Dartford 2-2 FC Halifax Town

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FC Halifax Town will have to wait for their place in the last eight of the FA Trophy after a dramatic second-half comeback by Dartford.

First-half goals by Richard Peniket and Matt Pearson put Halifax in control of the tie before Dartford launched a fightback.

The hosts looked to be clinging to their place in the FA Trophy at the interval, but by full-time it was Town doing that.

These two sides now meet again on Tuesday night and on this evidence, neither wil be going out of the FA Trophy without a fight.

If Town do make it all the way to Wembley, they’ll certainly know the way thanks to their weekly trips to Dartford lately.

Previous visits to Princes Park have certainly featured their fair share of drama, with penalties, sendings-off and dodgy decisions.

This seemed far more straightforward for The Shaymen on the same ground where they last appeared at that stage in the competition in 2013 when a side featuring Dan Gardner and Lee Gregory were knocked out by the odd goal in five.

That was after a replay, which will be the case again two years on as Dartford mounted a surprising comeback after being outplayed in the first-half.

Dartford went into the game having lost 10 of their last 13 games and on the back of a 6-1 trouncing at Dover.

And they never really looked anything other than a side with serious relegation worries as Halifax strode into a two-goal half-time lead.

This may have been the second biggest cup-tie of the day as far as West Yorkshire was concerned, but while Bradford battled to a historic win away in the FA Cup at Stamford Bridge, Halifax had their fair share of cup drama too.

While Dartford got off to a dream start last Tuesday, this time it was Town’s turn as Peniket touched in Paul Marshall’s superb free-kick after 10 minutes.

Neil Aspin has been frustrated in his search for another striker recently. With Peniket in this form, he may not need one.

It was now one clean sheet in 32 games for the hosts. Falling behind within 10 minutes can’t have been high on boss Tony Burman’s check-list after their 6-1 thrashing at Dover last week.

And Town didn’t look like stopping there as Scott Boden’s shot crashed off the bar following an excellent move, culminating in Kevin Roberts’ cross.

Town were playing like the home side as they pinned Dartford back, with Adam Smith getting the beating of left-back Callum Driver as the right flank already looked a rich source of Halifax attacks.

There was far more finesse about the visitors’ attacks than Dartford, whose long balls served little purpose apart from temporarily easing the pressure on their defence.

Set-pieces looked like Dartford’s best route to goal, with Harry Crawford seeing a shot blocked from a free-kick slung into the box.

Town used the ball smartly, moving Dartford around and forcing the hosts to chase possession, often without getting it back.

It was difficult not to sympathise with Crawford, who had scored in each of Dartford’s last three games, but was given the unenviable task of competing for high balls against Marc Roberts and Steve Williams.

From a debatable free-kick, Crawford fashioned a good chance with some neat control to bring the ball out of the air before his volley was saved by Matt Glennon, who along with Marshall were the only survivors from the side that started the quarter-final defeat at Princes Park two years ago.

But while Dartford attacks were of the hit-and-hope variety, there was some thought behind Town’s forays forward, with Danny Schofield and Marshall dictating their direction from central midfield.

Such was the gap in quality between the sides that Pearson’s goal just before half-time looked to have sealed the win even before the interval.

Smith was the architect with a dinked cross from the left which Pearson nodded in from eight yards, despite the efforts of keeper Jason Brown, who must be sick of picking the ball out of his own net by now.

But it was soon Glennon doing that as Dartford capped a strong start to the second-half as Lee Burns headed in a corner.

That was exactly the boost Dartford needed, with the hosts now putting up much more of a fight, pressing Town higher up the pitch and committing more bodies forward.

It was heart-in-mouth time for The Shaymen whenever Dartford won a corner, with Town forced into some desperate defending from set-pieces.

The match had turned on its head since the restart, with the ball now coming back towards the Town box with increasing regularity and the hosts struggling to make much of an impression in the opposition half.

It was a spirited effort from a side with five defeats from their last six games and had certainly unsettled Halifax, who looked a little flustered in possession.

As the clock ticked down, Dartford looked to have run out of puff, only for Rory McAuley to bring a fantastic save from Glennon with a bullet header before Town survived a scramble in the penalty area.

Town then succumbed to the seemingly inevitable when McAuley converted one of the barrage of crosses that peppered the final stages of a dramatic conclusion to the game.

It wasn’t just Bradford experiencing some cup drama as the game reached an incredible end-to-end finale, with Dartford having a goal disallowed deep into stoppage time while Peniket just failed to reach substitute Will Hatfield’s low cross at the other end.

Dartford: Brown, Burns, McAuley, Doidge (Harris 67), Driver (Daley 80), Bradbrook, Noble, Sweeney (Hayes 46), Collier, Mitchel-King, Crawford. Subs not used: Cornhill, Ibrahim.

Scorers: Burns (50), McAuley (89)

Shots on target: 6

Shots off target: 1

Corners: 10

Halifax: Glennon, K Roberts, M Roberts, Williams, McManus, Smith (Hatfield 56), Schofield, Marshall (Jackson 67), Pearson, Boden (Killock 86), Peniket. Subs not used: Senior, Hillhouse.

Scorers: Peniket (10), Pearson (44)

Shots on target: 5

Shots off target: 7

Corners: 2

Town man of the match: Danny Schofield