FC Halifax Town 0-2 Tranmere Rovers
FC Halifax Town ended their home campaign with a whimper in-front of more than 3,000 fans at The Shay as they lost 2-0 to Tranmere.
First-half goals from Andy Cook and James Norwood put Tranmere in control, a position which they never looked like relinquishing to a below-par Halifax.
In Town’s defence, Tranmere are easily one of the best teams they have faced this season, but The Shaymen lacked their usual levels of attitude and application regularly espoused by Jamie Fullarton as his basic requirements.
Halifax never really made a game of it, with Matty Kosylo missing a second-half penalty.
The likes of Tom Denton, Martin Riley, Danny Clarke and Scott Garner could have played their last game at The Shay, all of whom were not involved and look well out-of-favour.
It made a refreshing change that Town weren’t the side with their fate still unknown at this late stage.
Macclesfield’s lunchtime win at Eastleigh ended Tranmere’s title hopes, and meant a win, but realistically a draw, would guarantee them second place.
It wasn’t that long ago that the Halifax fans were singing of going to Wembley, but the Tranmere supporters’ pre-match chants got even louder when Cook scuffed shot across goal beat Sam Johnson, who arguably should have done more to keep it out.
That heralded a bright start by the visitors, with Norwood, Ollie Norburn and Connor Jennings also going close, as Rovers moved the ball about with sharp, accurate passing - particularly from influential midfield pair Norburn and Jeff Hughes - and good movement.
By the time the outstanding Norwood glanced a free-kick across Johnson with a free header mid-way through the first-half, the harsh truth was that Tranmere looked in a different league to Halifax. And if they play to their potential in the play-offs, soon could be.
Halifax lacked the tempo and incisiveness of Tranmere, attacking with a lack of intensity and defending too generously, allowing the visitors too much time and space to play in.
Town created their first clear chance just before the half-hour mark when Mike Fondop-Talom could only head Raheem Hanley’s sensational cross straight at keeper Scott Davies before Connor Thomson put the rebound wide.
In that moment perhaps laid one of the recurring themes of Town’s season: their inability to convert clear chances. Another - injuries - reared its head again when Nathan Hotte was forced off before half-time.
That preceded an acknowledgement from Fullarton that something needed to change - quite a few things actually as Scott McManus moved to centre-back, Hanley to left-back, Niall Maher to central midfield, Jake Hibbs in-behind Fondop-Talom and Kosylo to the left.
Cook should have capped an excellent opening-half from Tranmere but McManus cleared his shot off the line after the striker had muscled a hesitant Sam Graham off the ball.
Norwood then sent a low shot just wide after a quick counter-attack, with Halifax clinging on by their fingertips to their two-goal deficit.
Norwood again went close shortly after half-time with another low shot that whistled just wide after a delightful lay-off by Cook.
Town offered nothing much different after the interval, struggling to trouble a Tranmere side now content to sit back and hit their hosts on the break.
Halifax’s day was summed up when Kosylo’s penalty was saved after Davies had brought down Fondop-Talom in the box.
Halifax: Johnson, Duckworth, Maher (Oliver 86), Graham, McManus, Thomson (Hanson 81), Collins, Hotte (Hibbs 37), Kosylo, Hanley, Fondop-Talom. Subs not used: Nicholson, Tuton.
Shots on target: 3
Shots off target: 5
Tranmere: Davies, Sutton, McNulty, Buxton (Harris 23), Ridehalgh, Cole (Ginnelly 61), Hughes, Norburn, Norwood, Jennings, Cook (Mangan 74). Subs not used: Taylor, Monthe.
Scorers: Cook (5), Norwood (24)
Shots on target: 4
Shots off target: 5
Referee: Matthew Donohue
Town man of the match: Michael Collins