Goals from Matty Kosylo and Tom Denton made it six wins out of seven for FC Halifax Town as they beat 10-man Worcester City 2-1.
Town would probably have hand-picked Worcester as their opponents of any team in the league, but the hosts shrugged off their tag as crisis club with a defiant display.
On paper, it looked no contest, with The Shaymen heading into the match unbeaten in six and the hosts without a win since November 28, but Worcester bridged that gap to make it an uncomfortable afternoon for Billy Heath and his team.
After a poor first-half, a quickfire double appeared to have handed Halifax a comfortable win, but a Tyler Weir penalty halved the deficit moments before he was sent-off and left the result in doubt until full-time.
The Worcester press pack were still trying to work out the hosts’ team line-up as the teams came out, with The Blues fielding no natural strikers after flogging their two senior forwards in an ongoing bid to cut costs, while their bench featured three 16-year-old youth team players who had only been registered for the first-team earlier in the week.
All of which was an indication of the turmoil that the club came into the match with, but Worcester’s balance sheet was probably more appealing to look at than the game in the first 20 minutes.
The bobbly pitch didn’t help, but both sides were guilty of conceding possession cheaply and lacking quality in the final third, although the hosts displayed a commendably battling spirit given the patched-up nature of their team.
Worcester’s makeshift striker Jordan Murphy was the best player on the pitch in the first-half, showing some neat touches and positive bursts forward on the ball, while Halifax were yet to get going.
There may have been obvious deficiencies in quality from the hosts, but it appeared as if the crisis surrounding Worcester had galvanised the players and was the driving force behind a hard-working performance.
Billy Heath went into the game saying his team’s quality would show through if they worked hard enough, but there was little evidence of it, with The Shaymen again struggling against a team near the foot of the table.
The best they mustered in the opening half was Richard Peniket’s header over the bar from Liam King’s cross, while Worcester could have taken the lead had Cieron Keane’s low effort not gone the wrong side of the post.
As at Altrincham, Town’s creators-in-chief Adam Morgan and Kosylo were peripheral figures, and as such, the visitors created little of note.
All of which could be forgiven if, as at Altrincham, Town somehow went on to win the game. For that, they needed a re-think, which came in the form of Denton, who replaced the ineffective Daniel Nti at half-time.
But it was a mistake from the hosts that led to Kosylo opening the scoring as neither Weir or Jordan Keane dealt with a loose ball in the box, leaving the Halifax man free to prod the ball across goal with Town’s first shot on target.
It was harsh on the hosts, whose performance didn’t deserve that.
But by the time Denton added a second, all Worcester’s hard-work was undone and there looked no way back as the substitute nodded in Josh Wilde’s cross off the underside of the bar, after which there was some confusion as King made sure on the rebound from an offside position, but the linesman judged Denton’s header to have crossed the line first.
The game looked as good as over, but Worcester were awarded a penalty after a free-kick was launched into the Town box, and Weir converted it - just their third goal in eight game, and one that ended Halifax’s run of just over six hours without conceding a goal. But the defender was then shown a second yellow card for apparently slapping Town keeper Sam Johnson when trying to retrieve the ball.
Worcester kept battling, with Halifax failing to make their man advantage much of an advantage at all, but didn’t have enough left in the tank to muster an equaliser.
Worcester: Ross, Weir, J Keane, Sharpe, C Keane, Jackman (Scrivens 78), Oji, Murphy (Devlin 86), Rose, English, Nelson-Addy. Subs not used: Ruddock, Brett.
Scorer: Weir (62)
Shots on target: 2
Shots off target: 2
Halifax: Johnson, Roberts (Moyo 23), Garner, Brown, Wilde, Kosylo, King, Lynch, Nti (Denton 46), Morgan (Sinnott 72), Peniket. Subs not used: Drench, Clarke.
Scorers: Kosylo (49), Denton (54)
Shots on target: 6
Shots off target: 6
Town man of the match: Liam King
Referee: Robert Massey-Ellis