FC Halifax Town battled to a 1-1 draw with Tranmere Rovers at The Shay to maintain Jim Harvey’s unbeaten record in charge.
Irrespective of Tranmere’s troubles, a point against the pre-season favourites for promotion certainly ranks as one gained for The Shaymen.
And that was especially the case here as Town failed to scale the heights of previous performances under Harvey, and ended the game with 10-men when Jordan Burrow was sent-off in the dying minutes.
The impressive James Norwood gave Tranmere a deserved lead shortly before half-time, but Nicky Wroe scored for the second game running with a spectacular shot from outside the box.
Whether the result is enough to get Harvey the Halifax job or keep Gary Brabin at Tranmere remains to be seen, but the result and Town’s battling display is surely another tick next to Harvey’s name in David Bosomworth’s assessment of his caretaker-boss.
Brabin will feel his team did enough to win, but there is a resilience about The Shaymen under Harvey that has been lacking too often this season.
Much of the pre-match talk around The Shay centred on the future of Harvey, with fears that Tranmere could swoop in for their former captain to replace the under-pressure Brabin if the Halifax board failed to make his appointment permanent.
Tranmere certainly proved more of a match than Tamworth had in midweek, with Adam Mekki hitting the post from close range following a Tranmere free-kick inside the first 10 minutes.
Town had looked hesitant in defence in that instance, and were again when Matty Brown tried to guide the ball back to Sam Johnson, who was forced to hurriedly kick it clear under pressure.
Harvey had praised the centre-back pairing of James Bolton and Hamza Becnherif on Tuesday night, so it was a big call to reinstate Brown and Keil O’Brien, who were finding Norwood and Lois Maynard hot to handle.
Kevin Roberts, back on the right of midfield, then headed straight at Scott Davies when well placed from a left-wing cross, but Tranmere created the better chances as Mekki again then the returning Maynard both brought decent saves from Johnson.
A slip by O’Brien then let in Norwood, but Johnson again reacted well to save his low shot from an angle.
If Brabin’s position as manager was tenuous, his players weren’t playing like it.
More hesitancy at the back let in Maynard after Town twice dallied on the ball rather than hoofing it clear, but the former Halifax man’s poke goal-wards was comfortably saved.
The Shaymen had scored more league goals than Tranmere going into the game, but Rovers were much more incisive.
Halifax had scored 22 goals in their last nine games compared to Tranmere’s six, but the hosts seemed oddly cowed despite their superb recent form.
The Shaymen lined-up in a similar shape to the one they deployed in the return game at Prenton Park, and tried to hit Tranmere on the break as they had so effectively against Gateshead and Dover, but didn’t get much of a chance as the visitors dominated much of the opening half.
Scott McManus was then forced off having been in the wars during the first 35 minutes - including a full-blooded shove off the ball by Norwood - but not before he was turned inside-out by Lee Vaughan, who then fired just over.
Steve Jennings then went close with a near-post header that hit the side-netting before the by now inevitable opener as Norwood rifled the ball past Johnson at his near post following a superb through ball by Taylor-Fletcher.
Mekki nearly doubled Rovers’ lead shortly afterwards but his low shot was deflected just wide.
It looked like Town would be lucky to get to half-time only 1-0 down, but Wroe produced a spectacular equaliser just as an attack seemed to be petering out as his 25-yard shot crashed in off the bar.
A penny for Gary Brabin’s thoughts?
Town were their own worst enemy after the restart as they repeatedly conceded possession cheaply, but Rovers weren’t quite in the same mood from the first-half to take advantage.
Shaun Tuton, such a menace in recent weeks, was having an afternoon that encapsulated that of his team, with no shortage of effort, but a series of mis-placed passes proving just out of his reach and a lack of control when on the ball meaning his influence on the game was minimal.
The forward eventually got his first proper sight of goal after 70 minutes, and forced Scott Davies into an awkward parry behind with a fierce low drive.
Tranmere then spurned a golden opportunity, of which there had been precious few since half-time, when the unmarked Norwood shot wide from substitute Ben Tomlinson’s cross.
They combined brilliantly again moments later before Tomlinson fired across goal.
Burrow, who had experienced a frustrating afternoon up against two imposing centre-halves, was then sent-off for a second booking after a lunging tackle, his first yellow coming after he’d kicked the ball away.
Town were hanging on now, and only just survived a late sucker-punch when Tomlinson’s rasping drive smashed off the far post.
Halifax: Johnson, Roberts, Bolton, Brown, O’Brien (Walker 46), McManus (Macdonald 35), Bencherif, Wroe, James, Tuton (Hughes 81), Burrow. Subs not used: Porter, S McDonald.
Scorer: Wroe (44)
Shots on target: 3
Shots off target: 2
Tranmere: Davies, McNulty, Ihiekwe, Vaughan, Ridehalgh (Sutton 46), Mekki (Tomlinson 67), Jennings, Harris, Maynard, Taylor-Fletcher (Mangan 75), Norwood. Subs not used: Pilling, Kirby.
Scorer: Norwood (40)
Shots on target: 7
Shots off target: 11
Town man of the match: Nicky Wroe