FC Halifax Town’s play-off hopes were dealt a blow after they were held to a 0-0 draw at Altrincham.
The Shaymen threw the kitchen sink at their hosts and played like the home side for the majority of the contest, but couldn’t find a way past Altrincham ‘keeper Stuart Coburn.
Town had the third best defensive record away from home in the league before the match, but the third worst goalscoring record on the road, so 0-0 is a fairly accurate reflection of their away campaign to date.
But draws are of little use to Halifax in the home-straight of the season, and while a point at Altrincham is usually a good result, the extra two points a win would have brought would have come in very handy.
It’s now seven games without a win and four draws on the trot for Town, but results did go their way elsewhere and have set-up a huge six-pointer against Gateshead on Tuesday.
Neil Aspin expected top-scorer Damien Reeves to return to the team after he was named on the bench in Altrincham’s 2-1 defeat at Dover on Tuesday, and he was right.
The scourge of Town in previous seasons got a chance inside the first minute but skied his shot when well placed.
But Reeves, the league’s fourth highest scorer, was a mainly spectator as Halifax good inroads after that, enjoying a purple patch against the side in pink, just for the day, to raise money for a cancer charity.
Marc Roberts headed against the bar before Matt Pearson and Adam Smith brought saves from Coburn inside the first 20 minutes.
Nicky Clee scored a wonder goal in Altrincham’s surprise win at Halifax back in October, one of only three away wins at the Shay in the league this season.
And he impressed when he got on the ball here, but such occasions were too rare for the hosts’ liking.
Clee’s hesitancy in possession was pounced on by James Bolton before Paul Marshall fired wide from 20 yards.
Aspin had called for his centre-halves to stay focused against Reeves, and they heeded that advice, nullifying his threat as effectively as Barnet’s John Akinde’s had been in midweek, although the service to Reeves wasn’t befitting of a player with 16 goals to his name this term
Matt Glennon was forced into his first save of the afternoon from a speculative shot by Tom Marshall but it was against the grain of a first-half where Town offered the greater threat.
There were echoes of Tuesday night just before the break when Halifax almost suffered a self-inflicted wound.
Mauro Vilhete was the guilty party for Barnet when he hit the post after hesitancy in the Town defence, and this time James Lawrie, another scorer in that 3-1 win at the Shay, should have done better but shot wide after Lois Maynard was caught in possession just outside the box.
That was one of a flurry of chances just before the interval, with Clee also drilling a shot narrowly over and Smith driving a left-foot effort that Coburn saved comfortably.
The loss of Richard Peniket to an injury sustained just before the break was a sour note on which to restart the contest for Town.
Another jinking run by Smith ended with his chip towards goal tipped over by Coburn before a drilled shot by half-time substitute Danny Hattersley was blocked in front of goal.
It was apparent which side were chasing a top-five finish as Town displayed a greater purpose in their play.
The tricky Smith then weaved his way into the area before going down under a challenge, but was deemed to have dived and was booked by referee John Brooks, much to the Halifax player’s disbelief.
Lawrie missed another sitter against the run of play when he blazed over from 10 yards before the introduction of Scott Boden signalled Neil Aspin’s intent to press for the win.
And Boden so nearly made an immediate breakthrough but his volley from four yards out was kept out by the outstanding Coburn.
But the Altrincham keeper outdid himself when he somehow kept out Jamie Jackson and Boden with a remarkable double save, the second after Boden had side-stepped a defender inside the six-yard box.
Cue heads-in-hands on the Halifax bench.
The urgency in Town’s play was now reminiscent of a last day of the season title decider, but Altrincham could have nicked a smash-and-grab win themselves with ex-Town man Ryan Crowther and Reeves both going close on the break.
Altrincham: Coburn, Griffin, Havern, Leather, Cavanagh (Williams 83), Moult, Richman (Sinnott 46), Lawrie, Clee Crowther 67), Marshall, Reeves. Subs not used: Perry, Parton.
Shots on target: 3
Shots off target: 8
Halifax: Glennon, Bolton, M Roberts, Hutchison, McManus, Smith, Maynard (Boden 75), Pearson, Marshall (Schofield 67), Jackson, Peniket (Hattersley 46). Subs not used: Senior, K Roberts.
Shots on target: 10
Shots off target: 4
Town man of the match: Adam Smith