FC Halifax Town secured their first win in the Conference Premier with an action-packed 3-2 win over Wrexham at the Shay.
After a dramatic opening-day defeat, the tension was turned all the way up to eleven as the Shaymen won an engrossing contest with goals from Lois Maynard, Josh Wilson and Lee Gregory, but Wrexham made the Shaymen work hard for their win.
The footballing gods were clearly in the mood for an ironic chuckle as Town were this time the recipients of a penalty and a red card which completely changed the course of a game.
For Cambridge on Sunday, read Wrexham 48 hours later as there was barely a minute to catch your breath between the goals, the flying tackles and the big decisions for the man in the middle.
But Peter Bankes got them right and Town were the grateful benefactors as last season’s beaten play-off finalists became the first Conference Premier victims at the Shay under Neil Aspin.
As expected, Phil Senior replaced Matt Glennon in goal despite Tom Morgan’s impressive cameo at Cambridge, while Ainge replaced Danny Lowe in Town’s only other change.
If the Town boss wanted a reaction to the opening day defeat, he was made to wait for it after the game was delayed by 15 minutes follwing an accident on the M62.
But his side endeavoured to banish Sunday’s game as quickly as possible as Gregory just failed to make contact with Adam Smith’s cross before Matt Pearson encapsulated the positive start from the hosts by harrying the life out of Jay Harris but then losing his composure with a wayward shot.
But Wrexham fired a warning shot when Kevin Thornton struck the ball just over from inside the box, and the visitors took the lead shortly afterwards when Ainge turned into his own net from Adrian Cieslewicz’s low cross.
Town responded well though, lifted by the noise from the crowd, whose hackles were risen with a couple of nasty challenges from the visitors.
The Shaymen almost seemed to use that vocal backing to haul themselves level as Wilson’s stunning free-kick bounced just in front of the line after hitting the bar before Maynard was first to react by nodding in the rebound.
It could almost have been the Abbey Stadium then as Gregory’s bustling run six minutes later was only halted by a desperate lunge from Stephen Wright, after which the referee could only produce a red card.
Wilson did the rest from the spot to complete the turnaround, but the half didn’t end there as Town edged into a crucial two-goal cushion when Ryan Toulson beautifully-curled cross was met by Gregory, who tucked the ball home after his header was well saved by Joslain Mayebi.
But Wrexham came storming out for the second-half and played better with 10 men than they had with eleven as a dangerous low cross from the left somehow wasn’t turned in by three waiting bodies in the middle, while Scott McManus was forced into a goal-line clearance from a Wrexham haeder.
Town found themselves under the kosh after the restart, but still created a golden opportunity to put the game to bed, only for Kevin Holsgrove to lash the ball over eight yards out.
Town survived another prolonged spell of pressure by the visitors before substitute Dan Gardner was sent clear by Maynard, but his shot was brilliantly tipped behind by Mayebi.
An already nervy Shay was made even more tense as Cieslewicz found the net with 10 minutes left; a just reward for the Welsh side’s dogged display since the interval.
The momentum had swung more times than a grandfather clock, as did the action towards the end as both sides pressed for the decisive sixth goal of an absorbing contest, but five was quite enough for the Town fans after a dramatic night at the Shay.
Halifax: Senior, Toulson, McManus, Roberts, Ainge, Smith (Briggs 62), Pearson, Maynard, Holsgrove (Gardner 69), Wilson (Johnson 79), Gregory. Subs not used: Morgan, Marshall.
Scorers: Maynard (34), Wilson (pen 40), Gregory (45)
Shots on target: 5
Shots off target: 4
Wrexham: Mayebi, Wright, Ashton, Thornton (Ormerod 90), Clarke, Cieslewicz, Harris, Bishop, Tomassen (Evans 87), Ogleby (Close 41), Hunt. Subs not used: Rushton, Coughlin.
Scorers: Ainge (og 22), Cieslewicz (80)
Shots on target: 4
Shots off target: 4
Man of the match: Matt Pearson