FC Halifax Town secured their first point of the 2017-18 season with a hard-fought 0-0 draw at Barrow.
The Shaymen have now gone three hours without a goal this season, but the result represents a good return on what proved to be a game every bit as tough as Billy Heath had predicted.
After a first-half spent almost exclusively inside the Halifax half, Town competed far better in a more even second-half, although Barrow will feel hard done-by not to have won.
Town’s part-time status and modest budget mean they shouldn’t go to a team who finished seventh last season with delusions of grandeur, and there was no shortage of effort from The Shaymen.
But travelling Town fans may have to get used to seeing their team play second fiddle on the road; if it gets useful points at places like Barrow, however, then so be it.
Heath made three changes from Saturday, with Dion Charles, Martin Riley and Bohan Dixon replacing Josh Macdonald, Matty Kosylo and Ben Tomlinson, but more fundamentally, 3-5-2 replacing 4-4-2.
Tom Denton remained the focal point for Town attacks, with the likes of Charles and Dixon trying to feed off his knock-downs, but Town looked a bit more rushed in possession than Barrow, who regained the ball too often after passes up to Denton came to nothing.
Jack Barthram, Asa Hall and Adi Yussuf all had shots off target in the first 10 minutes as the hosts settled quicker.
Riley’s debut lasted just 17 minutes when he was taken off injured, resulting in Nathan Hotte dropping to centre-back. Dixon’s debut didn’t go much better, with the midfielder too much of a peripheral figure and guilty of some sloppy passes. He was also booked just before the break after a crude tackle near the halfway line.
Barrow were dominating the contest, with Town their own worst enemy in repeatedly conceding possession, none more so than inside their own area midway through the first-half when Matty Brown let Connor Oliver’s pass go through his legs, allowing Bedsente Gomis to nip in before he was denied by Sam Johnson.
The impressive Barthram headed off target from close range soon afterwards, with it looking a matter of time before the hosts took the lead.
Oliver did hit the bar against the run of play though after a superb cross-field pass by Charles following Denton’s neat lay-off.
But normal service was soon resumed as a delightful pass by Alex-Ray Harvey picked out the onrushing Barthram, who fired into the side-netting, before Yussuf did brilliantly to control the ball in the box before Johnson reacted well to keep out his low volley.
Half-time couldn’t come soon enough; the interval must have been met with the same relief for The Shaymen as a flyweight greeting the end of a bruising round of boxing against Anthony Joshua.
Town emerged a more composed team after the interval, with Dixon getting on the ball more and Tomlinson making an impact down the right flank.
Charles broke clear to latch onto a loose ball before rounding keeper Stuart Moore, but Barthram was well-placed to clear his shot off the line.
This was more like it from Halifax though. The visitors had come off the ropes and were now landing a few blows of their own against a Barrow team a shadow of their former selves.
Substitute Dan Cockerline nearly scored with his first touch but Johnson saved superbly from his low shot inside the box, before the keeper also tipped over fellow sub Liam Hughes’ free-kick.
Halifax were containing the hosts far more effectively now, although their attacks were still too infrequent to be called sporadic; a point looked an increasingly good result as the game went on.
Barrow: Moore, Barthram (Hughes 73), Jones, Dunne, Diarra, Nieskens, Harvey (Bauress 84), Gomis, Hall, White (Cockerline 69), Yussuf. Subs not used: Audel, Panayiotou.
Shots on target: 5
Shots off target: 9
Halifax: Johnson, Duckworth, Riley (Tomlinson 17, Kosylo 82), Garner, Brown, Wilde, Hotte, Oliver, Dixon, Charles, Denton. Subs not used: Nicholson, McManus, Morgan.
Shots on target: 1
Shots off target: 3
Referee: Simeon Lucas
Town man of the match: Sam Johnson