Altrincham 0-1 FC Halifax Town: Earing strike hands Shaymen crucial win
Jack Earing's first-half goal was enough to earn FC Halifax Town a crucial three points in the race for the play-offs as they won 1-0 at Altrincham.
Town withstood plenty of pressure in the second-half but held on for an impressive victory.
Josh Hancock hit the bar after 10 minutes for the hosts after he found himself in space inside the box, but a crucial save by Sam Johnson helped his shot onto the woodwork.
Moments afterwards, Earing was given far too much space to run towards goal, and after he jinked inside on his left foot, the midfielder picked his spot with a drilled, left-footed strike for his fourth goal in his last nine games.
Before the goal, Town had been aggressive, seeing plenty of the ball and getting at the hosts, but after it, The Shaymen, lining up in a 4-4-1-1, were happy for Altrincham to have the ball and do their worst.
Winger Ryan Colclough was the hosts' best outlet, twice wriggling free of Town defenders to unleash a shot.
Town looked comfortable, keeping Altrincham at arm's length through organisation, discipline and hard work.
Halifax were excellent off the ball, staying in their shape, leaving no gaps and keeping their discipline.
Danny Williams, Town's only change, replacing Jack Senior, typified the visitors' approach, sniffing out any danger, latching onto loose balls and taking the sting out of the game.
As a result, Altrincham struggled to break the away side down. The hosts were patient, refusing to knock it long, constantly playing through ex-Town man Sean Williams and skipper Jake Moult in midfield, but they offered neither the tempo or quality to break Halifax down, with striker Joe Piggot starved of service.
It was a textbook away display by The Shaymen, with Earing's moment of quality making the difference.
There wasn't much improvement from Altrincham after the restart, with the hosts having most of the possession but not doing enough with it.
The only criticism of Town was they were getting penned back rather than sitting back, and weren't imposing themselves on the game.
Winger Yusifu Ceesay was becoming more of a threat too for the hosts, who brought on former Town players Nyal Bell and James Hardy.
A powerful drive by Ceesay was tipped over by Johnson as the pattern of the game changed almost imperceptibly from Town comfortably keeping the hosts at bay to Altrincham sensing more of a chance and Halifax starting to hold on a little.
The only thing missing for the hosts was some clear chances from their domination of the game; The Shaymen were offering very little as an attacking force so the ball kept coming back at them.
As time started to run out on Altrincham, it looked like it would take something special or a mistake for them to equalise, and Colclough nearly produced the former but Johnson did well to tip over his shot from range before his effort across goal was deflected wide.
It was a nervy finish to the game for Town, but they held on.
Altrincham: Thompson, Senior, Hannigan, Mullarkey, Ogle, Moult, Williams, Hancock (Hardy 66), Ceesay, Colclough, Piggot (Bell 66). Subs not used: Gould, Peers, Richman.
Shots on target: 3
Shots off target: 11
Halifax: Johnson, Byrne, Clarke, Bradbury, King (Summerfield 69), Maher, Green (Woods 74), Earing, Williams (Senior 82), Hyde, Allen. Subs not used: Renshaw, Obiero.
Scorer: Earing (12)
Shots on target: 1
Shots off target: 4
Referee: Adam Herczeg
Town man of the match: Sam Johnson, produced a crucial save at 0-0 and an all-round strong display, did what he had to do very well.