A debut goal for Alex Simmons wasn’t enough to prevent FC Halifax Town slumping to a surprise 3-2 defeat at Gainsborough.
Town should have been comfortably ahead at half-time instead of drawing 2-2, but didn’t produce anywhere near the same level of performance after the interval and mustered barely a response to Gainsborough’s third goal.
Loanee Simmons had only played 23 minutes of senior football before the match as a substitute for Lincoln over a month ago but hit the ground running with Halifax as he scored Town’s first and made their second for Liam King.
Assistant boss Mark Carroll had bemoaned the fact that opponents hadn’t had to work hard to score against Town, and that remained the case here with both of the impressive Jordan Thewlis’ goals.
But there was little Town could do about Gainsborough’s third, which was deflected in off Ashley Worsfold shortly after half-time.
Simmons didn’t have far to travel for his full debut, having joined from Lincoln earlier in the day; the fact he started in preference to both Richard Peniket and Jordan Burrow may raise a few eyebrows among the Town supporters.
Simmons started on the left of a 4-3-3 for Town, and was receiving instructions from the off from Billy Heath yards away on the touchline having already been given the nickname ‘Simmo’.
The Town boss was keen to see Simmons link-up with Tom Denton, and he did that to full effect after just 13 minutes when Denton, who had struck the post moments earlier with a header, nodded on a long-throw and Simmons bundled the ball in at the far post.
Simmons had looked as nimble and sprightly on the left as Josh Macdonald was on the right, with The Shaymen unrecognisable from the pedestrian outfit that beat Stalybridge on Saturday.
Macdonald was wasting no time making left-back Brad Beatson’s night a miserable one as he outpaced his opponent time and again before delivering some excellent crosses that deserved a finish.
Gainsborough were caught in the headlights as the Town front three swarmed around the final third, while Liam King and the returning Jordan Sinnott offered further support from midfield.
Simmons then slalomed towards the edge of the box before his low shot was deflected wide of Jonathan Hedge’s goal.
But the one-way traffic was suddenly diverted as James Reid’s free-kick was glanced in by Thewlis, who was inexplicably left unmarked slap bang in the centre of the box.
To say that was against the run of play would have been putting it mildly, but Town regained the lead soon afterwards when a delightful through ball sent King clear on goal.
Whereas on Saturday, twice, King spurned chances after running through unobstructed, this time he rounded Hedge and rolled the ball into the empty net.
But Gainsborough refused to let go of Halifax’s coat tails, and again equalised when Thewlis latched onto a superb pass by Reid inside the area before blasting the ball past Steve Drench and in off the near post.
The direction of traffic remained squarely towards Hedge, with Denton’s header sent back across goal and wide from Sinnott’s free kick before a double save by the ex-Town stopper, both from Denton, first a header at point-blank range and then a scrambled follow-up shot.
There was just time before the interval for Cliff Moyo to send a left-foot shot whistling wide from 25 yards prior to the half-time whistle somehow finding Town only level.
As much as Town were profligate in front of goal, the porousness of their defence continued to be the problem.
Not for the first time this season, Town were not the same side after the break, and Worsfold got a decisive touch to Reid’s free-kick a few minutes after half-time to hand the hosts the lead, the prospect of which would have been fanciful 25 minutes in.
Heath yelled at his side to “start playing again” but it took until midway through the second period for their first effort of the half when Macdonald, who, like Simmons, was now being doubled-up on, lashed a shot wide of the near post after a one-two with King.
That didn’t herald a torrent of chances though, with Halifax regressing back to a Stalybridge-esque display lacking any tempo and creating nothing.
Gainsborough: Hedge, Lacey, Quinn, Evans (Picton 34), Beatson, Bailey-King, Wiles, Thornhill, Reid, Worsfold (Jarman 72), Thewlis (Morrison 63). Subs not used: Davis, Hands.
Scorers: Thewlis (29, 35), Worsfold (52)
Shots on target: 4
Shots off target: 2
Halifax: Drench, Moyo (Hibbs 68), O’Brien, Garner, Wilde, Macdonald, King, Roberts, Sinnott (Peniket 74), Simmons (Burrow 87), Denton. Subs not used: Nicholson, Hughes.
Scorers: Simmons (13), King (32)
Shots on target: 5
Shots off target: 8
Town man of the match: Alex Simmons
Referee: Simon Mather