Macclesfield 1-1 FC Halifax Town

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Scott Boden scored against his old club as FC Halifax Town returned to the top of the Conference Premier with a 1-1 draw at Macclesfield.

Boden was welcomed by polite applause before kick-off but his name was greeted with a few boos after his name was announced as the opening scorer.

Those supporters know what they’re missing though; it’s four in five now for the Town striker.

He and fellow former Silkmen James Bolton and Steve Williams also impressed on the night as Town came close to making it seven wins out of eight.

The game was in the same mould as last season’s 2-2 draw at Moss Rose as both sides contributed to a full-blooded contest, although a late disallowed goal left a sour taste in the mouth for the Shaymen.

Town took a leaf out of England’s book and deployed a diamond in midfield, with Ross Dyer’s match-winning cameo on Saturday promoting him from the bench.

Matt Pearson started at the tip of that diamond and marked his territory with a crunching early tackle.

The Town midfielder was the pantomime villain here last season after an unedifying incident with Connor Jennings which saw the Macclesfield striker sent-off and Pearson booked.

That game was peppered with some tetchy tackles and this contest was no different as both teams battled to gain superiority in a packed middle third.

Neither team was given much breathing space on the ball, but Pearson produced a delightful turn away from Scott Barrow and crossed to Boden, whose lay-off found Lois Maynard but his shot was deflected wide.

There were plenty of niggly challenges for referee Steve Rushton to adjudicate on, although the Macclesfield bench appealed for twice as many fouls as were awarded in their favour.

Such enthusiasm only egged on the more vociferous home supporters, which in turn perhaps persuaded the referee to award the odd extra foul than he otherwise would have.

There was a flashback to the kind of rotten luck Town experienced on the road last season when an ankle injury to Marc Roberts allowed Wade Fairhurst to run onto a through ball before he was crowded out.

Pearson continued to sparkle at the top of the diamond as he drilled in a low shot that Taylor reacted well to turn away.

Meanwhile, a key weapon in Town’s armoury had been dented as the visitors were unable to utilise any long throws as Roberts’ tip-toed his way back into the game without risking aggravating that injury with his trademark set-piece.

It was only on the verge of half-time that Roberts’ long-throws returned as Town ended the half strongly, enjoying the majority of possession and eliciting a few groans of frustration from the home fans.

But Macclesfield created two excellent chances just before the break as the lively-looking Fairhurst brought a fine save from Matt Glennon before Paul Lewis’ header flashed just wide from the resulting corner.

The introduction of Jamie Jackson prompted a switch to 4-3-3 at the start of the second-half, with Pearson remaining the stand-out player in blue or red despite moving to the right flank.

The Town midfielder forged a chance through sheer brute force before firing across goal shortly after a tremendous cross that was begging for a touch.

The curse of the former player, which has so often struck against Town, then saw Boden tap-in after Jackson’s shot was spilled by Rhys Taylor.

The lead only lasted five minutes though as Gnahoua fired an excellent shot low across Glennon; but the Town fans still had time to boast about returning to the top of the league in-between.

The contest may have been back to square one but the pace of the game certainly shifted up a gear.

Halifax had good reason thankful for the durability of Marc Roberts’ ankle as the defender played a key part in holding off the home side with a towering header then a superb tackle on the tricky Gnahoua.

Substitute Adam Smith then struck a thunderous drive from 25 yards that forced an excellent save from Taylor as the game’s knife-edge got even thinner.

Paul Marshall also came to the fore as the game became stretched with a crucial interception among an array of outstanding passes as space opened up in the middle third.

The enthusiasm of the Macclesfield bench then reached new heights as James Bolton was pushed by one of the home contingent.

The former Silkmen defender then got a brief sight of goal but couldn’t control Marshall’s cross after it had evaded everyone else in the box.

There was just time to squeeze in one last moment of drama as Roberts was denied a late winner as the linesman flagged for an alleged foul on Rhys Taylor, much to the chagrin of the Town bench and the away supporters, who were celebrating what they thought was the winner.

Macclesfield: Taylor, Halls, Waterfall, Pilkington, Barrow, Gnahoua, Haining (Diaz 55), Lewis (Cowan 81), Turnbull (Rouse 46), Fairhurst, Holroyd. Subs not used: Thomas, Branagan.

Scorer: Gnahoua (57)

Shots on target: 2

Shots off target: 4

Corners: 2

Halifax: Glennon, Bolton, M Roberts, Williams, McManus, Schofield, Maynard (Smith 71), Pearson, Marshall, Boden, Dyer (Jackson 46, Ainge 90)). Subs not used: Senior, K Roberts.

Scorer: Boden (52)

Shots on target: 4

Shots off target: 7

Corners: 4

Attendance: 1,509

Town man of the match: Matt Pearson