Salford 1-1 FC Halifax Town: Heath satisfied with a draw in play-off first-leg

Billy Heath. Picture Tony Johnson.
Billy Heath. Picture Tony Johnson.

Town boss Billy Heath was satisfied with their 1-1 draw at Salford in the first-leg of their play-off semi-final.

Substitute James Poole cancelled out Richard Peniket’s first-half goal to leave the tie even going into Sunday’s second-leg at The Shay.

Heath admitted there was a sense of disappointment due to conceding late on, but was still pleased with a draw given Salford’s excellent home record of just one league defeat all season.

“I’m satisfied with a draw because of the way the game panned out,” said the Town boss. “We knew it was going to be difficult because their record’s so good at home. They know how to play a certain way at home.

“We’re slightly disappointed because we’re 1-0 in-front. Once we got over the initial spell after half-time where they asked questions again and put us under pressure again, we had a little period in the game.

“Jordan had a chance and you’re praying when Nathan hits his shot that it goes in, but you’re disappointed in a way because they got the goal.

“If we could have had another clean sheet - which we’ve had a lot of recently - going back to The Shay with a 1-0 lead would have put us in pole position.”

Heath said his team produced a ‘decent’ display on the night.

“We both had chances,” said Heath. “They’ve hit the post, we’ve hit the crossbar.

“The game was to-and-fro. We had a great chance to wrap it up, we don’t take it, then after defending great all night, the goal we concede is disappointing, but it was a decent display. It’s a tough place to come, Salford’s home record is really good.

“We said we’d have to keep it tight in the first 20 minutes, we’d have to be solid. We did that then Richard popped up with a great finish.

“It was good to go in at half-time 1-0. I thought we got more bodies around Tom Denton in the second-half, we had a bit more of the play.

“It was a better second-half than the first. It had everything, good chances for both teams, lots of goalmouth action, endeavour and hard work from both teams.”

Injuries prevented Danny Clarke and Liam King playing, so Nathan Hotte moved to central midfield and Matty Brown started alongside Scott Garner in defence.

“He’s not foreign to playing in midfield,” Heath said of Hotte, who hit the bar in the second-half. “It’s not a big surprise he played there, originally he was a central midfielder that’s done a lot of good work at centre-half, and I thought he played very well in there.

“What you’ve got to be against Salford is physically strong because they’re such a big team, so we had to go with a big team, and Nathan gives you that.

“We knew it was going to be one for the big, strong boys. The game would have been tailor-made for Danny Clarke, and we thought we were going to be fully clear of the injuries.

“But it’s been the story of the season and Clarkey had a problem after the Saturday game but we thought he was going to clear up. It came a bit too early for Liam King as well but hopefully they’ll be in contention for Sunday.”

Town took 600 travelling supporters for the game.

“The supporters were fantastic, Heath said. “They were really noisy, really behind us, pushing us. The players said they loved it, said it was fantastic.”

On Poole’s late leveller, Heath added: “It was a scruffy one and it could have been avoided because we didn’t get out quick enough, we didn’t stop the cross, it’s come in and it’s been recycled, which Salford do well.

“He’s done ever so well with his back to goal, turned and hit it, he’s scuffed it and I think it’s deceived Sam (Johnson) a bit. If he catches it clean Sam may save it but it’s a good finish.”