FC Halifax Town came from a goal down to claim the first three points of the season on a hot afternoon in Hertfordshire.
Two goals in four second half minutes, one from Dale Johnson and the other an own goal, saw Town complete an impressive comeback after they fell behind followng some poor first half defending.
Neil Aspin named Liam Needham at left-back for the first game of the new season as Town looked to beat fellow promotion chasers Bishop’s Stortford, in what was the longest away trip of the season.
The first chance fell to Lee Gregory, who hit nine in seven pre-season games for Town, but his free header was deflected over after Bishop’s failed to deal with a Paul Marshall corner.
After an early flurry the game settled down, and it was the Shaymen who created the first real clear cut chances, both for Dale Johnson.
The front man, signed in the summer, read a neat Gareth Seddon flick and got in behind to fire his shot across the keeper, who was fortunate his palmed clearance didn’t fall into the path of Gregory as he followed in.
Two minutes later, Johnson out muscled his man on the edge of the area before unleashed a right foot drive which Bishop’s keeper Luke Chambers was only able to push behind.
The hosts were struggling to create against a compact Town midfield three of Marshall, Jason Jarrett and Jon Worthington, and didn’t get their first attempt on goal until the 22nd minute, but Adam Marriott’s tame drive from range was easy for the Matt Glennon to gather.
Shortly afterwards Seddon saw his header clawed away by Chambers after a whipped cross from Johnson on the right hand side, and Seddon thought he had put the Shaymen ahead after rifling in a Johnson knock down on the half volley, only to be denied by the offside flag.
On 34 minutes Town were given a scare when powerful forward Cliff Akurang saw his header come back off the post after a Matt Johnson free-kick from the right.
But Towndidn’t learn from their warning and after Glennon produced a wonderful point blank save to deny Marriott, Town went behind
Seddon was caught in possession on the half way line and as the ball broke towards Liam Hogan, Marriott snuck in and slipped in Akurang, who beat the offside trap and calmly trickled the ball past the grounded Glennon.
Johnson wasted a good chance to equalise when he squirmed a low Seddon cross from the right behind, and Worthington saw his effort from a similar position around the penalty spot as Town tried in vein to equalise before the break.
Chris Worsley replaced Ryan Toulson at half time after the full back was on the end of a big challenge.
Bishop’s thought they had bundled in a second three minutes into the second half, but Marriott fouled Glennon has the two went for the ball.
But on 52 minutes Town were level, Johnson lifting the ball over the keeper after beating his man.
And just four minutes later Town had completed the turn around.
Gregory burst down the left and fired in a cross which defender Sean Francis could only turn beyond his own keeper with Seddon lurking to send the Town fans wild.
Bishop’s tried to rally, and Reece Prestedge saw his low drive saved at the near post by Glennon just after the hour.
Danny Lowe produced a brave block before Marshall’s vital touch prodded the ball safe after Marriott found time to turn and shoot, and Liam Hogan made two big blocks as Bishop’s started to launch a comeback of their own with 20 minutes to go.
Sub Jamie Rainford, on for Johnson, thought he had put Town 3-1 up after a through ball from Seddon, but again the linesman ruled it out for offside with 13 minutes to play.
Defender Conor Qualter replaced Seddon as Neil Aspin looked to sure up his defence with Bishop’s mounting a charge, but it was at the other end where a chance came, Rainford seeing his shot blocked after Worthington pinched the ball back in midfield with five minutes left.
Bishop’s Stortford: Chambers, Jones (Abullahi, 55 mins), Herd, Spence (Waller Lassen, 55 mins), Obaze, Francis, Johnson, Cawley Simmonds, 60 mins), Akurang, Marriott, Prestedge Unused subs: Milton, Anderson.
FC Halifax Town: Glennon, Toulson (Worsley 45 mins), Needham, Hogan, Jarrett, Lowe, Worthington, Marshall, Johnson (Rainford, 55 mins), Gregory, Seddon (Qualter, 84 mins). Unused subs: Senior, St Juste.