FC Halifax Town 0-1 Stockport County: Shaymen suffer setback to play-off hopes in narrow defeat
Paddy Madden's goal just before half-time consigned FC Halifax Town to a 1-0 defeat against Stockport County at The Shay.
Halifax were moments away from going in goalless at the interval until Maden took advantage of some hesitant defending to strike what proved to be the winner.
There was little between the sides, but Town didn't possess the quality to get back into the game and will have to hope the defeat doesn't do too much damage to their play-off hopes.
Quality ran through Stockport's play, with their touches, their movement and their passing all suggestive of a side with good players in great form.
County were calm and composed from the start, with captain Liam Hogan comfortable playing out from the back, wing-backs Tom Walker and Macauley Sotham-Hales pushing high up the pitch and midfielder John Rooney displaying his range of passing and excellent vision.
They were good off the ball too, closing down The Shaymen and reducing their time and options in possession.
Nearly all Town's attacks began through Nathan Clarke and went down the right half of the pitch, with Jake Hyde dropping deep to receive the ball and the hosts trying to get Jamie Allen on the ball down the right flank.
Allen got into some decent crossing positions, but his deliveries were comfortably dealt with by Stockport's defence.
This was like the Woking game in reverse, with Stockport seeing plenty of the ball, but Halifax trying to pick them off and hurt them on the break.
Town grew into the game though, and after absorbing County's possession without any real heart-in-mouth moments, started to enjoy some of the ball higher up the pitch.
Kieran Green impressed in the number 10 role with good movement and nice touches, while Hyde was working hard to win his headers and get Town up the pitch.
Clarke headed over from Martin Woods' corner before a free kick fell to Neill Byrne at the far post, who had time to take a touch but his first time cross was cleared.
Moments later, Hyde’s knock down was struck just over by Green from an angle, the closest either side had come.
But 44 minutes of hard work, discipline and diligence from Halifax were undone when hesitancy by Maher was brutally punished as the defender's sloppy contact on the ball from a lofted pass gifted a chance to Madden, who finished spectacularly past Johnson with the only shot on target of the opening half.
It had been an encouraging half from The Shaymen, but they were again left to rue conceding a wholly avoidable goal.
Town were in the ascendancy after the restart, with the intensity having diluted from Stockport's game now they had their goal.
The onus was on Halifax to respond, but Stockport had come off the pace and were content to take the sting out of the game and prevent Town from building any momentum.
Will Collar headed over from Macauley Southam-Hales' cross for the visitors, in contrast to when The Shaymen got into a crossing position, but Allen's delivery went straight to a Stockport man and was cleared.
Rooney's effort flew a yard or two over the bar for Stockport, but Town were competing well and were the more dominant side, just not converting that into chances.
They finally registered a shot on target when Green played in Allen down the right of the box, perhaps over-hitting the pass though, and keeper Ben Hinchliffe was off his line quickly to keep out the shot.
Sam Johnson reacted well to keep out Ash Palmer's header as Stockport came closer to adding a second, with Town's possession only reaching dead-ends.
Green headed off target from a Woods corner as Town pressed to the end, but Stockport, who defended well all afternoon, held out without Hinchliffe being tested again.
Halifax: Johnson, Byrne, Clarke, Maher, Senior, Allen (Chadwick 77), Green, Summerfield, Woods, Williams, Hyde. Subs not used: Davison-Hale, Bradbury, Tear, Spence.
Shots on target: 1
Shots off target: 7
Stockport: Hinchliffe, Jennings, Hogan, Palmer, Southam-Hales, Rooney, Collar (Maynard 61), Croasdale, Walker (Minihan 87), Cardwell (Bennett 84), Madden. Subs not used: Fitzsimons, Reid.
Scorer: Madden (45)
Shots on target: 2
Shots off target: 6
Referee: Steve Copeland
Town man of the match: Special mention to Jake Hyde for some excellent hold-up play, but Kieran Green takes it for a performance full of effort and commitment from the midfielder, who nearly scored shortly before County's goal.