Wilson to chip the ball over Ormson`s head to give Halifax the lead.......or so we thought! It looked a good goal I must say, but the inept official was adamant- it was offside, and it stayed 0-0!
Until the 20th minute that is......and the whole complexion of the game suddenly changed. It started with a foul on Craney, spotted by the referee who awarded a free kick. This was pinged in, and O`Halloran `s effort following up seemed to have ended the excitement when it struck a defender, but it went out to Dennis who was stationed on the edge of the box.....then in an instant he was inside it and had unleashed a massively powerful left footed shot which would have taken Glennon`s hand off had he been unlucky enough to have got it in the way.....he didn`t though and the ball thumped into the bar before nearly taking the netting from its moorings on its was in! Fantastic strike...fantastic goal!
This signalled a period of Halifax pressure, and Wilson twice made it past Jacob without being able to apply that vital finish. All this while Tunnicliffe had been a magnet for much applause as he constantly put himself about in the County cause- this was so good to see and so unexpected!
On the half hour, with Halifax on the rack, Tunnicliffe refused to release County`s grip and soon enough another goal looked on as Turner`s speed saw him in behind the home back line. Had he had a go when stationed in front just inside the box....who knows.....but with Marc Roberts pressing him and forcing him ever wider, he was unable eventually to get a shot off and the chance was gone.
Another came soon enough though through Hand who linked nicely with Dennis, and with Craney joining the duo things seemed on the up- swing, until Craney was fouled by Ainge, and the referee gave the free kick to Halifax!
As a result of this latest absurdity, County were under the cosh, and a series of corners might well have undermined their confidence further had not Roberts and then Gardner planted their headers wide.
Both teams took turns next to probe each other`s defences, but nothing looked to materialise from the action not even when Gardner won his side a free kick in a tasty position with the most theatrical of dives. A lively debate took place on my row as to where the kick was taken from as Gardner`s series of energetic rolls seemed to start some little distance in front of Glennon`s goal mouth before ending just outside the box. Maybe I exaggerate, but not by much, and Garner went off so I`ll say no more, except that the kick was defended well ,as was the corner that came after before Tunnicliffe belted the ball clear to applause.
With half time just 3 minutes away, County replied through O`Halloran, and brilliant work by him gained the blues a free kick that saw Jevons just kept out at the last gasp.
After this we waited in vain again for the liner`s flag as Holsgrove scooted clear whilst patently offside, and it was relief to see Charnock in position to put the ball out of play when much worse was on the cards. It was a corner right enough, and Roberts was there to get his head to it when it came over, but so was Ormson and his dive allowed him to push the ball to safety with his left hand. Good stuff!
The half ended with Dennis to the fore winning good possession. It came to nothing but on balance a 1-0 lead was pretty satisfactory from County`s viewpoint!
I was hoping that we would see no changes after the break, but the re-start saw Turner and Charnock replaced by Aman Verma and Kayde Koppin , both fresh names and faces to me!
Tunnicliffe by this point had drifted back into the back four, as Maynard opened his account in the second 45 by lifting a shot over the bar.
That was not that impressive, I must say, but what followed was and it came from County...more specifically via hot shot Kristian Dennis. It was really pleasing to see him link up with Jevons on the edge of the box, the older man laying the ball off nicely for the other to take it on the turn and shoot, and what a shot it was again, and Glennon had no chance at all of getting to it as it thudded into the back of the net to make it 2-0 to County!
This really boosted the blues confidence and Fagbola dealt with a couple of decent raids down the left with typical calm with cheers and applause ringing in his ears from the travelling fans.
If some the Halifax work was less than brilliant, this did not mean that County could relax, indeed Ormson had to look lively twice to keep it at 2-0- first keeping Maynard`s strike out and then, not long after, dashing out to prevent Smith from scoring on the break, before topping both of these efforts with a brilliant diving save to stop Holsgrove on the hour.
Halifax were certainly trying now and once...twice...three more times Ormson was called on to punch catch or otherwise thwart the Yorkshiremen`s growing desire to claw a goal back. In the face of this, County defended with admirable application – thankful to Ormson at times maybe, but generally organising themselves well.
They did the biz again , on 76 minutes, to keep Roberts from heading home from a corner, but when the ball came back to him from Marshall`s cross, they could not respond and the Town number five sent a thumping header into the net to make it 2-1.
That was disappointing if not totally unexpected, but it took County just 3 minutes to reclaim their two goal lead, and it came from an unexpected source- new man Kayde Koppin who cut inside before bending a neat finish past Glennon into the net. It was 3-1 and probably game over, but with 10 minutes left you never know!
There was defending for County to do for sure ,with Halifax now desperate to get back into it, but every move was countered with calm assurance as Koppin, O`Halloran and Jacobs all made telling clearances under pressure.
But.............there was certainly time for County to try to add to that lead, and try they did and there seemed to be a measure of success as Craney`s lofted cross seemed to strike a home hand on its way across the box. The referee was having none of it however, and gave us a corner instead, thereafter disappointing us further by disallowing the goal that followed when Koppin fired home from about 10 yards. `Tunnicliffe had climbed all over his man’ I guess he said, and he was right
Halifax kept plugging away after this, as did County, but the score stayed at 3-1 which was just about right!
Yes.....things are moving on nicely now. I really felt this one was a match we would lose, and for us to win it so well, is a credit to everyone involved!
County line up:
Ormson, Jacobs, Fagbola, Charnock ( Verma 45), O`Halloran, Tunnicliffe, Craney, Hand ( Bateman 65),Turner ( Koppin 45), Jevons( Windsor 77), Dennis.
Halifax line up;
Glennon, Lowe, McManus, Briggs, Roberts, Ainge, Smith, Maynard, Wilson, Gardner, Holsgrove.