Nuneaton 0-1 FC Halifax Town

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Chris Smith’s goal five minutes from the end sealed a potentially crucial win for FC Halifax Town as they beat Nuneaton 1-0.

On Grand National Day, Town cleared a sizeable hurdle in the race for the play-offs while Nuneaton can now surely be discounted as on the of the remaining runners and riders.

These two clubs will have been considered among the outsiders for a top-five place at the start of the campaign, but the Shaymen ensured they are still in the thick of the chasing pack with their fourth away win of the season.

Town are now unbeaten in seven games ahead of another potentially nerve-jangling away trip to Barnet.

After half-a-dozen games with the same side, Neil Aspin was forced to ring the changes, with Marlon Jackson replacing Adam Smith.

There was also a brand new centre-back pairing of captain Danny Lowe, who made his first start for four months, and Smith, who made his first start full stop for the Shaymen.

A promotion six-pointer was hardly the ideal game for a new defensive partnership, but the duo settled in nicely as Town absorbed some early Nuneaton pressure.

The first-half picked up where the 90 minutes against Braintree had left off as both teams failed to register a shot on target and largely cancelled each other out.

But that probably reflected better on the visitors given the fact Town had played less than 48 hours earlier while Nuneaton enjoyed a game-free week.

Despite the hosts reeling off four efforts within the first quarter of an hour, Town had the best chance of the half when Lee Gregory rattled the bar from Ryan Crowther’s cross.

But that went against the grain of a half which saw Nuneaton enjoy more possession without ever really getting into their stride.

Jackson and Crowther looked lively on the break as gradually the Nuneaton defenders were forced into a few more clearances.

Chances were proving elusive for both teams though, with neither attack able to produce anything incisive enough to see the whites of the keeper’s eyes.

As if to emphasise the scarcity of clear cut chances, even when Louis Moult then struck the bar it was from a miscued cross.

The Nuneaton defence were certainly under no illusions about the threat posed by Gregory as they threw every available limb in front of the Town striker whenever he had a sight of goal.

Lois Maynard’s fine cross-field pass looked to have picked out Gregory at the far post but captain Gareth Dean, who was sticking to Gregory like glue, produced an excellent tackle in the nick of time.

Chances continued to be sporadic at best as Dean then headed narrowly over from a corner shortly after the restart.

As on Thursday, the introduction of Scott Spencer highlighted Neil Aspin’s reluctance to settle for a draw as the game started to open up.

Andy Brown finally registered the contest’s first effort on target as his header was superbly saved by Matt Glennon.

Gregory then magnificently controlled the keeper’’s long clearance before curling a shot narrowly wide.

Soon afterwards, James Belshaw palmed away Crowther’s shot as Town got an effort on goal as the away side suddenly looked far more threatening.

Spencer had the ball in the net as the clock ticked towards 80 minutes but referee Lee Swabey had blown for a foul on Belshaw by Gregory, much to Neil Aspin’s frustration.

The match was heading towards stick or twist time, with a point leaving even less room for error for both teams in their pursuit of the top five.

It was Halifax pressing for a winner the longer the game went on as their corner count moved into double figures.

Crowther’s delivery had left a lot to be desired most of the afternoon, but substitute Josh Wilson produced a peach of a corner that Smith nodded in from five yards in front a jubilant away support.

Nuneaton: Belshaw, Cranston, Dean, Cowan, Streete, Trainer, Sleath (Walker 70), Armson, Moult (York 70), Hibbert, Brown. Subs not used: Gordon, Adams, Pearson.

Shots on target: 1

Shots off target: 8

Corners: 7

Halifax: Glennon, Bolton, C Smith, Lowe, McManus, Jackson (Spencer 64), Maynard, Marshall (Wilson 46), Pearson, Crowther, Gregory. Subs not used: Senior, McReady, Worthington.

Scorer: Smith (85)

Shots on target: 2

Shots off target: 4

Corners: 11

Attendance: 1,041

Town man of the match: Chris Smith