FC Halifax Town 3-1 Southend United: Impressive display sees Shaymen ease to comfortable win
From the moment Slew put Town ahead a few minutes before half-time, there was only one winner, as Town went on to completely outplay the visitors after what had been a more even first-half.
Halifax could not have started a tough-looking week any better, playing with style and substance in-front of a crowd of just under 2,000.
Murphy should have put Southend in-front after only four minutes but somehow failed to make a meaningful connection with a cross from the left at the far post.
But after that scare, The Shaymen had the better of a competitive opening, forcing five corners in the first 15 minutes.
Martin Woods was the conduit for Town in Luke Summerfield's absence, getting on the ball in midfield and looking for passes.
Ahead of him, Town's attacking players got the ball to their feet, offered good movement and tried to play off each other.
Southend were combative and aggressive but did little to cause Halifax too much alarm at the back, barring the odd effort from range.
Phil Brown, who got a good reception from the Town fans on his Shay return, was left looking at the sky in frustration when a left-wing cross was fizzed through the box without a touch, but his side struggled to produce much sustained pressure.
Cries of "you don't know what you're doing" to the referee were heard before the half-hour mark after Town's penalty appeal for a handball by Murphy were rejected when a free-kick from a tight angle was turned behind for a corner.
That came moments after a crude tackle by Harry Phillips had put Jay Benn out of the game - such a shame for the youngster after a terrific start to the season.
That was the first of a series of decisions that referee Andrew Miller infuriated the Town fans with, which seemed to spur on the Town team too.
The returning Harvey Gilmour's clearance just in-front of the Town goal-line was as good as a goal, with Halifax looking a little vulnerable when the ball went into their box.
The loss of Benn had deprived The Shaymen of one of their best attacking outlets having started the match in the same boisterous fashion he'd began the campiagn, but Tom Bradbury, starting at left-back, got free down the opposite flank, and his cross was diverted back across goal by the stretching Slew.
The goal seemed to drive Town on, with Maher and Jesse Debrah increasingly dominant at the back, Waters working hard up-front and The Shaymen playing with confidence.
Southend hadn't responded to falling behind, looking powder puff compared to the vibrancy of Halifax's attacks, which didn't always come off but the intent to play attractive, incisive football was there for all to see.
Slew then turned provider shortly after the break when his cross from the left was headed into the top corner by Waters, who was inexplicably left unmarked a few yards out in the middle of goal.
That prompted a triple substitution by Southend, which showed what Phil Brown thought of how it was going.
It looked a long way back for his side, who looked sapped of their earlier aggression, with now Town exuding an authority over the contest.
It would have been a wonderful third for Town but Waters' cross for Matty Warburton, who had played him down the right, was somehow not connected with at the far post.
While Southend were disjointed, Halifax were cohesive. Southend were ineffective, but Halifax were controlled and disciplined.
Southend blighted the game with some poor tackles, the kind which had crocked Benn earlier, and after another one which saw Josh Coulson booked for a late foul on Waters, who was a thorn in the visitors' side all afternoon, Maher met Woods' free-kick with a deft glancing header into the far corner.
Halifax were toying with Southend now, and the home fans were lapping it up. The visitors were in disarray, while The Shaymen were running riot.
Loanee Jack Vale was brought on for his debut, as far from needing a match-winning first contribution as it's possible to be.
Fellow sub Tyrell Warren, who replaced Benn, looked more comfortable on the right than he had on the left at Yeovil; everywhere you looked there were at least seven out of ten performances from the hosts.
Murphy made the scoreline look a little better for Southend when he converted Jack Bridge's cross late on, but even that came after the striker had kicked a Town player in the build-up, which wasn't spotted by the referee.
Halifax: Johnson, Benn (Warren 30), Debrah, Maher, Bradbury, Woods, Green, Slew (Allen 70), Warburton, Gilmour (Vale 76), Waters. Subs not used: Spence, Swaby-Neavin.
Scorers: Slew (39), Waters (48), Maher )74)
Shots on target: 4
Shots off target: 3
Southend: Seaden, Demetriou, White (Egbri 51), Ralph, Coulson, Bridge, Dunne, Phillips (Atkinson 51), Ferguson (Hobson 51), Murphy, Dalby. Subs not used: Andeng Ndi, Kargbo.
Scorer: Murphy (89)
Shots on target: 3
Shots off target: 5
Attendance: 1959 (419 away)
Referee: Andrew Miller
Town man of the match: Billy Waters. Plenty of contenders, but Waters led the line superbly, never stopped running and netted his fourth of the season.