FC Halifax Town 2-2 Sutton United: Shaymen pegged back by league leaders in entertaining clash
FC Halifax Town surrendered a two-goal lead as top-of-the-table Sutton fought back to draw an engrossing contest at The Shay.
Goals from Billy Chadwick and Jack Earing put Town in control of the contest after an hour, but Sutton dug deep and showed why they are top of the pile and salvaged a draw with goals from Isaac Olaofe and Craig Eastmond.
There had been a hunger and desire about Town off the ball and a swagger and confidence with it.
But Sutton showed tremendous fighting spirit to battle back and claim a point.
The absences of Jamie Allen and Martin Woods again forced Pete Wild's hands with team selection, necessitating Neill Byrne to play right-back and Danny Williams and Jeff King as wingers in a 4-2-3-1.
King was good in his more advanced role, seeing a shot deflected behind for a corner after three minutes, from which Niall Maher's header was cleared off the line.
Sutton pressed Town high up the pitch in order to force long balls up to lone striker Chadwick, who would stand little chance against their big, strong defenders.
The visitors didn't want Town's ball-players like Earing, Jeff King and Kieran Green on the ball - little wonder as they looked sharp and purposeful on it - but Green found space on the edge of the box to shoot, which was deflected into Chadwick's path and the striker picked his spot coolly to fire Town ahead.
Sutton hadn't turned up as an attacking force, looking pretty pedestrian going forward, but Town deserve credit for that, restricting the leaders to no shots on target through hard work and organisation.
Sutton's first shot didn't arrive until just after the half-hour mark when Harry Beautyman's effort from the corner of the six-yard box was brilliantly blocked by Nathan Clarke.
This was about going toe-to-toe with Sutton, matching them stride for stride, second ball for second ball, and Town were out-Suttoning them.
Jack Senior and Neill Byrne were terrific at full-back, covering the danger zones and clearing crosses, Green and King were a buzz of energy in midfield and Earing looked creative and full of running on the ball.
King and Earing both had decent efforts from range before half-time as Town came much closer to a second than the visitors did to an equaliser.
Town were making the league leaders look ordinary while looking rejuvenated themselves after a welcome game-free week; the lethargy from Eastleigh had been left on the south coast.
Olaofe found space from a free kick a few minutes after the restart to drag a shot just wide as Sutton threatened to kick into gear.
Although Town went close after a clever nod down from Clarke at a corner but the shot was fired wide, before only desperate defending then prevented Williams from scoring after a cross from Earing.
Earing then produced a lovely finish across keeper Dean Bouzanis after Sutton failed to get the ball clear.
Sam Johnson was finally tested with 20 minutes to go when he saved well from Olaofe's close range shot.
And from Rob Milsom's corner, Olaofe got one back to set-up a grandstand finish.
That visibly invigorated Sutton with more energy and tempo as they pegged Town back.
Omar Bugiel should have done better with a tame header from close range moments before Chadwick tried to catch Bouzanis off his line and shot just wide.
But the shift in momentum that had been palpable since Sutton's first and seen the visitors finally show what they were capable of produced the equaliser when Eastmond blasted home from the edge of the box.
Halifax: Johnson, Byrne, Clarke, Bradbury, King, Maher, Senior, Earing (Hyde 63), Green, Williams (Spence 82), Chadwick. Subs not used: Renshaw, Benn, Tear.
Scorers: Chadwick (18), Earing (61)
Shots on target: 6
Shots off target: 9
Sutton: Bouzanis, John, Barden (Simpson 79), Goodliffe, Milsom, Eastmond, Davis (Kealy 63), Beautyman, Ajiboye, Bugiel, Olaofe (Sho-Silva 77). Subs not used: Wyatt, Nembhard.
Scorers: Olaofe (74), Eastmond (85)
Shots on target: 4
Shots off target: 5
Referee: Steve Copeland
Town man of the match: Plenty of contenders, but Jack Earing just pips it for an excellent display topped off with a well-taken goal.