Woking 3-2 FC Halifax Town

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FC Halifax Town were dramatically defeated on the final day of the season as 10-man Woking scored twice in injury-time to win 3-2.

Scott McManus ended Town’s four-and-a-half hour wait for a goal before Woking equalised through Josh Payne, who was later sent-off.

Will Hatfield scored one penalty and missed another in the second-half, with the hosts banging on the door but unable to find a way past an inspired Matt Glennon.

But Scott Rendell’s penalty and substitute Yemi Odubade’s close-range finish started and finished an incredible comeback to a very entertaining afternoon’s football.

Neil Aspin had made it clear prior to the game that no game ever has nothing riding on it and wanted to see some professionalism and pride from his players.

And that’s what he got as Halifax’s previous three games were well and truly put behind them.

If Town had performed like this over the last few weeks, a top-five finish may well have been at stake on the final day.

A long trip to Woking seemed about as appealing as Brussels sprouts, but Town looked to have done enough before that crushing spell of added time.

There was a nice symmetry to McManus’ goal, only his second of the season, as his first came back on the opening day at Dover.

The full-back was unmarked as he headed in from close-range after Graham Hutchison had nodded Adam Smith’s corner back across goal.

Guiseppe Sole, scorer of that goal at The Shay in the reverse fixture, was then denied by a fine reaction save by Glennon when clean through moments later.

Woking didn’t have to wait much longer for parity though, not too surprisingly given they’d scored in each of their last 14 games, as the ball fell kindly to Payne inside the area after handball claims against Hutchison were ignored, and the ball was rifled past Glennon.

But Town broke clear again shortly afterwards only for Paul Marshall, who had already seen a free-kick shave the bar, to drag his low shot across goal.

Phew. Given the league positions of these two sides, the drama was supposed to happen elsewhere in the Conference.

The pace of the game had subsided by the half-hour mark, although Town’s steady probing was repeatedly commented on by a Halifax fan in the main stand with all the enthusiasm of a title-decider.

Things picked up again when Danny Schofield hit the inside of the post before McManus showed why he’d only scored twice this term as he blazed wide from a corner.

Sole sent a free-kick inches wide from a similar spot to his remarkable goal at The Shay after tensions had risen following a tackle by Adam Smith on captain Kevin Betsy, playing his final Woking game after a long spell at the club.

Betsy had been given a guard of honour onto the pitch but Town had certainly offered enough to suggest they could be party poopers on his big day.

Both captains were making their last appearances for their respective clubs of course, although namesake Kevin Roberts had again caught the eye for Town, motoring up and down the right flank, with his efforts mirrored by McManus down the left.

But Woking nearly took advantage when Roberts was caught up-field, allowing left-back Chris Arthur to charge forward, but Sole should have done better than fire wide from his low cross.

Town started the second-half in a similar vein to the first through Hatfield’s penalty, which was earned by Danny Hattersley after he was brought down by Jake Cole after the ‘keeper had mis-controlled a back pass.

The Shaymen could have done with a slice of good fortune like that a few weeks ago.

The pattern of the game continued as Glennon reacted well to tip Payne’s cross-shot direct from a free-kick onto the post.

Only two strikers had scored more goals in the Conference than Rendell, but Marc Roberts had him in his pocket until he was forced off with an injury.

After two outstanding seasons with Halifax, it was a sad way for him to bow out just before the hour mark, with a move to the Football League a near-certainty.

But it spoke volumes about the defender that he tried to play on for nigh on 10 minutes in game with nothing riding on it.

Town will miss that kind of commitment next season.

Still that Town fan barked out the instructions at full volume, even drowning out the odd yell from Neil Aspin, who was also sitting in the main stand.

Two chances within a minute nearly brought Woking level, but Joe McNerney’s header was cleared off the line by Marshall before substitute Manny Oyeleke was denied by a superb save by Glennon low to his left.

Oyeleke went close again when his goal-bound shot was deflected behind by Steve Williams.

Glennon then produced his best save yet to tip John Goddard’s shot onto the post and then denied Betsy a dream goal on his final appearance when one-on-one.

That Town fan was on the verge of spontaneous combustion as Town dug in.

The drama went on as Payne was sent-off for a trip on Hatfield as he charged into the box, although the Town midfielder looked to have overrun the ball on first viewing.

But Hatfield’s second penalty was saved brilliantly by Cole, who redeemed himself after his part in the first spot-kick.

Despite their sending-off, Woking pressed on for an equaliser but still couldn’t find a way through, with Goddard hitting the bar from a free-kick.

But, irony of ironies, Hatfield conceded the last penalty of the day after referee David Rock adjudged him to have deliberately handballed a free-kick that was hammered in his direction.

Rendell converted but the drama didn’t end there as Odubade tapped in a cross from the right flank as defeat was snatched from the jaws of victory.

Woking: Cole, Newton (Odubade 80), Ricketts, McNerney, Arthur, Murtagh (Oyeleke 66), Payne, Goddard, Betsy, Sole (Jones 85), Rendell. Subs not used: Saah, Crowe.

Scorer: Payne (17), Rendell (90), Obudabe (90)

Shots on target: 9

Shots off target: 5

Corners: 8

Halifax: Glennon, Hutchison, K Roberts, M Roberts (Williams 56), McManus, Smith (Jackson 46), Marshall, Hatfield, Schofield, Pearson, Hattersley. Subs not used: Senior, Bolton.

Scorers: McManus (10), Hatfield (47)

Shots on target: 3

Shots off target: 8

Corners: 4

Attendance: 2,175

Town man of the match: Matt Glennon