Lee Gregory made a scoring return to the starting eleven as FC Halifax Town thrashed 10-man Lincoln 5-1 at the Shay.
A bumper crowd of nearly 2,000 saw Town see out the year in style as Dan Gardner, Adam Smith, Reece Gray and Jon Worthington also found the net after Alan Power’s early sending-off.
Town’s best Christmas present may prove to be the return of Gregory, with the Shay faithful surely anticipating the January transfer window with a sense of dread that their star striker could be snatched away.
But it was highly-polished team display that cruised Halifax to victory and moved the Shaymen to within a point of the play-offs.
There was no Christmas break for Town’s key players, with Gregory making his first start since the 1-0 defeat at Braintree over a month ago, while Marc Roberts also started despite Neil Aspin warning he may have to use his defender sparingly during the festive period.
Smith probably had more motivation than most after leaving Lincoln in the summer, and played like he had a point to prove from the off as he saw an early shot across goal deflected behind.
Ben Tomlinson’s header was then saved by Matt Glennon from close-range but the dye was already being cast as Town built up a head of steam, with Lincoln throwing bodies in front of a couple of goal-bound shots.
But the visitors couldn’t clear the ball and eventually conceded a penalty after Power’s two-footed lunge on Matt Pearson, which earned the Lincoln man a straight red: their second in as many games and the third to be seen at the Shay in as many matches.
Gardner sent Paul Furman the wrong way for his seventh of the season and usher in a spell of near-dominance by the hosts that saw Pearson strike the post with a superbly-struck drive across goal.
You always know Town are playing one of the bigger clubs in the league when the away fans are housed in the Skircoat Stand, but those 342 away supporters were already piping up with rueful chants of ‘you’re not fit to referee’ before the 20 minute mark, perhaps sensing a long afternoon ahead.
That was briefly interrupted when Matt Glennon handed Tomlinson a belated festive gift with bells on when he failed to collect a seemingly harmless through ball, allowing the striker the easiest of finishes.
But it took Town only a minute to restore their lead as Gardner was given far too much time to play in Gregory, who produced a sublime finish to lift the ball over the onrushing Furman as if he’d never been away.
Gardner was looking back to his best with a firece strike from outside the box that Furman palmed away, while Lois Maynard also went close when his shot from even further out almost sneaked under the Lincoln keeper’s dive.
The Imps sat back almost waiting to be attacked as the game rapidly descended into something resembling a training ground session of attack v defence.
Paul Marshall, back in the starting line-up after illness, fired wide from 25 yards at the end of some attractive build-up play, with Lincoln doutbless counting down the seconds until half-time as a flurry of long-range shots from the hosts flew off target.
Lincoln keeper Furman kept everybody waiting to start the second-half, and was probably dreading leaving the confines of the away dressing room to he feared awaited him back on the pitch.
He was almost picking the ball out of his net straight away when Scott McManus’ cross just evaded Gregory before the Town’s striker’s cross-shot was almost converted by Gardner but for Furman’s save.
McManus then fired high and wide from close range after another delightful Town move to take their off-target attempts into double figures.
But the earlier stream of Town chances started to dry up as a re-jigged Lincoln began to cope better with their numerical disadvantage and Halifax became more sloppy in possession.
Smith very nearly got the goal his performance deserved when he turned a Lincoln defender inside-out close to the by-line before curling a right-foot shot across Furman and against the post, with the rebound judged not to have crossed the line.
That came moments after Gardner had marked his return to form with a majestic piece of skill to enliven an incident-free passage of play, but there was still time before his withdrawal to squander a glorious chance when he was sent through by Smith, but the ball got caught in his feet before he could shoot.
But Smith didn’t make the same mistake soon afterwards when Lincoln were left horribly exposed as they pushed forward, and the Town winger smashed home from close range after a composed run into the box.
Substitutes Jon Worthington and Reece Gray then rounded off the win and the year in grand fashion, the former with a stunning strike from 30 yards and the latter with a curling shot from edge of the box, with Town fans probably never wanting 2013 to end.
Halifax: Glennon, Maynard, Ainge, Roberts, McManus, Smith, Pearson, Marshall (Worthington 67), Gardner (Gray 76), Wilson, Gregory (Ironside 82). Subs not used: Senior, Anderson.
Scorer: Gardner (13), Gregory (27), Smith (80), Worthington (85), Gray (90)
Shots on target: 8
Shots off target: 16
Lincoln: Farman, Brown, Jordan, Dixon, Newton, Power, Fofana (Fairhurst 58), Foster, Rowe, Robinson (Nolan 46), Tomlinson. Subs not used: Cunningham, Thomas, Preece.
Scorer: Tomlinson (26)
Shots on target: 2
Shots off target: 2
Town man of the match: Adam Smith