FC Halifax Town suffered their first league defeat since New Year’s Day as they lost 2-1 to Harrogate Town at the Shay.
The away side survived a bombardment from The Shaymen in the second-half after racing into a two goal lead early on.
Town threw everything at their Yorkshire rivals but couldn’t find a breakthrough as they fell to their first league defeat on their own patch since losing to Boston last October.
Neil Aspin reverted to the side that demolished Worcester rather than keeping the same starting eleven that demolished Hinckley, with Ryan Toulson, Liam Needham and Alex Titchiner coming back in for Matt Pearson, Jason St Juste and Adriano Moke.
Thursday night football is usually the preserve of Channel Five, so to be at the Shay for the third time in six days was an unusual experience, and an inconvenience for two sides who had finished their last matches 48 hours earlier; Town putting seven without reply past Hinckley and Harrogate slipping to a surprise home defeat to Colwyn Bay.
Despite both sides’ packed schedules of late, the game started in frenetic fashion as Gardner’s free kick from near the left touchline drifted onto the bar before his venomous shot moments later was tipped behind by Craig McGilvary.
Gardner struck the bar again when his well struck shot from inside the box was deflected off the woodwork, but that time Harrogate had become the first visiting team to score against The Shaymen in four games.
Matt Bloomer was on hand to lash the ball home with five minutes gone after Town failed to deal with Adam Bolder’s vicious corner that resulted in a goalmouth scramble.
Harrogate contnued to match Town blow-for-blow after Gardner had struck the bar for the second time when Liam Hogan was caught in possession just outside the box by Paul Bolland, who then kept his composure to chip Matt Glennon after 11 minutes.
The home supporters must have felt they’d been caught by a Mike Tyson left hook by this point, but Town responded straight away through that man Gardner, already at the heart of every Town attack, as his shot was deflected past Craig McGilvary to immediately halve the deficit and culminate a crazy first quarter of an hour.
The two Harrogate goals seemed had come among an air of uncertainty at the back from Town, completely out of character from their watertight performances of late, which was in stark contrast to their snappy attacking play as they pinned the visitors back for most of the half but without creating many clear-cut chances.
Unfortunately, the most noteworthy incident of the half from then on saw Hogan forced off through injury, although he was able to walk down the tunnel after being replaced by Matt Pearson.
With both sides matching up with a diamond in midfield, space was at a premium in front of Harrogate’s back four where Town wanted it most.
Town started the second half is brisk fashion, with Lee Gregory, quieter than in his previous two outings, got the ball caught under his feet from Gardner’s low cross before the striker saw a header well blocked from a corner.
Sean Williams had a piledriver flash just wide from 25 yards out as Town threatened an early equaliser from the restart, but Harrogate held firm and weathered the storm.
By now, Harrogate were frustrating the Shaymen by running down the clock as much as keeping out an increasing number of efforts from the home side.
In between Harrogate’s creativity at wasting a few seconds here and there, substitute Gareth Seddon saw a low shot from a tight angle brilliantly saved by McGilvary before Chris Worsley’s fizzing drive flew just past the post moments later.
Harrogate were seeking refuge with clearances into touch by now as they were camped in their own half, but they stood firm against waves of attacks on the pitch and a vociferous backing from the home supporters.
Town launched cross after cross into the Harrogate penalty box, but each was met with a clearing header as the visitors stretched every neck muscle to keep Town out.
In the dying seconds, a cross finally slipped through Harrogate’s wall of resistence as McGilvary fumbled the ball, but substitute Adriano Moke could only hit the bar from five yards out as the away side clung on by their fingertips.
Halifax: Glennon, Toulson, McManus, Hogan (Pearson 28), Needham (Moke 66), Lowe, Worsley, Williams, Titchiner (Seddon 60), Gardner, Gregory. Subs not used: Senior, St Juste.
Scorers: Gardner (13)
Shots on target: 6
Shots off target: 8
Harrogate: McGilvary, Samuels, Merris, Nowakowski (White 54), Bloomer, Killock, Platt, Bolland, Knowles (Youhill 82), Chilaka, Bolder (Elam 56). Subs not used: Dean, Ratcliffe.
Scorers: Bloomer (5), Bolland (11)
Shots on target: 2
Shots off target: 1
Man of the match: Dan Gardner