Bristol Rovers 2-1 FC Halifax Town

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FC Halifax Town were cruelly denied a draw as Bristol Rovers snatched a late goal to win 2-1 and inflict the first defeat of the season on the Shaymen.

Town looked to have taken a share of the spoils, they least they deserved, but there was a sting in the tale and a flashback to Forest Green and Chester last season as substitute Ellis Harrison grabbed a late winner.

Rovers took a first-half lead through Adam Cunnington but had been second best afterwards, particularly in a second-half dominated by Halifax, who equalised through Scott Boden’s third in three games.

If trailing to Lincoln early on had posed Town a question, then losing here at half-time did too.

But the Shaymen again found the answer with an impressive second-half performance.

A point before kick-off would have been a good afternoon’s work but come full-time, Town could justifiably have felt hard done-by with a draw.

A defeat was even more hard to take.

Town were far more accomplished in possession to begin with as any errors by Rovers, sporting boots of more different colours than a bag of Skittles, were greeted with a collective groan around the Memorial Stadium.

But they were nearly cheering a goal when Richard Peniket, wearing strapping to his right knee, cleared a header off the line from a corner.

That heralded a brighter spell by the hosts after a quiet start, with Jamie White heading straight at Matt Glennon from the lively Dave Martin’s cross.

Rovers’ front two of White and Adam Cunnington bagged 19 goals between them in the Conference Premier last season and ensured it was a physical battle with Marc Roberts and Steve Williams.

With Rovers outnumbered in central midfield, they found much more joy out wide, especially through Martin down the left.

Peniket’s succumbed to his knee injury, despite the strapping, shortly before Town conceded their first goal on their travels this season.

Cunnington, who scored twice against Halifax on the opening weekend last year, nodded in a right-wing cross after out-jumping Roberts. Not many strikers can boast that.

Town had mustered a couple of shots on target before then through Paul Marshall and Boden but were yet to get into their stride.

Marshall went closer with his second free-kick, forcing a fine save from Steve Mildenhall, who then stood up well to another Boden shot from close range as Town hit back.

Boden belied his smaller frame to hold the ball up well against the two towering Rovers centre-backs and had linked up effectively with Peniket before his withdrawal.

The early change prompted a reshuffle as Matt Pearson was shifted to the right but the visitors couldn’t find the same tempo that swept them to victory so stylishly at Chester in their last away game.

Rovers fans taunted the 260 away supporters with chants of ‘top of the league, you’re having a laugh’ as half-time approached, but the hosts had been given little to smile about themselves after Cunnington’s goal as Town contained them fairly well.

And with Barnet winning at Southport, the chant wasn’t even correct.

Town switched to 4-4-2 at the start of the second-half and from his more advanced role on the left, Marshall brought another good save from Mildenhall almost immediately.

The Shaymen’s growing corner count reflected their more attacking approach as Rovers were barely allowed out of their own half.

White’s clever turn and shot wide on the hour mark was a rare foray forward and was quickly followed by Boden’s equaliser.

Seconds after White was taken off, Marshall’s flighted ball picked out the Town striker who slotted the ball beyond Mildenhall and into the far corner.

It was no more than Town deserved and the home fans knew it too as they became increasingly frustrated at their team’s inferiority.

A slack back-pass to Mildenhall, who subsequently let the ball slip under his feet for a corner summed up their predicament.

Perhaps Neil Aspin could sense it too as he replaced Pearson with Ross Dyer. Hardly the actions of a manager settling for a point.

Aspin applauded his team on from the touchline, encouraged by what he was seeing.

He must have also been encouraged by the rising frustrations of the home supporters against referee Brett Huxtable, who managed to deflect some of their attention away from Rovers’ underwhelming display since the restart.

The hosts looked a spent force, and a bit more composure from Town going forward seemed the only thing stopping them from completing the turnaround.

But substitute Harrison popped up out of nowhere to first head straight at Glennon before prodding in the rebound.

Bristol Rovers: Mildenhall, Brown, Trotman, Parkes, Lockyer, Monkhouse, Clarke, Mansell, Martin (Sinclair 68), White (Harrison 61), Cunnington. Subs not used: Puddy, Leadbitter, Brunt.

Scorers: Cunnington (27), Harrison (89)

Shots on target: 4

Shots off target: 2

Corners: 3

Halifax: Glennon, Bolton, M Roberts, Williams, McManus, Peniket (Schofield 25), Marshall, Maynard, Pearson (Dyer 70), Jackson (K Roberts 86), Boden. Subs not used: Senior, Ainge.

Scorer: Boden (62)

Shots on target: 7

Shots off target: 8

Corners: 7

Attendance: 5,394

Town man of the match: Scott McManus