FC Halifax Town secured their first away league win of the season at the 11th time of asking with a hard-fought 2-1 victory at Dartford.
Town have travelled almost as many miles as Santa in search of their first league win on the road, but four months of waiting was finally ended thanks to second-half goals from Joe Ironside and Josh Wilson.
Dartford seemed to offer Halifax’s best chance of ending that run and so it proved as the home side played exactly like a team without a win from their last 11 outings.
It was perhaps more braun than brain that secured the three points, but few could argue it was deserved as the collective frustrations of too many away points dropped was put to bed.
Neil Aspin made three changes from the side that started against Woking, with Josh Wilson replacing Archie Love, Marc Roberts returning in place of Tom Anderson and Dan Gardner making his first league start for a month since the 4-0 win over Hyde in place of the suspended Reece Gray.
It was debatable who had the worst record going into the game, with Town collecting just two points from 30 on the road and Dartford losing nine of their last 10 matches.
The visitors came closer to ending their unwanted run early on as Joe Ironside headed straight at Alan Julian from Adam Smith’s superb cross before a Paul Marshall free-kick was flicked onto the post by the Sheffield United loanee.
Dartford also came close when Dave Martin’s stinging drive from 30 yards was pushed round the post by Matt Glennon.
But Halifax looked much more comfortable on the ball, with the hosts often resorting to percentage football; perhaps not the wisest route to goal considering the height disadvantage of strikers Adam Birchall and Matt Godden against Town’s centre-backs.
There was the occassional murmur of discontent from the home supporters, some of whom sounded like they‘d rather be doing their Christmas shopping as the Darts did little to suggest they would stop their search for a win on their own turf extending to more than three months.
The Shaymen strung together the odd passage of play that was very easy on the eye but it was mostly a contest of tough tackles and safety-first clearances.
You couldn’t blame either side for not wanting to be the first to crack given their recent form as the game played out in stark contrast to the five-goal cup-tie Dartford edged the last time they met at Princes Park.
This was certainly a timely return for Marc Roberts, who immediately made his presence felt with some well-timed interceptions as if he’d never been away.
Town looked a far tougher nut to crack with him back in the heart of their defence, but still missed the equally decisive impact of Lee Gregory at the other end.
The opening half was then bookended by another great chance for Ironside after Kenny Clark failed to clear Smith’s through ball, but the Town striker’s shot across goal was tipped behind by Julian at full stretch.
Dartford continued to play as if Niall Quinn and Peter Crouch were up-front instead of two five-foot something strikers, hoping to force a mistake from the Town defence rather than create something from their own endeavours.
Julian continued to be the far busier keeper as he palmed away Matt Pearson’s long-range effort before blocking Marshall’s fierce drive as Town enjoyed their strongest spell of pressure yet.
It culminated in Ironside finding the net from the most difficult of his chances as he brought down Lois Maynard’s cross before driving the ball back across Julian left-footed.
But that arrived moments after a slip by Simon Ainge let in substitute Danny Harris, but he fired weakly at Glennon freom inside the box.
Dartford had reacted well to falling behind and briefly had Town on the ropes, but the Shaymen secured the extra breathing space they needed when another delightful cross by Smith from the left was nodded in at the back post by Wilson.
An away trip wouldn’t be an away trip without some late drama, and Dartford certainly provided it as an innocuous-looking free-kick was headed in by Connor Essam.
Suddenly a comfortable stroll to the final whistle was transformed into a nerve-shredding climax as Town were pinned back inside their own half, but there was no repeat of Forest Green here.
Dartford: Julian, Burns, Clark, Essam, Sterling, Noble (Cornhill 81), Bradbrook, Stevenson, Martin, Birchall (Harris 60), Godden. Subs not used: Mitchel-King, Collier, Woodyard.
Scorer: Essam (83)
Shots on target: 4
Shots off target: 3
Halifax: Glennon, Pearson, Roberts, Ainge, McManus, Smith, Maynard, Marshall, Gardner (Worthington 72), Wilson, Ironside (Holsgrove 87). Subs not used: Senior, Patterson, Love.
Scorers: Ironside (63), Wilson (73)
Shots on target: 7
Shots off target: 2
Town man of the match:Joe Ironside