FC Halifax Town 1-1 Salford - Halifax win 3-0 on penalties

FC Halifax Town beat Salford City in the semi-finals of the play-offs, at the MBI Shay Stadium
FC Halifax Town beat Salford City in the semi-finals of the play-offs, at the MBI Shay Stadium

FC Halifax Town will host Chorley next Saturday for a place in the National League after they beat Salford on penalties in their play-off semi-final.

There was little between the two teams over both legs, although Halifax probably deserved to go through on the balance of the 180 minutes.

But when it came to penalties, it was no contest as Salford missed all three of their spot-kicks, and Matty Brown, fittingly after his plethora of injuries, scored the winning spot-kick to send The Shay into convulsions of joy.

Both teams had spells on top in a gripping second-leg, with Richard Peniket giving Town what looked like a decisive lead in extra-time after a goalless ninety minutes, before Michael Nottingham equalised with just over 10 minutes left.

Billy Heath has repeated his belief that the team who succeeds in the play-offs will be the one who holds their nerve, and his side did just that, scoring three of their penalties, with Matty Kosylo and Jordan Sinnott also scoring from 12 yards.

A game of such magnitude, tension and drama is sure to feature heavily in the third season of Salford’s BBC TV documentary, which won’t have the same fairytale ending as the first two series’.

After kick-off was delayed for 15 minutes due to the number of fans still outside, Town started at a frenetic pace, with Matty Kosylo rampaging down the right flank and Dion Charles, who replaced Wednesday’s goalscorer Peniket, fleet-footed on the left.

The Shaymen didn’t maintain their early tempo, but peppered the Salford box with crosses of varying quality, although they were brilliantly defended by centre-backs Simon Grand and Fraser Horsfall.

Kosylo and Charles were both in blink-and-you’ll-miss-it form, running at their opposing numbers with intent as soon as they got the ball, but chances remained limited, with Charles bringing a simple save from Jay Lynch, who then flapped at the resulting corner.

If there were any nerves about, they appeared to come from Salford, with Halifax the more assured side

Salford’s attacking threat was negligible, with too many aimless passes forward in the general direction of top-scorer Mike Phenix, who subsequently struggled to get into the game.

He did brilliantly to shake of Scott Garner and cut the ball back to David Norris after 38 minutes, but Sam Johnson reacted well to parry his shot.

Tom Denton was also starved of decent service in a game of harrying, closing down and loose control, with neither side producing enough quality to pick through two resilient defences.

The usually reliable Grand made an error of judgement in allowing a long ball to run to Lynch, before Charles reached it first and prodded it goalwards, but Michael Nottingham cleared just in front of the line.

Half-time came at a good time for Salford as Charles showed his agility by contorting his body in a packed penalty box and executing an overhead kick from Jordan Sinnott’s corner, which whistled just wide of the post, after Lynch had again failed to deal with the set-piece.

Kosylo drove the ball inches wide just after half-time, and fired over while off balance two minutes later.

Garner then produced a magnificent block after Phenix broke clear with the Town defence prised apart.

Lynch clawed the ball off the line after a Sinnott long-throw was nodded on, with the tension incrementally increasing at each near-miss.

Mistakes became more commonplace, but while all around him were losing their heads, Kosylo nut-megged Stephen O’Halloran; half-an-hour left in a play-off semi-final second-leg? What pressure?

Salford were losing their composure as Halifax began to turn the screw midway through the second-half, backed by a pulsing atmosphere from the stands.

Salford weathered the storm though and got a sight of goal themselves when Horsfall headed substitute Ritchie Allen’s excellent cross over.

The impressive Allen then jinked past Roberts before firing narrowly over before James Poole, scorer on Wednesday, found space inside the box but was denied by a superb Sam Johnson save as Salford applied some pressure.

Town now looked flat, with Denton ineffective, long balls drifting out of play and Kosylo making the wrong choices on the ball. Extra-time arrived with a whimper after the ebb and flow of another absorbing contest between the two teams.

But the game was ignited a few minutes into extra-time when Denton finally won a flick-on inside the box, and Peniket delivered a bullet header into the far corner.

Predictably, Town shuffled back to protect their precious lead, content to hit Salford on the break, with Billy Heath almost making a twelfth man as he continually encroached onto the pitch desperately trying to get his messages across.

But Salford dug deep and, just two minutes into the second period of extra-time, hauled themselves level when Nottingham stole in at the far post to nod in Norris’ cross following a quick throw, and the raucous home crowd were silenced.

Lynch produced another two outstanding saves to stop Peniket’s header six yards out, then Denton’s header from a last-gasp Sinnott corner before penalties proved the only way to separate them after three hours of football.

Halifax: Johnson, Roberts, Garner, Brown, Wilde, Kosylo, Lynch (Clarke 76), Sinnott, Hotte, Charles (Peniket 89), Denton Subs not used: Drench, Moyo, Morgan.

Scorer: Peniket (97)

Shots on target: 9

Shots off target: 10

Corners: 8

Salford: Lynch, Nottingham, Grand, Horsfall, O’Halloran, Hine (Allen 59), Norris, Walker, Hume, Haughton (Poole 54), Phenix (Johnston 90) . Subs not used: Priestley, Barnes.

Scorer: Nottingham (107)

Shots on target: 3

Shots off target: 7

Corners: 9

Attendance: 3,655

Town man of the match: Scott Garner

Referee: Paul Marsden