Jim Harvey remains unbeaten as FC Halifax Town manager after they beat 10-man Wrexham 2-0 at The Shay to end 2015 on a high.
On the whole, it has been a year to endure rather than enjoy for Shaymen supporters, but the club’s astonishing renaissance under Harvey continues; it’s now five wins from seven games under his stewardship thanks to first-half goals from Shaun Tuton and Kingsley James.
Town have only conceded five goals in Harvey’s first seven games in charge, compared to 24 in Darren Kelly’s last seven matches at the helm, illustrating Harvey’s impact on the side; you wait 33 league games for a clean sheet, then two come along in a row.
And the year ended in fine style for Town, just two days after the excellent win at Lincoln, as they produced a rousing performance that offered absolutely no suggestion of their position in the relegation zone.
Wrexham had won five of their last seven games, but were outfought by a Halifax team from which Harvey is wringing every last drop of commitment.
Like Lincoln on Boxing Day, Wrexham had controlled the game in the early stages without really hurting Town, and their majority share of possession counted for nothing when Tuton gave Halifax the lead.
It came courtesy of a nightmare after Christmas from the visitors when Sean Newton’s mis-hit clearance put Blaine Hudson under pressure, before his attempted clearance hit Tuton and squirmed beyond the stranded Rhys Taylor.
A late festive gift, but gratefully received as Town scored the first goal for the fifth time in seven games under Harvey; they had to wait 10 matches to do that at the start of the season.
Connor Jennings nearly restored parity moments later with a deft turn and shot eight yards out, but Sam Johnson reacted well to save.
Newton had looked like Wrexham’s best route to goal with his overlapping runs on the left, with the away side otherwise struggling to weave through a compact Halifax defence.
Wrexham looked hesitant in attack compared to The Shaymen, who were much more incisive and purposeful going forward, and only got better as the opening-half went on.
Referee Joseph Johnson, in his first season at National League level, had made an indecisive start, changing his mind over the award of a throw-in and then blowing for a foul after a poor tackle by Kevin Roberts before waving play-on.
He then failed to book James Gray for throwing the ball away after correctly awarding Halifax a throw-in despite the Wrexham’s striker’s protestations.
Gray was monochrome compared to Tuton’s vibrancy, and the Town forward was causing all sorts of problems for Wrexham’s Jamal Fyfield, twice out-pacing him to run clear on goal, only for the defender to catch him the first time before Tuton fired across goal and wide the second time.
He and Burrow, Halifax’s only change from the win at Lincoln, combined brilliantly for Town’s second as the Wrexham defence, who had kept three clean sheets in their last four away games, was ripped apart.
Burrow’s magnificent chip crashed off the bar from Tuton’s cut-back after he’d again raced in behind the Wrexham back-line, before James smashed the rebound high into the net.
It was scintillating stuff from Town, who were defending diligently and attacking with real verve; the 20 or so scouts at The Shay must have scribbling furiously at Tuton and Burrow’s contribution.
The referee then waved away what appeared to be strong claims for a Wrexham penalty after Scott McManus’ challenge on Wes York just before half-time.
York was then booked for a foul on Nicky Wroe before the referee ended a strange first-half display by blowing for the interval before the free-kick was taken.
Wrexham offered nothing different after the interval and continued to be picked off by a hard-working Halifax side, in particular the excellent midfield partnership of James and Wroe, with Town making a mockery of their supposedly inferior fitness levels as a part-time club.
Tuton should have sealed the win midway through a less noteworthy second-half up to that point when he raced in on goal for the umpteenth time, but Rhys Taylor reacted well to save his low shot.
A superb save by Johnson kept out Rob Evans’ deflected shot at one end before substitute Connor Hughes was denied a spectacular goal as his shot hit the post from 25 yards out at the other, all of which prompted a roar of ‘The Town Are Staying Up’ from the South Stand.
On this form, who’d bet against it?
Fyfield’s tough afternoon reached its nadir when he was given a straight red-card for a lunging tackle on Tuton in added time.
Halifax: Johnson, Roberts, Bolton, Bencherif, Brown, McManus, Tuton, Wroe (Hibbs 89), James, Walker (Hughes 68), Burrow (Macdonald 68). Subs not used: Porter, Clappison.
Scorers: Tuton (16), James (38)
Shots on target: 5
Shots off target: 5
Wrexham: Taylor, Fyfield, Smith, Hudson (White 67), Newton, Evans, Vose (Jackson 62), York, Jennings, Moke (Cofie 62), Gray. Subs not used: Carrington, Nolan.
Shots on target: 6
Shots off target: 5
Town man of the match: Shaun Tuton