FC Halifax Town recorded their first away since March as they battled to a 3-1 win at Altrincham.
Those red-and-white stripes of Altrincham brought back some painful memories from three days ago, but the hosts were a pale imitation of Cheltenham.
Similarly, Halifax were a different team to the one that surrendered so meekly at the weekend; they certainly couldn’t have been much worse, but they were a massive improvement on what preceded their trip to Moss Lane as goals from Jordan Burrow and a Kingsley James penalty sealed a long overdue win.
There was a fight and a resolve about The Shaymen that was sorely lacking last time out; those new Monday training sessions are clearly paying dividends already.
Lee Sinnott’s side had racked up scalps over Grimsby, Tranmere and, yes, Cheltenham already this season.
But this was not the same team, and looked more like the outfit that had scored the fewest goals in the division so far.
Burrow headed just wide from Scott McManus’ cross in the midst of a bright start by Town, who fielded the same 11 that played Gateshead off the park two weeks ago
The returning Sean Tuton was lively up-front, while Hamza Bencherif provided a useful conduit between midfield and attack.
In contrast, Altrincham lacked any real tempo; of the two, they started like the side who’d just lost 7-1.
By the time Burrow headed Town in front, the first time they’d scored first in a game since CJ Hamilton’s goal at Guiseley and only the second time this season, it was only what they deserved after an impressive, controlled first 20 minutes.
The striker produced a deft glancing header to cap a superb move that saw Tuton charge up-field before playing in Kevin Roberts, whose dinked cross set-up the chance on a plate.
That was more like it; from the ridiculous on Saturday to the rather sublime.
Darren Kelly has stressed the importance of character from his side during his short time in charge, and Town were showing plenty of that.
Roberts’ goalbound shot was terrifically blocked at one end, leading to a rapid counter-attack, but Roberts chased back and made a crucial tackle just as James Lawrie was approaching the penalty area.
Matty Brown was a commanding presence in the middle of Halifax’s back-three, while McManus provided a good balance on the left with some alert interceptions and marauding runs forward.
There was a lucky escape 10 minutes before the break when Adam Griffin’s wayward cross came back off the far post, with mis-hit crosses seemingly the hosts’ best route to goal.
Another, better hit, cross from Jordan Sinnott caused panic in the Town defence but narrowly evaded both a touch from an Altrincham attack or curling into the net unaided.
Halifax were being pushed further back as half-time approached, with yet another excellent delivery causing confusion before Matt Glennon gratefully clung to the loose ball.
A sloppy pass by the otherwise impressive McManus then put The Shaymen in trouble, but Altrincham’s attack petered out with a harmless long-range effort by Sinnott.
Town reached half-time ahead for the first time this term and with their clean sheet intact for the first time in eight games.
Kelly asked for a response, and he’d got one.
The Town boss continued to patrol the very edge of his technical area into the second-half, and offered plenty of encouragement as his side sought to dampen any Altrincham response in the pouring rain.
Kelly put his hands on his head in response to Bencherif’s fierce drive just wide after a lofted free-kick fell kindly to him in the box.
A second Town goal would have been very welcome considering Halifax had the worst defensive record in the league.
And so it proved, as moments later, a deep cross from the left was cleverly headed back across goal by Reeves; its now 23 games and counting since a clean sheet.
The equaliser came despite Altrincham’s performance though, not because of it, as they continued to be sloppy in possession.
Rather than buckle as they did on Saturday and numerous times before though, Town displayed that character Kelly had asked for to retake the lead.
Another superb cross by the outstanding Roberts preceded a magnificent leap by Burrow before he powered in a close range header for his 10th of the season; already totalling his tally from last term.
Tuton squeezed in one more effort that was tipped over by Tim Deasy before being deservedly applauded off by Kelly and Jim Harvey.
Town again fell back into protective mode, dropping deeper and trying to preserve their precious lead, to which an Altrincham side devoid of ideas had few answers.
Substitutes Jake Hibbs and Josh Macdonald combined to earn a last-ditch penalty which James swept in for his second in two games, just to settle any late nerves.
Altrincham: Deasy, Griffin, Havern, Leather, Parry (Heathcote 82), Sinnott (Bowerman 73), Moult, Richman, Clee (Densmore 46), Reeves, Lawrie. Subs not used: O’Keefe, Swift.
Scorer: Reeves (57)
Shots on target: 3
Shots off target: 7
Halifax: Glennon, Bolton, Banton, Brown, K Roberts, James, Walker (Hibbs 76), Bencherif, McManus, Burrow (Hughes 90), Tuton (Macdonald 80). Subs not used: Porter, Hattersley.
Scorers: Burrow (22, 60), James (90)
Shots on target: 3
Shots off target: 7
Town man of the match: Kevin Roberts