FC Halifax Town 5-3 Alfreton

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FC Halifax Town sealed their place in the third round of the FA trophy after beating Alfreton 5-3 in a richly-entertaining contest at the Shay.

Those among the sub-1,000 crowd were rewarded for braving the freezing temperatures with a game you could not take your eyes off.

Alfreton took the lead three times through Bradley Wood, Lee Stevenson and Tom Shaw, but each time Town replied in kind.

Levellers from Steve Williams and the first of three from Richard Peniket made it 2-2 at the interval.

Two more from Peniket after the restart and on own goal from keeper George Willis finally sealed Town’s passage.

Wembley may be one step closer, but Town will hope they don’t have to work this hard again along the way.

Alfreton were late getting to the Shay after their coach broke down on the way, but they wasted little time in taking the lead.

In any cup run you need a fair bit of luck, and that virtue deserted Town after just four minutes as right-back Wood scored his third in six games when his mis-hit cross flew straight over Matt Glennon into the far corner.

Quite how the Town fan who shouted his dismay at Glennon’s reaction thought the Town keeper could have got to it was anyone’s guess; even using a step-ladder would have left him stranded.

The bobbly pitch and the windy conditions were hardly conducive to chasing a game, although the fact that Wood’s slice of good fortune came so early on was at least in Town’s favour.

The Shay crowd had been stunned into silence by the timing and nature of Alfreton’s goal, and were fairly unforgiving of their team’s efforts to regain parity.

Town played some neat football, belying the playing surface, with Danny Schofield’s distribution from midfield emphasising why he’d been handed an extended contract this week, while James Bolton and Scott McManus pushed on well from full-back.

Scott Boden struck the bar after McManus beat Alfreton keeper George Willis to a through ball outside the area and squared it to the Town striker, before Adam Smith’s shot on the rebound was blocked en route to goal.

After his kamikaze charge from goal, which he must have regretted the moment he started it as he never looked favourite to get there first, Willis then produced a fine save to deny Boden’s curling shot from 25 yards.

When Town’s equaliser did come, it was from another self-inflicted Alfreton wound after an awful mix-up between Anthony Howell and Lathanial Rowe-Turner saw the visitors concede a needless corner.

Smith’s delivery was never properly cleared and after Richard Peniket headed his cross against the post, Williams was on hand to tap-in the rebound.

To say the goal had been coming would be akin to describing the conditions as a bit nippy; even a polar bear would have been rubbing his paws together to warm-up in such temperatures.

The lively Stevenson squandered a great chance to restore Alfreton’s lead by scuffing his shot wide from 10 yards.

Stevenson then missed another good opportunity by blazing over when well placed inside the box as Alfreton gave as good as they got.

The midfielder then finally got the goal he’d been threatening all half as he was left unmarked to head in Howell’s high ball from the left, although the wind could probably have claimed an assist as well.

But Peniket headed Town’s second equaliser from even closer range following Marc Roberts’ long-throw; how Town will miss those should the skipper leave the Shay this month.

The half just squeezed in one more gilt-edged chance when Lois Maynard skied his finish from eight yards, but only after a Town free-kick was taken at the third time of asking thanks to the pedantry of referee Darren England.

As if it wasn’t cold enough, snow greeted the re-emergence of the two teams, who picked up where they’d left off.

An excellent first five minutes from the hosts saw them play some excellent football; Maynard with a superb volleyed pass out to Schofield and Smith firing wide after jinking into the box.

But Alfreton became only the third visiting team to score three goals at the Shay this season, not bad for the second lowest scorers on their travels in the Conference, when Shaw struck a dipping effort that flew past Glennon from just inside the box.

In such an unpredictable game, the only seemingly predictable thing was Town would equalise, which they did once more after Peniket capped a fine 30 yard run with an adroit finish past the on-rushing Willis.

Another ingredient in any cup run is resilience, and just over 10 minutes after falling behind for the third time, Town took the lead for the first time.

Schofield embarked on an inspired run before playing in substitute Matt Pearson, whose low cross was turned in by the sliding Peniket, who completed a stunning 20-minute hat-trick.

Just as the sky was starting to turn dark, some daylight finally appeared between the two teams when Schofield’s thunderous free-kick hit the post, only to bounce off Willis and roll over the line.

Now who’s side was the luck with?

Town had earned it though after finding what must be an unprecedented three equalisers.

As for Willis, the Sheffield United loanee had now conceded 16 goals in just five appearances for the away side.

Alfreton were now trudging the pitch in the manner of a side who seemed to know their fate, and the introduction of youngster Sam Hillhouse for his debut suggested Neil Aspin was confident a comeback was unlikely.

There was only so much drama you could squeeze into one afternoon.

Halifax: Glennon, M Roberts, Bolton, Williams, McManus, Smith (Hillhouse 77), Maynard, Schofield, Marshall (Pearson 56), Peniket (Dyer 88), Boden. Subs not used: Senior, K Roberts.

Scorers: Williams (28), Peniket (44, 60, 64), Willis (og 71)

Shots on target: 8

Shots off target: 6

Corners: 12

Alfreton: Willis, Wood, Courtney (Smith 59), Graham, Rowe-Turner, Shaw, Thanoj (Keane 86), Stevenson, Johnston, Howell (Hicks 79), Hawley. Subs not used: McDonald, Sheridan.

Scorers: Wood (4), Stevenson (41), Shaw (51)

Shots on target: 3

Shots off target: 5

Corners: 2

Attendance: 949

Town man of the match: Richard Peniket