FC Halifax Town 5
Stocksbridge PS 1
Danny Holland bagged a hat-trick as Town got their title bid back on track in emphatic fashion against Stocksbridge.
The striker scored two in three minutes midway through the first half and, after Tom Baker had fired home from the penalty spot on the hour, headed in his third with 16 minutes remaining to make the game safe.
Jamie Vardy completed the rout when his pace took him clear with six minutes remaining and he fired home after the keeper had saved his initial effort.
It was a far more fluid and confident display from the Shaymen against a Stocksbridge side that at least gave them a chance to play by committing men forward.
But as so many others who have done that in the past have discovered, it can be a dangerous ploy because Town have the players who revel in open spaces.
Lee Gregory returned to the Town attack with Andrew Milne and Scott Hogan making their first league starts in place of the suspended Liam Hogan and Scott Phelan, who failed a fitness test.
Vardy, playing against his former club, pulled a low cross in from the left after two minutes which found its way to Hogan, but keeper Ben Scott blocked for a corner.
Town forced a further two corners in quick succession and when the third was finally cleared Hogan sent a good cross towards the far post from the right.
The keeper got a touch but Vardy sent it back into the mix and Milne stuck out a left leg but could not direct it on target.
A minute later Vardy’s touch gave Gregory the chance to ghost past a couple of defenders before being denied by Scott diving to his left.
Vardy almost provided a moment of magic after 12 minutes when he received a throw from Jonathan Hedge and raced from inside his own half into the Stocksbridge box only to be denied by Scott’s fingertips.
Mark Ward, who scored twice in the game in South Yorkshire, had the visitors’ first shot at goal, a low effort from the edge of the area that Hedge saved comfortably.
But the Shaymen were dominating and when Mark Bower headed down a Simon Garner corner Gregory volleyed goalwards only to see the keeper save.
The goal finally came after 21 minutes from yet another Garner corner, this time on the right.
The ball went deep where Milne had a header blocked and Holland was on hand to force the ball home from close range.
Two minutes later the Shaymen doubled their advantage when Vardy raced past Richard Stirrup on the left and whipped the ball in for Holland who slid in at the far post to score.
Gregory flicked on Aaron Hardy’s ball forward soon after and got to it a second time to head goalwards, but the keeper saved again.
Very much against the run of play, Stocksbridge pulled one back on the half hour when Ward flicked on for Jack Muldoon who was at least a yard offside, but the flag stayed down and he finished well.
Town had the chance to restore their two-goal advantage within 60 seconds after Gregory’s way to goal had been blocked and the ball fell to Holland, but his effort was cleared off the line by Stirrup.
There was drama at the start of the second half when the linesman failed to spot a push on Hardy, but thought he had seen the Town defender handle.
Ward stepped up to take the spot kick and blazed it high over Hedge’s bar.
Within a minute, Gregory had crossed deep from the left and Hogan, arriving late, smashed an effort against the bar.
And moments later, after Gregory had been fouled on the edge of the area, Holland had a well struck free kick beaten away by Scott.
Hogan and Gregory combined before Vardy had an effort blocked for a corner and Town eventually regained their two goal advantage on the hour from the second penalty of the game.
Milne had actually smashed the ball into the net moments after the referee blew for a foul on Bower and Baker stepped up to fire home from the spot.
Holland almost capitalised on another Vardy cross soon after and Vardy won another corner after latching onto a great Baker pass, Milne heading wide from Garner’s ball into the box.
The game was finally put to bed with 16 minutes remaining when Vardy won the ball back on the right and crossed deep for Holland who completed his hat-trick with an accurate header.
Holland was replaced by Lee Ellington who set up a shooting chance for Baker which was blocked and moments later Garner hammered in a free kick from an acute angle that the keeper could only parry, Milne’s instinctive reaction to the follow up sent the ball wide.
Vardy might have added a fifth with eight minutes remaining when he got his head to a Gregory cross, but it only took a chance away from Ellington.
The former Stocksbridge man eventually got the goal he craved with six minutes remaining, latching onto a Baker pass and, after the keeper had blocked his first attempt, firing home.