FC Halifax Town 1
Ashton United 0
Town left it late - some might say too late for comfort - to kill off a stubborn and defence minded Ashton United at the Shay.
The visitors showed no ambition but the Shaymen lacked the guile to break them down until Jamie Vardy struck with less than two minutes remaining.
The former Stocksbridge man got down low six yards out to head home Aaron Hardy’s right wing cross and everyone of a blue persuasion inside the ground breathed a collective sigh of relief.
Boss Neil Aspin said his side would have to be better than they had been against Worksop in midweek.
They weren’t, but they were just about good enough in the end to secure another three points.
Scott Phelan replaced Richard Marshall in midfield, but it was Tom Baker who had the first sight of goal, firing over from 30 yards.
And a couple of minutes later Danny Lowe sent the ball into the box for Danny Holland, but he was beaten by the bounce of the ball.
Lee Gregory created a chance for himself after five minutes when he dispossessed Jimmy Kelly on the left, but he sent his attempted curler wide of the far post.
After that, the passing started to go astray, with players getting in good positions but failing to deliver the ball to its intended targets.
Holland was a notable exception as he found teammates with a series of good, short, passes but some of the longer efforts from his colleagues were poor.
Simon Garner curled in a 15th-minute free kick that Ashton keeper Terry Smith held onto in the centre of his goal.
And when Phelan won a corner on the right, Garner’s delivery had Smith at full stretch to get fingertips to it before claiming.
Despite their problems, Town were the better side and Mark Bower’s downward header from a Garner corner had to be cleared by Liam Dawson.
The Ashton defender was back in the action within 30 seconds, seemingly bringing down Gregory as he went clear, the referee gave nothing - not even a yellow card for a dive.
Town were almost caught on the break just past the midway point in the half as Ian Bennett broke on the right, but when the ball was fed to Aaron Burns his shot was saved by Jonathan Hedge.
Holland and Phelan combined to create a half chance for Gregory before Phelan fired in a 20-yarder that was always slipping wide.
And there was a bizarre effort on goal from Jamie Vardy when Craig Robinson’s attempted clearance bounced back off him and flashed across the face of goal.
There were signs that it was starting to come together, with Holland and Baker combining to free Hardy on the right, but his cross was cleared by Alex Frost.
Vardy’s pace got him past Dawson four minutes before the break and he had a second bite at it when the keeper punched weakly but Ashton cleared.
Immediately the visitors broke at the other end and Bower did well to recover before taking the ball off the marauding Jonathan Bathurst.
Scott Metcalfe replaced Garner at the break, giving the Shaymen plenty of pace on both sides of the pitch.
But there was little more to cheer about than there had been in the first half in the opening stages.
The first roar came after 58 minutes when Phelan’s low long range effort had Smith scrambling to turn it behind for a corner.
Moments later Baker swung in a free kick, Holland deliberately left it and it took a magnificent goalline clearance from Robinson to keep it out.
The chance Town had been looking for finally arrived after 65 minutes when Hedge cleared and Holland flicked on.
Robinson slipped, allowing Gregory to run into the area and he lifted his shot over the advancing keeper but onto the roof of the net.
The outstretched leg of Dawson prevented Lowe’s right footed cross from the left from reaching Vardy at the far post as Town continued to look for an opening.
Ashton were resolute but their forwards were starting to struggle to hold onto the ball when they cleared, meaning Town saw plenty of possession inside the visitors’ half.
They probed without any success against the two banks of four, Baker going closest with a 25-yarder that flew narrowly wide.
Metcalfe flashed an effort over the bar after a Holland nod down and Frost reacted quickest when Smith only parried a Phelan shot.
Hardy did well on the right to cross for Holland who made room for himself before firing in a shot that was beaten away by Smith.
Then, when it looked like a second successive Shay stalemate, Hardy crossed from the right and Vardy stooped six yards out to head home.