Liam King’s deflected shot handed FC Halifax Town a hard-fought 1-0 win at rock-bottom Altrincham.
Given the fact that Town had picked up more league points in their last four games than Altrincham had all season, a win at Moss Lane was surely a must if Halifax were serious about their promotion ambitions. In that context, it would have been two points dropped but for King’s late effort.
It was a harsh way for Altrincham to concede after a dogged display by ex-Town defender Matt Doughty’s side.
But, despite not playing at their best, Town found a way to win, which would be a useful habit to form for the rest of the season.
After no clean sheets in 13 games, it’s now two in two; another handy habit to develop.
Matty Brown made his first start since the FA Trophy final at Wembley last May, with Nathan Hotte joining Tom Denton and Josh Macdonald on the injury list.
His return to action didn’t get off to a great start as he gave away an eight-minute penalty for fouling Andrew Owens after the striker twisted him inside out.
But captain Jake Moult’s penalty was struck straight at Sam Johnson, and Brown was off the hook.
Daniel Nti immediately slalomed his way into the box at the other end but rolled his shot just wide of the far post in an eventful start that had also seen Johnson keep out Nicky Clee’s curler; another 0-0 after last week’s Stockport stalemate already looked unlikely.
Halifax were then denied a penalty of their own despite Richard Peniket appearing to be tripped after he gave an Altrincham defender the slip.
Altrincham’s defence was as porous as a colander at times, but Town again required Johnson to keep them level as he reacted brilliantly to tip Damian Reeves’ low shot round the post; Kevin Roberts had warned it wouldn’t be an easy ride at Altrincham, and he was right.
Town looked the more threatening going forward, and for want of a final pass or better control, should have created more.
But the hosts’ battling display belied their perilous status and damning statistics of a dreadful season, such as keeping only two clean sheets and Halifax having scored more in their last four outings than Altrincham’s entire starting 11 had in the league throughout the campaign.
The bobbly pitch didn’t help the aesthetics of a fairly scrappy contest, but both teams could argue they should have been in front at the break without really playing that well.
The similarity to Stalybridge away wasn’t just in the lowly status of the home team or their awful record this season, but also a Town performance lacking in style or panache and a nagging sense the result could go the same way.
Billy Heath would probably argue it’s points, not performances, that win prizes, but Halifax’s didn’t get much better after the restart, with the visitors lacking a creative spark offering something a bit different, with Adam Morgan and Matty Kosylo on the periphery of the contest.
The introduction of another player back into action after injury, Jordan Sinnott, was a back-handed compliment to Altrincham from the away side, with Halifax needing his vision and creativity.
Town went close twice in quick succession midway through the second-half when Morgan’s shot was saved by Tim Deasy before Peniket’s drive flew just over the bar.
Town were again in the situation of needing something special or a bit of luck, and got the latter when King’s shot from 20 yards was deflected on target and beyond Deasy, who was diving the wrong way.
Altrincham: Deasy, Brownhill, Heatchcote (Patterson 46), Cyrus, McWilliams, Newby, Moult, G Jones, Clee, Owens (Reeves 22), Lawrie. Subs not used: Richman, Taylor, A Jones.
Shots on target: 3
Shots off target: 4
Halifax: Johnson, Roberts, Garner, Brown, Wilde, Kosylo, Lynch (Sinnott 64), King, Nti (Clarke 75), Peniket, Morgan (Hibbs 84). Subs not used: Drench, Moyo.
Scorer: King (81)
Shots on target: 3
Shots off target: 7
Town man of the match: Sam Johnson
Referee: Declan Bourne