FC Halifax Town 1-1 Kidderminster

FC Halifax Town v Kidderminster.
FC Halifax Town v Kidderminster.
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FC Halifax Town will play Cambridge United in the play-offs after they drew 1-1 with Kidderminster at the Shay.

Halifax host Cambridge on Wednesday before going back to where it all began at the Abbey Stadium next Sunday to fight for a place in the final at Wembley.

Josh Wilson’s goal after one minute looked to have set Town on course for a third-placed finish, but Kidderminster produced a polished performance to take a share of the spoils, the least they deserved.

Had they won, Town would have been hosting Gateshead next weekend, but Cambridge arguably offer the Shaymen’s most promising route to Wembley having now lost four games in-a-row.

Halifax can no longer claim to be the side with momentum heading into the play-offs after a below-par week, but will be hoping to be back to their scintillating best for what promises to be a momentous evening at the Shay on Wednesday.

Neil Aspin attempted the delicate balancing act of trying to maintain momentum while resting weary legs as he made a limited number of changes, the most significant of which saw Lee Gregory named on the bench.

The positive omens were plentiful for Town, who were playing the same club they last clinched promotion against back in 1998.

That team were back in town for a reunion dinner at the Shay, as if any further inspiration were needed for the current crop aiming to emulate them.

In the jostling for top-five positions, Halifax were first out of the starting blocks just 60 seconds in.

If Adam Smith and Josh Wilson were auditioning for a starting role in the play-off semi-finals, they made a fine first impression as Town wasted no time in seizing the advantage.

Smith produced a delightful cross for the umpteenth time at the Shay this season, leaving Wilson with a simple header.

With that, the Shaymen’s chances of not sealing a play-off place moved from extremely unlikely to England-winning-the-World-Cup proportions.

The Town fans were singing ‘are you going to believe us’ that their side were heading for Wembley. The answer seemed a resounding yes.

Kidderminster’s players could have been forgiven for planning their summer breaks already, especially when Simon Ainge, deputising for James Bolton, headed over from Marc Roberts’s long-throw moments later.

Both sides saw a goal disallowed, although Town’s far more dubiously for a foul off the ball, while the lively Amari Bell forced a smart save from the otherwise redundant Matt Glennon.

But the Town keeper failed to reach a right-wing cross with half-an-hour gone, allowing Nathan Blissett to head in.

From the prospect of playing Grimsby at home next Sunday, it was now Cambridge away in eight days’ time.

It was certainly an improvement from Southport on Monday, but there was perhaps a case of before the Lord Mayor’s Show as Town struggled to rouse the same tempo that earned them their flying start.

Matt Pearson produced a decent effort from range shortly before the break before Scott Spencer skied the rebound when well placed.

Phil Senior came on for the second-half, making his first appearance since Town’s opening home game of the season against Wrexham, with Glennon feeling the effects of a collision during Kidderminster’s equaliser and not risked for further action.

And Senior was soon called into action, producing a fine reaction save from Blissett’s volley.

Amari Bell brought another good save from Senior soon afterwards, with Senior as busy in the opening few minutes of the second-half as Glennon had been for all of the first.

Out of nothing, Wilson then rattled the bar with a superbly-executed volley as the game suddenly broke into an end-to-end contest.

First, Blissett missed an open goal after being handed the chance on a plate by Bell before Smith curled a shot just wide seconds later.

Kidderminster looked sharper on the ball though, with Blissett and Amari Morgan-Smith offering a recurring threat up front.

Wilson’s goal seemed a long time ago, with Town playing second fiddle as Kidderminster passed the ball with growing confidence.

Senior saved again, this time from Lee Vaughan, as Town were forced to knock it long just to relieve some pressure.

The delicate balancing act continued as Scott McManus and Lois Maynard were both withdrawn with a midweek semi-final first-leg in mind.

The opponents were still in Town’s power to decide, with a goal enough to lift the hosts back up to third and a trip to Gateshead as things stood.

But Town weren’t threatening that, and finished the game with 10-men after Wilson was forced off through injury, making him a serious doubt for the play-offs.

While Chester and Hereford battled to the final knockings of the season at one end, it was a more sedate end to the regular campaign at the other.

Town preserved their record of just one home league defeat all season, which they hope will still be intact on Thursday morning.

Halifax: Glennon (Senior 46) Ainge, Roberts, C Smith, Lowe, A Smith, Maynard (Marshall 76) Pearson, McManus (Marie 66) Wilson, Spencer. Subs not used: Crowther, Gregory.

Scorer: Wilson (1)

Shots on target: 3

Shots off target: 7

Corners: 0

Kidderminster: Lewis, Vaughan, Demetriou, Storer (O’Keefe 76), Dunkley, Byrne, Bell, Verma (Gittings 76), Grimes, Blissett, Morgan-Smith (Cieslewicz 84). Subs not used: N Vaughan, Williams.

Scorer: Blissett (30)

Shots on target: 5

Shots off target: 6

Corners: 3

Attendance: Josh Wilson

Town man of the match: 2,089