FC Halifax Town 3-3 Gateshead

FC Halifax Town v Gateshead at The Shay Stadium.
FC Halifax Town v Gateshead at The Shay Stadium.

FC Halifax Town moved back into the play-off places after a thrilling 3-3 draw with Gateshead at the Shay.

But Town will be frustrated after letting a 3-1 slip in a dramatic finish to another enthralling afternoon.

Lee Gregory’s double and Simon Ainge’s header had put Town into what looked like an unassailable lead, but the visitors rallied to level the score before twice hitting the woodwork.

After the 5-1 win over Lincoln, the Shay witnessed another six goals fly in as the Christmas period threw up one last piece of unforgettable action.

With the January window barely open, Gregory added a few more quid onto his soaring valuation with another masterclass in forward play featuring strength, pace and technique in abundance.

Not many Town fans would have predicted their side starting 2014 in the play-offs, but Town moved into the heady heights of fifth place and showed no signs of disappearing from the upper reaches of the table any time soon, despite Gateshead’s late fightback.

Neil Aspin unsurprisingly kept the same side that started against Lincoln on Saturday and they picked up where they left off as Dan Gardner’s chipped pass released Gregory, who cut inside before firing unnervingly across Adam Bartlett.

It was an outstanding finish that’s becoming par the course for Town’s top scorer, who latched on to Matt Pearson’s well-executed pass four minutes later before outmuscling Ben Clark, no mean feat in itself, and firing left-footed past Bartlett from 20 yards.

Town clearly weren’t partying too much on New Year’s Eve as they began 2014 in blistering fashion, with the defence equally as impressive as the attack, emphasised by some superb interceptions from Lois Maynard and Marc Roberts as Gateshead tried to hit back.

The conditions hardly seemed condusive to Gateshead’s short passing style, but the memory of their Boxing Day clash was clearly fresh in Town’s minds as they combated the visitors’ game plan much more effectively.

Roberts was just as effective at the back as Gregory was up front as he delivered another faultless display, snuffing out any half-decent looking Gateshead attack time and again.

Pearson also deserves special mention in that category as the midfielder hustled and harried after the ball in the middle third as if his life depended on it.

But Gregory showed he was human when he spurned his easiest chance so far and the opportunity to record a 30-minute hat-trick as he swept the ball wide after outpacing Clark to meet a through ball.

Josh Walker and Liam Hatch both should have done better with headers off-target, while James Marwood, watched in the stands by his dad Brian, forced a good save from Matt Glennon as Gateshead tried to halve the deficit before the break.

They didn’t have to wait long after the interval though as James Brown’s long-range shot flew past Glennon with the aid of a slight deflection less than a minute into the second-half.

Gregory’s hat-trick continued to elude him following a contentious offside decision after he did superbly to control Scott McManus’ through ball and finish past the on-rushing Bartlett.

His next effort moments later was saved by the Gateshead keeper after substitute Reece Gray’s delightful through ball.

But it was from a much more unorthodox route that the third arrived, with Ainge meeting Adam Smith’s corner with a bullet header for his first goal since the 4-3 defeat at Luton in October.

That seemed to have finished Gateshead off but substitute Marcus Maddison produced a Gregory-esque finish with a subtle chip over Glennon after racing into the box.

Another long-ball was Town’s undoing as Chandler just kept the ball in play before his seemingly harmless cross was parried into Marwood’s path and the ex-Town man lashed the ball in from six yards.

It was nearly a comeback of epic proportions from the visitors moments later when they saw a 30-yard screamer crash off the bar.

In the end, six goals proved to be something of a paltry return from the chances created late on, with Josh Wilson’s stinging drive whistling inches wide.

Gateshead then somehow cleared the ball after an almighty goalmouth scramble before charging immediately up the other end and hitting the woodwork.

Halifax: Glennon, Maynard, Ainge, Roberts, McManus, Smith (Ironside 77), Pearson, Marshall (Worthington 46), Gardner (Gray 53), Wilson, Gregory. Subs not used: Senior, Anderson.

Scorers: Gregory (10 & 14), Ainge (61)

Shots on target: 5

Shots off target: 3

Corners: 4

Gateshead: Bartlett, Magnay, Curtis, Clark, Baxter, Turnbull, Oster (Chandler 60), Marwood, Hatch (Maddison 46), Brown, Walker (Cummins 86). Subs not used: Ramshaw, Sirrell.

Scorers: Brown (46), Maddison (77), Marwood (82)

Shots on target: 3

Shots off target: 8

Corners: 6

Attendance: 1,624

Town man of the match: Lee Gregory