FC Halifax Town edged a nervy encounter 1-0 against Forest Green Rovers to record back-to-back wins in the Skrill Premier.
The Shaymen were made to work hard for their first win and clean sheet at the Shay in over a month against a plucky Rovers side, but kicked off their festive fixtures with a welcome three points thanks to Marc Roberts’ headed goal.
The win will give Town extra reason to celebrate at this time of year after the heart-breaking nature of their defeat at Forest Green earlier this season, but the result remained in doubt right until the end, despite the visitors being reduced to 10 men after the interval.
Neil Aspin named the same side that started the 2-1 win at Dartford last week, but had to work a lot harder for openings against a Forest Green side who looked keen to bounce back from their embarassing FA Trophy exit at the hands of Evo-Stik side Chorley in midweek.
Forest Green’s unexpectedly inconsistent season hit a new low with that defeat, but the visitors shaded the opening exchanges with some well-constructed approach play, although they desperately lacked a cutting edge.
Town could be accused of that too as they were often pushed onto the back foot early on without ever being in any danger of even getting close to the calmatous start they suffered against Woking last time out at home.
The Shaymen gradually came out of their shell though, with Paul Marshall fizzing a low shot just wide from 20 yards.
Then after Roberts had almost magnetically met the early crosses Rovers slung into the Town box, he predictably rose higher than anyone else to head in Adam Smith’s corner at the other end.
A set-piece seemed to offer the most effective route to goal even before Roberts’ opener, with the two sides tending to cancel each other out in open-play, although Smith provided his usual lively outlet on the right with the odd jinking run and cross.
Rovers, whose away record was on a par with Town’s, even with that win at Dartford, recording just one win from their last 10 away games in all competitions, huffed and puffed but struggled to mount much of a response.
Some rather rough treatment on Joe Ironside struggled to get much of a response from referee Ross Joyce either, which in turn provoked the ire of the home supporters, as the young striker was left battered and bruised by centre-backs Dale Bennett and Aaron Racine without so much as a free-kick in his favour.
Rovers came flying out of the traps after the interval as Anthony Barry’s 30 yard drive was superbly tipped behind by the previously redundant Matt Glennon, while Scott McManus showed equally alert reactions to clear James Norwood’s header off the line from the resulting corner.
A sweeping move then saw Marcus Kelly sprint in behind a static Town defence, only for his cut-back to Danny Wright to be cleared by Roberts’ desperate lunge.
The visitors were suddenly slicing through the Town rearguard and made a mockery of their status as the division’s third lowest scorers on the road.
Town weathered the storm but their now slender lead elicited a few nerves among players and supporters, with one or two stray passes creeping into Town’s play.
The South Stand reacted positively to their side’s sticky patch as they heartily cheered Halifax on before the noise level was cranked up another notch by Paul Green’s lunge on Marshall mid-way through the second period, which was rightly followed by a red card.
That sending-off came at an opportune time for Town and blunted Rovers’ threat after they had enjoyed an excellent start to the second-half and were unlucky not to cap it with an equaliser.
They continued to create the better chances as Wright flashed a header across goal from a corner, although Town didn’t help their own cause as they remained sloppy in possession, with Town’s inability to kill off the visitors making for a more tense finish than it perhaps should have been.
Halifax: Glennon, Maynard, Ainge, Roberts, McManus, Smith (Worthington 74), Pearson, Marshall, Gardner, Wilson, Ironside (Holsgrove 59). Subs not used: Senior, Love, Anderson.
Scorer: Roberts (27)
Shots on target: 1
Shots off target: 4
Forest Green: Russell, Hodgkiss, Bennett, Racine, Kelly, Norwood (Alabi 83), Barry, Wright (Styche 83), Green, Asafu-Adjaye, Barnes-Homer (Taylor 70). Subs not used: Oshodi, McHugh.
Shots on target: 2
Shots off target: 3
Town man of the match: Marc Roberts