Harrogate Town 1-1 FC Halifax Town

FC Halifax Town
FC Halifax Town

FC Halifax Town were made to wait to cement their place in the play-offs as they drew 1-1 at Harrogate Town.

The Shaymen battled back from trailing at the interval to a highly debatable penalty as James Bolton scored his third in four games to draw the visitors level.

A point does Harrogate few favours as their hopes of a top-five finish look extremely faint, but Halifax can take heart from a determined display heading into another crunch clash against fellow promotion contenders Guiseley on Saturday while also extending their club record unbeaten run on the road to eleven games.

Neil Aspin made two changes from the side that started at Oxford, with Jon Worthington replacing Liam Needham and Dan Gardner starting in place of James Knowles.

After so many back-to-back fixtures piled up in such a short space of time, the prize of a play-off place finally appeared on the horizon for Town, and they seemed intent go out and grab it with both hands as the Town boss reverted to an attacking 4-4-2 line-up.

Danny Glover saw an early shot saved after being found by Dan Gardner, who looked back to his best after a recent illness with two long range sighters within the first quarter of an hour.

But Town soon found themselves on the wrong end of more contentious officiating after the late drama at Oxford on Tuesday.

From being denied what they thought was a clear penalty two days earlier, Halifax were again left feeling aggrieved when Harrogate, who undoubtedly had more to lose from the game, were awarded a spot kick after James Bolton launched himself in front of a goal-bound shot.

The referee adjudged Bolton had handled the ball deliberately, despite being two yards away from the fiercely-hit shot; if Bolton’s reactions are that good, perhaps he should become a goalkeeper.

Adam Bolder, who had seen his shot from just inside the box saved by Matt Glennon moments earlier, sent the keeper the wrong way to undo The Shaymen’s promising early work.

The referee then got into more of a muddle dictating what side of the pitch Bolder should hobble to when he picked up an injry soon afterwards.

Understandably, Harrogate then moved to protect their priceless, if unexpected, lead and Town took a few minutes to adjust, but soon picked up where they’d left off before the goal as Sean Williams’ beautifully flighted free kick found Lee Gregory, but his miscued header went wide from ten yards out.

Glennon was then called into action with a superb reaction save from Michael Woods’ blistering drive, but Harrogate were increasingly on the back foot.

Gardner’s cute flick set Worsley away during a lightning quick counter-attack as Town attacked their hosts with renewed intent and no doubt a sense of injustice before Scott McManus’ rasping drive was superbly saved by Da Veiga on its way over.

Gregory then did brilliantly to control Glover’s cross and find Worsley but his low shot went inches wide of the near post as Town got closer to the parity their play deserved.

Another Williams free kick then evaded everyone in the box and landed just the wrong side of the post as Harrogate reached half-time with their slender lead intact.

The conditions were becoming as much of a test for Town as the scoreline as the driving rain added to the blustery wind, asking another question of Halifax’s resolve.

Harrogate were content to sit back on their lead, but it was wiped out midway through the second half when Da Veiga spilled Bolton’s shot from six yards out as Town’s pressure finally told.

Suddenly it was Simon Weaver needing to gee up his side as the momentum swung even further towards the away side, who had a shout for a penalty turned down when McManus appeared to be bundled into when challenging for a cross at the back post.

Aspin then tried to crank the pressure up even further with a play-off place so tantalisingly within his grasp as he brought on Alex Johnson for Williams with the game delicately poised.

The last ten minutes saw the contest become increasingly stretched as both sides threw caution to the howling wind, but neither side could find the composure required to carve out a potentially match-winning chance as the clock ticked down.

If anyone deserved to notch the goal that secured a play-off spot, it was arguably Lee Gregory after his exhausting efforts of late, but his looping header dropped just wide from Johnson’s cross in the last minute of normal time.

Harrogate: Da Veiga, Bloomer, Merris, Bolder (Elam 40), White, Killock, Metcalfe (Chilaka 56), Bolland, Larkin, Woods (Allan 79), Clayton. Subs not used: Radcliffe, Hull.

Scorers: Bolder (21)

Shots on target: 2

Shots off target: 1

Corners: 4

Halifax: Glennon, Bolton, McManus, Worthington (Knowles 63), Pearson, Lowe, Worsley, Williams (A Johnson 76), Glover (Seddon 46), Gardner, Gregory. Subs not used: Senior, Jackson.

Scorers: Bolton (64)

Shots on target: 3

Shots off target: 6

Corners: 3

Attendance: 698

Man of the match: Chris Worsley