A second-half comeback was not enough for FC Halifax Town as they were held to a frustrating 3-3 draw by Histon on a dramatic afternoon at The Shay.
A bobbly surface and two fragile defences contributed to a see-saw battle as the game twisted one way, then the other in a manner Halifax fans are not unfamiliar with in recent years.
Both sides deserved great credit for their determined comebacks, as Halifax roared back from trailing 2-0 at half-time before the visitors snatched a point when Town’s three second-half goals looked to have sunk them, although some generous defending meant the final score was higher than it might otherwise have been.
However, Neil Aspin may well reflect how his side could have done much more when he looks at the fact that his team’s tally of 21 shots compared to Histon’s six, while Town won 13 corners against the visitors’ one.
Town would have done well to match their sensational start at Dartford on Wednesday, but carved out two good chances in the opening ten minutes.
Dan Gardner’s rasping drive stung the palms of ‘keeper Callum Kitscha, but he had to be even more alert before that with a superb reaction save to deny Scott McManus’ header from Paul Marshall’s beautifully lofted pass.
It already looked a formality until the hosts took the lead in the 18th minute as a break from Histon saw the exotically-named lone striker Claudiu Hoban evade his marker and roll the ball teasingly past Matt Glennon.
The Shaymen responded well to that unexpected development, but the chances they created were squandered by poor finishing, with Titchiner getting in some promising positions but failing to test Kitscha.
The stopper could do little but watch and presumably admire Town’s next effort as Marshall’s feather-light free kick found Gregory, but his equally clever flick header bounced back off the bar.
You couldn’t fault Town for lack of ambition as the shots flew in from every angle, with Gardner yet again pulling the strings in the puppet-master role he has become so accustomed to already.
The odd slip from the Histon defence helped too, as a combination of sloppy clearances and a very bobbly pitch helped keep the ball in and around their box.
The contest was the very antithesis of a tennis match as half-time approached, with Tom Platt the next to have sight of goal from Titchener’s cross, but the youngster tried to lay the ball off to Gardner rather than shoot himself, and a good chance went begging.
Histon would surely have taken being 1-0 up at the interval, so to go in leading by two goals was bordering on delirium for the visitors.
With Town pushing players forward to try and restore parity before half-time, gaps were inevitably left at the other end, and Lewis Taaffe took advantage, producing a similarly calm and well-placed finish across Glennon seconds before the break.
To say the scoreline failed to accurately reflect the balance of play at half-time was akin to describing the South Pole as a bit nippy at this time of year.
But if Histon’s game plan had been to soak up the pressure from Halifax and play on the break, it worked remarkably well.
Tom Platt, so assured on his debut at Corby last week, was sacrificed for Sean Williams at the break as Town’s intentions were made abundantly clear.
The game then threatened to fall into the pantheon of classic Town encounters under Neil Aspin, think Guiseley away and Chasetown at home, as Titchiner halved the deficit after 48 minutes.
Chris Worsley was spoilt for choice as he approached the right side of the box, and his low cross left Titchiner with an easy tap-in at the far post.
Ten minutes later, Town were level as the impressive Titchiner, involved in almost every Halifax attack, was tripped erratically by Kitscha; a clear penalty but a yellow card also the right decision with a covering defender in close proximity.
Gardner coolly fired the ball past the Histon ‘keeper to bring Town level, but the visitors could so easily have then regained the advantage when Liam Hogan cleared a shot off the line seconds before the away side had a strong penalty claim rejected after what looked like a trip in the box.
But, just 25 minutes after that two-goal gap had been created, Town wiped it out completely as Titchiner’s lay off to Worsley preceded a glorious, sweeping strike across goal and into the top right corner of Kitscha’s net.
That net was by now groaning under the strain of five goals being scored in it, but the drama didn’t end there as Danny Fitzsimons rose highest to head in a Histon corner as the visitors hauled themselves off the ropes and drew level.
However, there was to be no late winner as against Guiseley and Chasetown, with The Shaymen having to settle for a draw that seemed as unlikely at half-time as it did after Worsley’s wonder strike.
Halifax: Glennon, Toulson, McManus (St Juste 64), Hogan, Platt (Williams 46), Lowe, Worsley, Marshall, Gardner (Seddon 73), Gregory, Titchiner. Subs not used: Senior, Kelly.
Shots on target: 6
Shots off target: 15
Histon: Kitscha, Mills, Hawkins, Clerima, Fitzsimons, Roberts (Waters 64), Freeman, Stevenson, Taaffe, Coker, Hoban. Subs not used: Sessions, McLaughlin, Utteridge, O’Malley.
Shots on target: 3
Shots off target: 3
Man of the match: Alex Titchiner