Lee Gregory’s first half hat-trick saw FC Halifax Town continue their impressive home form with a dominant 3-0 win over Welling United.
Gregory’s goals, which included a sublime over head kick, came in just 36 minutes as the visitors failed to cope with Town’s high tempo start.
Despite being poor throughout, United were offered a route back into the match at the end of the first half when Ryan Toulson was adjudged to have brought down Loick Pires in the box, only for Matt Glennon to save the resulting spot kick.
After Town were given a standing ovation at the interval, the second half was an anti-climax with chances at a premium and although Welling did improve after the break, Simon Ainge and Mark Roberts stood strong at the heart of the Town defence to preserve the Shaymen’s clean sheet.
Neil Aspin made one change from the side which earned a battling draw at Woking last week, with captain Danny Lowe returning in place of Paul Marshall, who dropped to the bench with Scott McManus pushing up into midfield.
After two long throws into the Welling area came to nothing, a clever flick from McManus on the edge of the box drew a foul but Gardner fizzed the resulting free-kick wide of the near post.
But on eight minutes Town were ahead when Gregory nodded in at the second attempt after Welling ‘keeper Lee Butcher produced a stunning save to deny the striker from Adam Smith’s hanging cross.
If there was an element of fortune about his first, his second was all about skill.
After Matty Pearson pinched the ball back half way inside the Welling half, the ball was eventually spread wide to the overlapping Ryan Toulson.
The fullback’s cross picked out a stretching Smith who could only head back across goal and it looked like the chance had gone - only for Gregory to produce a stunning overhead kick into the bottom corner to double Town’s advantage.
And Gregory completed a blistering first half hat-trick on 36 minutes when he tapped home a low Gardner cross from the right after more good work from Smith down the right.
Welling looked unable to cope with a rampant Town and their skipper Lee Clarke blazed high over Matt Glennon’s cross bar from long range as their frustrations began to grow.
But with half time approaching the visitors were given a lifeline when referee Anthony Blackhouse awarded a penalty following a trip by Toulson on Pires - but their misery was compounded when Glennon produced a smart save down to his left to deny Pires and Town left the field at the interval with the cheers of their fans ringing in their ears.
Welling started the second half as the brighter side though. Simon Ainge had to get up well twice to deny Blaine Hudson and then Joe Healey - both after an over-hit Loui Fazakerly cross came perilously close to dropping under Glennon’s crossbar as the ‘keeper back peddled.
Lee Clarke then fired a long range volley well wide before at the other end McManus’s left foot drive from distance was also off target.
With 25 minutes to go Glennon produced a fine low stop to keep out Baily Cargill’s fizzed cross-shot and then on the break Gregory, who was quieter in the second half, curled a 20-yard effort straight at Butcher.
John McCready, on for Gardner, got in on goal down the right but saw his attempted chip blocked by Butcher from a tight angle.
Gregory and Smith were then replaced, each to a standing ovation, as Kevin Holsgrove and Paul Marshall were introduced for the final 15 minutes, while at the back Ainge and Roberts stood strong to head away a series of Welling crosses into the Town box.
Kurtis Guthrie then fired a long range effort at Glennon, who palmed the ball behind, and the ‘keeper was then commanding as he rose high to claim the resulting corner.
With Welling committing men forward, Marshall almost grabbed a fourth for Town on the break but his left foot effort was parried behind by Butcher, as Town cruised over the line to pick up all three points.
FC Halifax Town: Glennon, Toulson, Ainge, Roberts, Lowe, Pearson, Maynard, Gardner (McCredy, 57 mins), Smith (Marshall, 74 mins), McManus, Gregory (Holsgrove, 74 mins). Subs: Senior, Johnson.
Welling United: Butcher, Fazakerly, Gallagher, Franks, Clarke, Guthrie, Pires (Hughes-Mason, 57 mins) Hudson, Cargill, Day, Healey. Subs: Turner, Corne, Griffin.
Half time: 3-0
Goals: Gregory (8, 24, 36)