A much-changed FC Halifax Town side edged through to the final of the West Riding County Cup with a 1-0 win at Ossett.
Alex Johnson’s cool finish midway through the first-half proved decisive at Ingfield to set up a West Yorkshire derby against Guiseley in the final.
Johnson was, as expected, one of eleven changes made by Neil Aspin as he took the opportunity to not only give a well earned rest to the team that won at Vauxhall 24 hours earlier, but also hand some much-needed game time to Lee Gregory, Jason St Juste and Phil Senior.
It’s fair to say the County Cup is a much-maligned competition largley ignored by the bigger clubs it needs in order to survive, as they understandably seek more desirable achievements in the league.
But for most of the 22 players on the pitch at Ingfield, this match represented an opportunity, either to test themselves against one of the biggest names in non-league or to be tested in a competitive game against a lower league side looking for a scalp.
Ossett described the match as the biggest home fixture of their season before kick-off, and while The Shaymen could never dream of attaching such importance to the tie, it emphasised the fact that Town wouldn’t reach the final without a fight.
If Alex Johnson was to rank tonight as a successful evening, he surely needed to grace the scoresheet with the likes of Gareth Seddon, Alex Titchiner and his strike partner Lee Gregory ahead of him in the pecking order.
And the finish for his goal afer 25 minutes belied the fact that he’s been on the fringes of the first-team for most of the season as he calmly slid the ball across Matt Convey from the left side of the box following Jason St Juste’s deft through ball.
That seemed to take the sting out of the hosts’ competitive start, and Town enjoyed superiority for the remainder of the half, with Gregory and St Juste the stand-out performers; their first touches and superior control of the ball marking them out as regular first-teamers.
The youngsters in the side offered energy rather than expertise, but Joshua Messer showed a glimpse of quality with a well hit shot that flew just wide from outside the box, while Gregory’s free-kick from 30 yards out curled inches wide of the upright.
Ossett seemed rejuvinated by the half-time break though, and forced Phil Senior into two good saves in the first ten minutes of the second-half, first from Carl Stewart and then substitute James Eyles.
Former Huddersfield man Simon Baldry was next to test Senior with a well struck first time shot from 25 yards out which the keeper claimed with minimal fuss, but the hosts were now putting up a much sterner resistence.
Town’s inexperienced back four were suddenly on the back foot as Ossett pressed for an equaliser, for which they were given a golden opportunity when Eyles was tripped in the box by Jake Kenny.
But full-back Anthonly Lloyd skied his spot-kick to let Town off the hook, whichthey were again after 66 minutes when Eyles spurned another great chance when he headed wide from the edge of the six-yard box after Senior had parried Stewart’s shot.
Neil Aspin may have selected a weakened side but his will to win was undiminished as he barked out the orders as if the Champions League was at stake as Town tried to protect their slender lead.
They did so fairly comfortably in the end to earn the club two wins in as many days.
Vauxhall: Convey, Lloyd, Whitehouse, Patterson, Cotterill, Milne, Hudson, Darley, Stewart Corbett 78), Baldry, Hannity (Eyles 37). Subs not used: Fothergill, Crook.
Shots on target: 5
Shots off target: 4
Halifax: Senior, Kenny, Hanbury, Messer, Qualter, Wysocki, Collins, Abadaki, Johnson, Gregory (Igiehon 67), St Juste. Subs not used: Sylbert, Thomas, Igiehon, Halton.
Goalscorers: Johnson (25)
Shots on target: 2
Shots off target: 0
Man of the match: Connor Qualter