FC Halifax Town kept their first clean sheet in the league for 33 games as they won 1-0 at Lincoln City.
Sam Walker’s second-half goal inflicted only Lincoln’s second home defeat of the season and earned Town just their third away league win of the campaign.
Jim Harvey’s midas touch continues as Halifax made it six games unbeaten under their now-permanent manager and his influence was stamped all over the Town side, who looked well-drilled and stayed disciplined throughout.
Keeping out a Lincoln team who had scored in each of their last nine games would have been a fanciful notion earlier this season, but Halifax’s defensive resilience was a perfect reminder of why Harvey has been entrusted to keep the club up.
More gritty away performances like this should certainly help.
It was a victory of the smash-and-grab variety, but any win will do for The Shaymen, especially one at a team who went into the match sitting in seventh place.
There was a lot of respect shown towards Lincoln from the way Town lined-up, fielding five at the back without the ball, which left Shaun Tuton, finally getting his chance through the middle, an isolated figure.
Lincoln had only lost once at home in the league this season, so Halifax’s caution was understandable, but it meant the visitors struggled to make much impact on Lincoln going forward, and concentrated primarily on containing the Imps’ attacking threat.
Lincoln’s only sight of goal in the first 20 minutes had been Craig Reid’s ambitious overhead kick which dribbled across goal and just wide.
Connor Hughes, making his first start since the 7-1 defeat by Cheltenham in October in place of the suspended Jordan Burrow, had brought a save out of Paul Farman at the other end with a shot from 20 yards.
But it was hardly a Christmas cracker in the opening half, and was providing about as much Boxing Day entertainment as a four-piece jigsaw puzzle.
Kingsley James had linked up well with Tuton when given the chance and burst through from the striker’s flick pass, but could only prod wide under pressure from two Lincoln defenders.
The hosts’ first thought was understandably to try and utilise the imposing size of striker Matt Rhead, who had scored 18 goals in 26 appearances before the game, but he was well marshalled by a Town defence who neutralised his threat effectively, resulting in a few aimless punts forward by the hosts.
By the interval, Rhead’s most noteworthy contribution was a booking for an off the ball incident involving Hamza Bencherif.
Former Town man Jack Muldoon tested Sam Johnson with a couple of low drives from the left of the area as the break approached, but it was so far so good for Town by half-time.
Johnson was a commanding presence and mopped up most crosses that strayed near him after the restart, but his subsequent kicks upfield conceded possession straight back to Lincoln and started the cycle again.
The keeper then reacted brilliantly to reach up and palm a Muldoon cross away with Rhead lurking behind him to pounce.
That sturdy Town defence began to rock on its haunches a bit as Reid then shot wide after a scramble in the Halifax penalty box before he latched onto Rhead’s knock down but blazed over the bar.
Another high ball into the box was met by Luke Waterfall’s weak header when a meaningful contact could have opened the scoring.
The rate of chances for the hosts was increasing rapidly by the hour mark, although some respite came when Hughes’ run across the pitch brought a free-kick 20 yards out, with Farman saving Walker’s effort.
A goal looked likelier the more the half wore on, and arrived with 20 minutes left when Bencherif flicked on a long free-kick and Walker swept the ball high past Furman from 12 yards.
Lincoln just didn’t look the same team after that goal, and could have conceded another but for Farman’s excellent save from substitute Shaquille McDonald’s drilled shot.
Kevin Roberts and Josh Macdonald could also have scored late on as Town ended the game the far stronger of the two sides.
Lincoln: Farman, Wood, Howe, Waterfall, Tempest, Muldoon, Sparrow (Power 81), Stanley, Hawkridge, Rhead, Reid (Blissett 81). Subs not used: Grant, Brown, Everington.
Shots on target: 5
Shots off target: 5
Halifax: Johnson, Roberts, Bolton, Brown, McManus, Wroe, Bencherif, James, Walker (Clappison 78), Hughes (McDonald 75), Tuton (J Macdonald (90). Subs not used: Porter, Hibbs.
Scorer: Walker (70)
Shots on target: 5
Shots off target: 4
Town man of the match: Hamza Bencherif