FC Halifax Town battled back from trailing at half-time to earn a well deserved draw in a thoroughly entertaining West Yorkshire derby at Guiseley.
If Guiseley wanted to lay down a marker ahead of a possible play-off clash between the sides, their energetic first-half display certainly did that as they struck Town with an early blow.
But The Shaymen flew out of the traps after the interval and launched a tirade of attacks that culminated in an emphatically-struck equaliser from Dan Gardner.
Neil Aspin made three changes from the side that started against Bradford Park Avenue on Easter Monday, with Chris Worsley replacing Liam Needham in midfield, Dan Gardner replacing Danny Glover and Jon Worthington replacing Alex Titchiner in attack.
But one change the Town boss didn’t have to make was filling the shoes of Matt Pearson, at least for one more game, after Rochdale allowed the defender to play at Nethermoor before returning from his loan spell.
Pearson was pretty much guaranteed a busy evening on his final bow for the Shaymen, and Town’s defence was breached early on by former Town frontman Kevin Holsgrove, but he wasted a good chance by skewing his low shot well wide from inside the box.
But another former Town man didn’t make the same mistake as Guiseley took the lead on nine minutes when Mark Bower rose highest to nod Rhys Meynell’s superb looping cross back across goal and past Matt Glennon.
Town nearly had a quick reply-in-kind when Dan Gardner broke into the box from the left but his well struck low drive was saved by Steve Drench.
Guiseley seemed invigorated by their early goal though and were snappy in the tackle, not allowing Town a moment’s rest in typical derby fashion.
A second Guiseley goal was ruled out by the offside flag before Chris Worsley’s glorious, dipping shot from 30 yards out crashed off the bar as Town tried to match their hosts blow for blow.
Guiseley then came within a goal-line clearance of doubling their lead, which perhaps convinced Neil Aspin a change was required as Adriano Moke replaced James Knowles in what appeared to be a purely tactical switch just before the half hour mark.
But the tide still continued to flow towards the Town goal as Holsgrove, looking like a different player to the one who never really established himself at the Shay, saw his driven shot fly just past the upright.
Lee Gregory then got his first and Town’s best chance of the game so far when he latched on to Gardner’s adroit flick into the box but his tame low shot was saved by Drench.
Town then followed that up by hitting the bar again just before half-time when Sean Williams’ cross fell invitingly for Danny Lowe at the far post, but his prod goalwards struck the underside of the bar and bounced away as Guiseley ended up clinging to their lead at the interval after being on the front foot for most of the half.
That lead coninued to look precarious after the restart when Williams let fly from long range, but his dipping shot became Town’s third effort of the night to strike the bar.
A characteristically electrifying run by Gardner, cutting in from the left touchline, then caused real panic in the hosts’ penalty box before Williams’ thunderous shot from a loose ball was well blocked.
Now it was Town who were winning the 50-50s and Guiseley suddenly looked flat footed as Halifax dealt much better with the hosts’ attempted aerial attacks through the middle of the pitch.
You could almost feel the momentum of the game shifting as even Guiseley’s long clearances weren’t getting them out of their own half now as Town pinned them back, and their second-half pressure finally told as Gardner ran on to a quick free-kick down the right of the box before unleashing a venomous shot that flew past Drench and would have probably landed on the runway at Leeds-Bradford Airport if they net hadn’t been in the way.
Guiseley struggled to come out of their shell again after that as Town engendered a nervousness among the hosts, with Matt Glennon left twiddling his thumbs in the visitor’s goal.
The game perhaps inevitably entered a bit of a lull after the hustle-and-bustle of the first 70-odd minutes, but there was still enough to keep the nerves on edge as Guiseley’s claim for a penalty fell on deaf ears following Lowe’s tackle on Josh Wilson.
The hosts then bundled the ball into the net as the game entered stoppage time, but this time the referee did blow his whistle for a foul in the preceeding scramble,
Guiseley: Drench, Hardy, Meynell, Pearson, Ellis, Bower, Rea (Marsh 78), Holdsworth, Wilson, Walshaw (Carole 74), Holsgrove. Subs not used: Lawlor, McWilliams, Giles.
Scorers: Bower (9)
Shots on target: 1
Shots off target: 4
Halifax: Glennon, Toulson, McManus, Pearson, Knowles (Moke 28), Lowe, Worsley, Williams, Gregory, Gardner (Glover 84), Worthington, Subs not used: Senior, Titchiner, Bolton.
Scorers: Gardner (65)
Shots on target: 4
Shots off target: 7
Man of the match: Sean Williams
Updated Blue Square North top five:
1. Chester Pl 36 Po 97
2. Guiseley Pl 35 Po 82
3. Brackley Pl 36 Po 70
4. FC Halifax Pl 32 Po 64
5. Altrincham Pl 35 Po 63