Matt Pearson’s first goal for FC Halifax Town earned them a hard-fought 1-1 draw at Gateshead.
Pearson’s goal will have felt better than anything he unwrapped on Christmas Day, but he and the rest of the Town side had to dig deep to take a share of the spoils against an impressive Gateshead side.
Town were second best for most of the game but produced a dogged display to remain unbeaten over the festive period with Lincoln the visitors to the Shay on Saturday.
Archie Love replaced Paul Marshall in Town’s only change after the midfielder was taken ill, while Lee Gregory returned on the bench after recovering from surgery to his broken hand.
Town were given ample opportunity to run off that Christmas turkey early on as Gateshead produced some short, snappy football in and around the visitors’ penalty box and offered plenty of movement among their attackers.
This was emphasised by an intricate move that culminated in Josh Walker striking a post after Jamie Chandler’s neat lay-off.
The Shaymen offered a threat on the break though, with Joe Ironside prodding wide from Adam Smith’s cross and Josh Wilson curling a shot over the angle of post and bar.
Ex-Town man James Marwood slotted seemlessly into this system and was handed free-reign to collect the ball and run at the Halifax defence from all angles.
Gateshead’s two centre-halves saw the ball as much as anyone else as the hosts played the ball out from the back with confidence, but were often frustrated in their efforts to cut through a well-drilled Town defence.
Halifax took a more direct route to goal though, registering more efforts on goal than their hosts, and took the lead against the run of play from Pearson’s 20 yard shot with the help of a deflection.
Gateshead nearly hit back immediately only for Matt Glennon to make a fine reaction save from Josh Walker’s header, but the hosts’ tippy-tappy football now played right into Town’s hands as the visitors sat back behind the ball and protected their lead.
Glennon made a splendid double save at the start of the second-half to deny John Oster and Chandler before also saving Walker’s low shot after the striker ran through on goal.
There was now more urgency to Gateshead’s attacks as they began to slice through the Town defence with worrying regularity and were soon level when Chandler ghosted into the box to smash in Oster’s low cross.
That prompted Neil Aspin to bring on Lee Gregory for his first Town appearance in more than a month, with Halifax needing to stem the tide of Gateshead attacks.
Oster then fired off target twice within a minute before Marwood hit the post with a terrific free-kick as Gateshead peppered the Town goal with shots.
A point was increasingly resembling a very good afternoon’s work for the Shaymen as Glennon tipped over substitute Marcus Maddison’s rising drive, although Roberts spurned a great chance but shot straight at Adam Bartlett from six yards out.
The travelling 261 Town fans did their best to cheer their side over the line with the draw intact, but the game crawled towards full-time as Chandler’s prod towards goal was hacked off the line by Pearson as Town clung on.
Gateshead: Bartlett, Curtis, Clark, Sirrell, Walker, Marwood, Chandler, Walker (Maddison 65), Oster, Turnbull, Larkin (Hatch 65). Subs not used: Magnay, Cummins, Ramshaw.
Scorer: Chandler (57)
Shots on target: 6
Shots off target: 9
Halifax: Glennon, Maynard, Roberts, Ainge, McManus, Smith, Pearson, Love, Gardner, Wilson (Worthington 55), Ironside (Gregory 59). Subs not used: Senior, Holsgrove, Anderson.
Scorer: Pearson (26)
Shots on target: 5
Shots off target: 4
Town man of the match: Matt Glennon