Chesterfield 1-2 FC Halifax Town: Shaymen boost play-off hopes with superb victory
First-half goals from Jeff King and Jake Hyde saw FC Halifax Town seal a crucial three points in the race for the play-offs as they won 2-1 at Chesterfield.
Kairo Mitchell got one back for the hosts after the interval before Chesterfield threw everything at Town, but The Shaymen just about held on for a superb victory.
Make no mistake, this was a real test of Town's play-off credentials, and Halifax passed it with a performance full of heart, spirit and desire.
Chesterfield debutant James Montgomery's first task of note was to pick the ball out of his net when King's low left-footed shot went through a crowded box and into the far corner after Martin Woods' corner hadn't been properly cleared.
Town were indebted to Sam Johnson a couple of minutes before that after his smart save low to his left from Kairo Mitchell's shot.
The Shaymen were aggressive off the ball, but calm and composed on it.
Mitchell initially looked a threat up-front for the hosts, but the returning Nathan Clarke, replacing Tom Bradbury, was doing a superb man-marking job on him, and was repeatedly in the right place at the right time to clear crosses and intercept danger, at times like a one-man force field protecting the Town goal.
A lengthy spell of Chesterfield pressure ended with Liam Mandeville curling a shot over the bar, but that was the best the hosts could do, as Town largely restricted them to shots from outside the box.
Halifax were covering for each other, filtering back and working hard as Chesterfield had no answer in a flat display.
Hyde then glanced in Woods' cross to double Town's lead and score his fifth goal in nine games.
There were back flicks by King and then Hyde as The Shaymen combined style and substance, with Niall Maher and Neill Byrne excellent in snuffing out attacks either side of Clarke, and so too were King and Danny Williams either side of them.
Woods was the most advanced of the midfield three, with Kieran Green replacing injury victim Jack Earing and producing a characteristically tenacious and energetic display.
Mitchell and Mandeville were hardly getting a touch for the hosts by half-time, peripheral figures and completely marked out of the match, while Town were much better defending set-pieces, with Chesterfield badly in need of a half-time re-think.
That saw substitute Nathan Tyson brought on for the second half and Chesterfield switching to from 3-5-2 to 4-3-3.
But it didn't seem to make much difference as Hyde twice could have added another, first when he just couldn't connect with Billy Chadwick's cross-shot and then when his effort was well blocked by Gavin Gunning.
The hosts came the closest yet to scoring when a dangerous cross flashed through a crowded the Town box without a touch before Laurence Maguire’s effort was cleared off the line by, who else, Clarke.
Town were now sitting back a little more permanently, with Chesterfield in the ascendancy and penning The Shaymen in with some solid pressure, attacking much more effectively now, which nearly ended in a goal when Tyson hooked the ball over the bar from close range as Halifax struggled to clear it.
After a faultless display at the back, an error by Maher allowed the ball to reach Mitchell, who converted from a few yards out to halve the deficit and rewards the hosts for an improved second-half performance.
Chesterfield had the control and the momentum of the match. This was the war that Pete Wild had talked of, with Chesterfield looking a threat every time they approached the Town box as The Shaymen withstood a barrage of quick, fluid attacks.
Curtis Weston fired just wide as Town just about survived a scramble in the box, one of several as the clock ticked down, with Johnson keeping out a shot by Fraser Kerr deep into six nerve-shredding added minutes.
Chesterfield: Montgomery, Carline, Kerr, Gunning, Maguire, Whittle (Tyson 46), Weston, Oyeleke, Whelan (Taylor 55), Mitchell, Mandeville (Clarke 80). Subs not used: Yarney, Dinanga.
Scorer: Mitchell (71)
Shots on target: 7
Shots off target: 10
Halifax: Johnson, Byrne, Maher, Clarke, King, Summerfield, Woods (Spence 61), Green, Williams, Hyde, Chadwick (Allen 69). Subs not used: Davison-Hale, Senior, Bradbury.
Scorers: King (8), Hyde (30)
Shots on target: 2
Shots off target: 5
Referee: Thomas Parsons
Town man of the match: Almost impossible to choose. Town to a man were excellent, with King, Hyde and Maher close contenders, but Nathan Clarke gets it for a commanding, controlled, assured display at the heart of defence.