FC Halifax Town 1-2 Maidenhead United: Late sucker-punch sees Shaymen defeated on opening day
A late sucker-punch saw FC Halifax Town lose 2-1 at home to Maidenhead United on the opening day of the new season.
Billy Waters marked his debut with a first-half goal, which was cancelled out after the interval by Sam Barratt.
A highly encouraging first 45 by The Shaymen preceded a more even second-half, which ended with substitute Kane Ferdinand curling home the winner.
There were debuts for Town's front four of Waters, Matty Warburton, Jordan Slew and Harvey Gilmour, and a first start for Jay Benn.
Of Halifax's starters, only Sam Johnson, Tom Bradbury, Luke Summerfield and Martin Woods began last season's opener against Dagenham and Redbridge.
There wasn't a hint of a long ball as Town settled quickly into the game, Benn winning a lot of admirers early on here for his effort and endeavour down the right flank.
Him and Senior both pushed high up the channels to good effect, with Summerfield and Woods dropping deep and controlling midfield with effective, efficient displays.
The Shaymen tried to play into feet, building attacks from the back and moving the ball quickly between their front four.
But their good early work was almost for nothing when Josh Kelly beat Benn to the ball and laid it on a plate for Remy Clerima - the defender looking a little like a fish out of water in an advanced midfield role - whose low shot was well saved by Sam Johnson.
That miss was soon punished when Benn was played down the right by Warburton's excellent pass, and the full-back's low cross was turned in at the far post by the unmarked Waters.
It was a well worked goal that epitomised how Town had been attempting to play.
Halifax were now firmly in control of the game, with any chances Maidenhead got a result of sloppiness by the hosts, such as when a comedy of errors saw Benn beaten to the ball before Johnson bailed him out, but the goalkeeper's clearance went straight to a Maidenhead player, who drove his shot over.
The visitors weren't getting Barratt into the game enough, and looked fairly toothless in attack, not possessing the care in possession of Summerfield and Woods, or the movement and inventiveness of Gilmour, arguably the most eye-catching of the front four.
Waters had shown good movement off the ball, Slew had competed well physically and got into some good areas, as did Warburton.
But Gilmour almost capped an impressive first-half with a terrific goal, his rasping left-footed strike flying just wide from 20 yards.
It was perhaps only a matter of time, but referee Paul Marsden, who sent Pete Wild off last season in an ill-tempered game against Wealdstone, started to take centre stage after the restart, as Will De Haviland clattered into Waters on halfway, with Town wanting him booked but Maidenhead still aggrieved a foul wasn't given moment before on the edge of the Halifax box.
Town fans then wanted a foul when Waters went to ground having beaten Maidenhead keeper James Holden to a long pass.
That was moments after Josh Kelly had seen a shot saved by Johnson after Tom Bradbury's slip allowed Maidenhead to run at goal.
Town couldn't get into quite the same rhythm as before half-time, with the contest now more even, and The Shaymen look a little vulnerable at the back.
Great play by Warburton saw him release Slew down the right, and his shot at an angle was turned behind for a corner, from which Warburton fired over.
Maidenhead were back level when Barratt lashed home at the third time of asking after Johnson had kept out two efforts in a goalmouth scramble.
Town could have restored their lead immediately but Waters' effort was prevented from going in by a Maidenhead defender after Benn had marauded through down the right.
Marsden's popularity at the Shay got no better when he refused a penalty appeal for what looked like a foul on Niall Maher.
It was end-to-end stuff as the game entered the final ten minutes, with both sides getting into decent areas but lacking the composure to make the most of them.
Halifax were then punished for more sloppiness when Summerfield, in an otherwise faultless display, was caught in possession, he would argue fouled, and after the first shot was blocked, the second was curled beautifully into the top corner by sub Ferdinand on his debut.
Halifax: Johnson, Benn, Maher, Bradbury, Senior, Summerfield, Woods, Warburton (Green 75), Gilmour (McDonagh 75), Slew (Allen 62), Waters. Subs not used: Debrah, Tear.
Scorer: Waters (26)
Shots on target: 3
Shots off target: 13
Maidenhead: Holden, Sheckleford, Massey, De Havilland, Clerima, Wells, Adams, Senga (Ferdinand 63), Barratt, Kelly (Acquah 75), Blissett (Smith 84). Subs not used: Parry, Asonganyi.
Scorers: Barratt (60), Ferdinand (90)
Shots on target: 6
Shots off target: 6
Referee: Paul Marsden
Town man of the match: Benn, Summerfield and Gilmour the three standout players for me, but Summerfield gets the nod for his range of passing and excellent positional play.