Home defeat leaves Town with problems

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Halifax Town 0

Bishop’s Stortford 1

Town’s Blue Square Bet North play off hopes suffered a major dent as they crashed to their fifth home defeat of the season.

On a massively frustrating night at the Shay, a 65th minute header from Bishop’s Stortford centre back Sean Frances was enough to overcome Neil Aspin’s side.

Town were a pale shadow of the side that had battled so hard for a share of the spoils away to league leaders Hyde FC at the weekend.

Their passing was generally poor and they lacked the guile to break down the visitors’ defence that was a solid two banks of four in front of keeper Jordan Archer.

Aspin named the same side that started at Hyde with, as expected, Jamie Rainford - substituted at the break at the weekend - in the team.

Ryan Toulson returned from suspension to take his place on the bench alongside young loanees Aron Wint and Matty Crooks.

The Bishops included man mountain striker Reneil Sappleton in their attack but it was Dwight Gayle who had the first chance, racing clear after a minute only to be denied by Scott McManus.

Town’s strikers were unable to get a foothold in the game in the opening stages, the ball coming straight back when sent forward.

And James Dean wasted a decent position when he crossed from the right and sent the ball behind the visitors’ goal.

Town almost opened the Bishops up but Dean was dispossessed as he latched onto a Rainford pass.

At the other end Paco Craig twice played the ball in for Sappleton, but he failed to connect with the first and fired the second well wide from 10 yards.

There were signs of promise after 10 minutes when Scott McManus did well to keep the ball on the left and laid it back for Rainford whose driven cross was headed up in the air by Dean.

It was a fleeting moment of promise, however, as a Gayle free kick was met by Sappleton at the near post but he put it wide.

Aaron Hardy did well after 14 minutes with a cross driven in from the left and Danny Holland headed it back across goal but it bounced wide.

Holland released Rainford moments later and, surrounded by four defenders, he did well to create an opening but fired his shot straight at the keeper.

The Shaymen were starting to dominate possession with Simon Garner making some decent runs, Liam Needham snapping into the tackles in midfield and Tom Baker seeing plenty of the ball.

But for all the ball they had, they rarely troubled Archer in the visitors’ goal and there were still too many mistakes causing boss Neil Aspin to vent his frustration in the technical area.

A Liam Hogan ball forward created a chance for Dean on the edge of the area, but the Town striker’s effort was saved well by Archer.

Moments later Hardy’s ball gave Rainford the chance to cross from the right forcing the visitors to concede a corner from which Needham headed over.

Rainford won a corner seven minutes before the break but it was taken short and wasted as the ball never got into the area.

A minute later Rainford controlled well and found Baker whose long range effort was gathered by Archer at the second attempt.

McManus then played the ball in to Dean’s feet and he laid it off for Holland whose shot flashed wide.

And on the stroke of half time Danny Lowe played a low free kick through for Rainford but his shot on the turn flew wide.

Town almost broke the deadlock three minutes after the restart when Baker regained possession on the edge of the area and forced a full length save from Archer.

But again despite dominating possession, the Shaymen struggled to puncture the visitors’ defence and, as a result, the crowd grew increasingly frustrated

Simon Eastwood was denied the glory of a superb save from Reece Prestedge when he tipped a 54th-minute volley over the bar and the referee gave a goal kick.

Town players started to struggle to find teammates with passes when they crossed the halfway line but were almost handed a chance on the hour when Archer failed to hold onto a Hardy cross, the ball eventually being scrambled clear.

Holland dropped deep in a bid to get the Shaymen going and started to spread play wide to both flanks.

But they had a real let off after 63 minutes when Gayle went through the middle and into the box only to be denied by Eastwood.

That gave Bishops the encouragement to attack again and, from a corner on the left, they took a 65th minute lead when Frances headed home at the far post.

Hogan conceded a corner and injured himself in the process meaning he was unable to defend it and Sappleton headed over from close range.

The centre back was unable to continue and things appeared to get worse moments later when McManus started limping.

Bishops keeper Archer fumbled another Baker long range effort but regathered before Dean could get to it.

McManus soldiered on and played the ball in for Rainford on the left of the box and he turned his marker well.

He went to ground as the ball as swept across the face of goal where Aron Wint was unable to connect.