FC Halifax Town slipped to their fifth defeat in seven games as they ended the year with a 3-2 defeat at Darlington.
New signing Adam Morgan scored twice on his debut, but the frontman’s presence couldn’t turn the tide for Town, who finish the year bang out of form and without a win in seven matches, not including the West Riding County Cup; roll on 2017.
Town’s next opponents? Darlington.
Morgan levelled thanks to a goalkeeping howler after Mark Beck had given the hosts an early lead in their first game back in Darlington since reforming.
Beck struck again shortly after half-time before Josh Gillies’ superb effort sealed the win for the hosts, who were without a win in seven themselves before the game, with The Shaymen looking like a beaten team after that.
A tad more respectability was handed to the score when the Darlington keeper stumbled over the line trying to keep out Morgan’s attempted chip.
Morgan, one of four changes from the dour draw with Telford, came straight into the team for his debut alongside Tom Denton in attack.
But the Town team featured the odd square peg in a round hole, with Cliff Moyo starting in central midfield and Richard Peniket starting on the left of a midfield four.
Halifax were the first guests round at Darlington’s new home as they returned to the town after an absence of four-and-a-half years.
And the house-warming party was soon in full swing as poor defending allowed Beck, Darlington’s equivalent of Denton, to open the scoring after just seven minutes.
Phil Turnbull found it too easy to beat two Town players before his cross was inexplicably allowed to roll right across the box for the unmarked Beck to tap-in at the far post for his 10th league goal of the season.
It’s now eight games without a clean sheet for Town
The hosts didn’t build on that early momentum, although Town struggled to muster much of a response either, but felt Darlington’s Nathan Cartman should have seen red for flattening Josh Wilde during an aerial battle which provoked some pushing and shoving.
Morgan had seen little of the ball since kicking-off in the centre circle, and kicked the ball straight out of play when trying to find Matty Kosylo on the half-hour mark.
Two efforts by Kosylo, one off target and one on, were the best Town had mustered by then, with the absence of their most creative asset, Jordan Sinnott, still being keenly felt going forward.
If the idea was to feed Morgan from flick-ons and knock-downs by Denton, it was logical, but unsuccessful, with Darlington nullifying Denton’s threat effectively by doubling up on the Town striker every time the ball was aimed up to him.
After a Kosylo free-kick was saved and a Josh Wilde shot across goal was tipped behind, Morgan shot for goal 25 yards out after a short corner, and keeper Peter Jameson let the ball slip through his grasp in mid-air, gifting Town the equaliser; if that’s anything to go by, Jameson will have been very generous with his Christmas presents this year.
Halifax were growing in confidence, and Morgan tried an audacious chip over the keeper from near the halfway line just before the break.
But the score was a fair reflection of the game by half-time, with Darlington not offering enough of a threat to merit a lead, and Town improving as the half went on and eventually showing enough to deserve parity.
But Darlington were quicker out of the blocks after the interval, and Beck restored their lead with a sweeping shot past Drench from the left-side of the area from one-time Town target Gillies’ pass.
The after more poor defending by Town from a free-kick - with one Halifax man missing his header before another nodded it out to the edge of the box - Gillies let fly with a rasping shot that arrowed into the far left corner from 20 yards.
It took 15 minutes for Town to register their next effort on goal, when Peniket’s vicious volley was brilliantly tipped over by Jameson.
But Town looked like a team who’d had the Christmas stuffing knocked out of them, and never threatened a fightback, with Morgan’s inventive chip coming seconds before full-time.
Darlington: Jameson, Marrs, Burgess, Brown, Galbraith, Thompson (Falkingham 73), Scott, Turnbull, Gillies (Syers 86), Cartman (Hardy 81), Beck. Subs not used: Hunter, Bell.
Scorers: Beck (7, 51), Gillies (56)
Shots on target: 5
Shots off target: 3
Halifax: Drench, Roberts, Hone, Hotte, Wilde, Lynch, Moyo, Peniket (Simmons 78), Kosylo (Macdonald 52), Denton, Morgan. Subs not used: Brown, King, Barrows.
Scorers: Morgan (39, 90)
Shots on target: 5
Shots off target: 3
Town man of the match: Adam Morgan
Referee: Paul Brown