Halifax Town 0
Gainsborough Trinity 1
(Gainsborough win 3-2 on aggregate)
Town’s dream of a third successive promotion were extinguished in almost inevitable circumstances as they lost to Gainsborough.
Their home form, which has been suspect throughout the campaign, let them down when they most needed something from a game.
And the fact that Shane Clarke’s 64th-minute winner came from a set piece will have come as no surprise to anyone who has watched the Shaymen’s defence struggle to defend free kicks and corners all season.
But the scoreline hides the fact that the Shaymen had more than enough chances to have gone through to the final.
Tom Baker and James Dean both hit the woodwork while Ryan Toulson was a full length save away from scoring his first-ever goal for the Shaymen.
Throw in a couple of blocks and one clearance off the line and it all added up to a frustrating as well as disappointing afternoon.
Neil Aspin made one change to his starting line-up, bringing in Luke Ashworth who impressed in a cameo at Northolme for Simon Garner.
That meant a change in formation with Ashworth one of three central defenders behind Baker and Liam Needham in central midfeld.
Town started brightly enough with Ryan Toulson crossing for James Dean but his header floated straight into the keeper’s arms.
Soon after some neat build up play ended with Sean Clancy crossing from the left but Luke Waterfall was there to clear.
In reply, Jonathan Williams sent in a shot along the ground from 25 yards that was never going to trouble Simon Eastwood.
And Jamie Yates tried his luck from distance but the ball was always going wide of the Town goal.
The closest either side came to breaking the deadlock in the opening 15 minutes came when Sandwith found Clarke on the right and he pulled the ball back for Williams whose thunderous effort just about cleared Eastwood’s crossbar.
A Sandwith free kick - the cause of so many problems in the first leg in midweek, was comfortably dealt with.
And Williams took the first corner of the game after 19 minutes but the visitors were unable to make anything of it.
Town started to get themselves into the game and a Clancy free kick was punched clear unconvincingly by Trinity keeper Jason White.
Dean’s flick found Gregory on the edge of the area soon after and he turned away from his marker only to slip at the vital moment and lose possession.
Dean headed a Clancy cross into the keeper’s arms just past the half hour and Liam Needham and Clancy both had efforts blocked as the Shaymen looked to turn up the heat on the visitors.
They almost broke through after 37 minutes when Gregory was fouled on the edge of the area.
Baker lined up the free kick and sent the ball goalwards only to watch in dismay as it thudded back off the bar and Dean could only head the rebound over.
Danny Lowe’s well struck effort six minutes before the break hit Waterfall on its way out for a corner.
And when Toulson crossed from the right Gregory did well only for Dominic Roma to get in a crucial block.
Gregory hit the side netting before Yates had one last opportunity before the break only to be denied by Ashworth’s block.
A Yates diagonal ball just failed to reach Leon Mettan before Town carved out their first opening of the second half after good work from Dean and Gregory.
The ball landed at Clancy’s feet but he was denied by a fingertip save from White.
Toulson played a neat ball in for Dean after 55 minutes and found the striker with his back to goal.
But he turned well before firing in a low shot that bounced back into play off the post.
Dean could only direct his shot into the keeper’s arms soon after following a Clancy cross and Gregory fired over the bar on the turn just before the hour mark.
Having made so many chances, Town were caught with a real sucker punch after 63 minutes following a corner debateably awarded after Mettam had headed over under pressure from Lowe.
Williams sent the ball into the danger area, Town failed to react and Clarke was there to scuff his shot into the back of the net.
That was that as far as chances for the visitors were concerned as Town threw everything into the search for an equaliser.
Lowe’s cross managed to elude Ross Hannah, Dean and Gregory on the edge of the six yard box and Baker’s well struck effort was collected by the keeper at the second attempt.
Gregory went on a surging 74th minute run and found Lowe but his pass was too strong for Hannah.
Then Toulson crossed for Gregory who laid it off to Clancy, but his effort flew wide.
The chances continued to come - and go - although there was a let off when Ryan Williams found the side netting.
Toulson’s 25-yard piledriver forced a great save from White and Dean had an effort cleared off the line as the ball travelled through a crowd of players.
There was one final chance with a couple of minutes remaining but Clancy’s volley went straight into the keeper’s arms.