Halifax Town stormed into the last eight of the FA Trophy with a well deserved win over Chelmsford.
The frustration of Tuesday night’s draw with Solihull was avenged as an assured Town performance saw them hit three goals without reply and move a step closer to Wembley.
Liam Needham’s first goals of the season and a Jason St Juste tap-in eased Town through, but an injury to Gareth Seddon cast a slight cloud over the victory as he limped off with a nasty-looking knock to his right foot.
There was no doubting Neil Aspin’s commitment to the competition as he named the strongest line-up available, with Chris Worsley replacing the injured Jon Worthington in the only change from the draw with Solihull Moors.
That game and low temperatures before Chelmsford’s visit didn’t help the state of the pitch, causing the ball to bobble from the first whistle onwards.
Chelmsford boss Glenn Pennyfather had branded Town “red hot favourites” for the tie during the week, and The Shaymen looked like they warranted the tag as they started brightly.
Lee Gregory settled the quickest of Town’s attackers, having a goal-bound shot blocked on the edge of the box before spreading the ball wide to Dan Gardner, who then shot wide.
Town then took a deserved lead with a sweeping move down the left as Paul Marshall released Scott McManus, whose clever cut-back was well finished by Liam Needham, firing low across the ‘keeper for his first goal of the season.
The Town boss had spoken after the draw with Solihull about the importance of scoring first, and there was a palpable sense of purpose to Town’s play after taking the lead.
Needham and Worsley snapped into tackles in midfield while Gregory and Gareth Seddon were full of movement in front of them.
But Seddon’s afternoon was suddenly brought to an abrupt halt when he had to be helped off the pitch with what looked like a heavy knock to his right foot.
That just seemed to deflate the buoyant home crowd a little as Chelmsford’s Max Cornhill headed over Justin Miller’s cross from ten yards out before Donovan Simmonds forced a save from Matt Glennon at his near post.
Danny Lowe was forced to clear the ball just in front of goal after Chelmsford worked the ball nicely into the box from the left but were denied a shooting chance.
Town forged a chance themselves just as praiseworthy in its creation moments later when Dan Gardner pulled the ball back to Needham on the edge of the box but he trod on the ball.
There was no such misfortune for St Juste soon afterwards though following more excellent work from Gardner down the right.
Feigning a cross, he cut into the box and picked out St Juste, who could hardly miss from four yards out and the goal gaping; a particularly sweet moment for the winger after missing a last minute penalty at the same end against Solihull four days earlier.
A potential turning point in the game was then transformed into the decisive third goal Town wanted in a madcap minute.
Aiden Palmer’s deft free-kick struck the post at one end before a lightning counter-attack saw Gregory release Paul Marshall, whose pass across the area fell invitingly to the on-rushing Needham, who squeezed the ball under Stuart Searle for his second of the game, leaving the Town faithful dreaming, and singing, of Wembley.
Halifax: Glennon, Toulson, McManus, Hogan, Needham, Lowe, Worsley, Marshall, Gardner, Gregory (Abadaki 83), Seddon (St Juste 32). Subs not used: Senior, Bolland, Kelly.
Shots on target: 7
Shots off target: 3
Chelmsford: Searle, Brindley (Hamilton 83), Palmer, Miller, Haines (Clark 79), Corcoran (Parker 53), Cook, Rainford, Slabber, Cornhill, Simmonds. Subs not used: Bridges, Welsh.
Shots on target: 3
Shots off target: 3
Man of the match: Liam Needham