Goals from Lois Maynard, Richard Peniket and Jamie Jackson helped FC Halifax Town to a 3-2 win over Dover in The Shaymen’s first home league game of 2015.
Town were made to work hard for the win as Dover fought back from 2-0 and 3-1 down to leave the result in doubt until full-time.
But Halifax produced an improved performance from their disappointing defeat in the FA Trophy on Tuesday and looked more like their old selves.
Dover, appropriately dressed in pink on Valentine’s Day, were also knocked out of the Trophy in midweek, but also showed few signs of a hangover as they pushed Town all the way and offered enough to suggest they could be in the play-off picture this term.
But Halifax did enough to earn their first home league win since beating Nuneaton before Christmas, moving them to within four points of the top-five with plenty of games-in-hand.
Maynard, making his first start for a month after an impressive second-half against Wrexham on Tuesday, picked up where he left off before his suspension to net his seventh goal in 10 games.
From Scott McManus’ low cross, Maynard swept the ball high beyond Mitch Walker with his left foot.
If Neil Aspin wanted a response from Tuesday night, he’d got one.
The returning Adam Smith had made a bright start, picking out a delightful 50-yard cross-field pass to Danny Schofield, and found Danny Hattersley with a floated cross, which was headed over.
This was more like it from the Shaymen, whose positive opening was emphasised by the persistence of Matt Pearson, who characteristically bundled his way past a Dover defender on the touchline and hustled and harried his way to the edge of the six-yard-box.
His stab towards goal was parried by Walker, and Peniket was well-placed to poke the ball in for his first league goal in nearly four months.
Town were more dynamic than they had been on Tuesday, playing with a quicker tempo and looked well balanced with Smith and Danny Schofield offering different but equally potent threats on the flanks.
Neil Aspin had identified Dover’s collective height and aerial prowess as a particular threat, perhaps explaining the selections of the likes of James Bolton, Ross Killock and Maynard.
Killock had slotted in nicely alongside Marc Roberts in central defence with some well-timed tackles, keeping the visitors’ attack pretty quiet.
Halifax’s front-two complemented each other well too, with Peniket a constant threat in-behind the Dover defence, while Hattersley offered an aerial presence the attack has arguably lacked at times this season.
In contrast, Dover had yet to register a shot, but when they did it was a beauty, as Tom Murphy weaved past McManus before curling a superb shot beyond Matt Glennon.
Such was the artistry involved that it prompted a smattering of applause from the home supporters.
Dover then saw James Poole’s shot deflected just off target before Sean Raggett headed over unmarked from the resulting corner.
What a difference a goal makes.
That certainly put a spring in Dover’s step, with Town suffering from a sloppy spell before an excellent move saw Smith play in Peniket, whose low cross found Hattersley at the far post, only for the striker to lose his footing and scuff it towards a relieved Walker.
Town had to survive a strong start to the second-half by the visitors as Glennon saved well from Poole’s long-range shot before Sean Francis’ shot was deflected behind.
Dover deserved credit for refusing to buckle at 2-0 down, and were showing why they’d picked up points at Gateshead, Grimsby and Barnet already this campaign.
The away side’s attacking threat was enough to get the home crowd worried, with more passes going astray and the ball not sticking as much when played up to Hattersley and Peniket.
Whether substitute Jamie Jackson meant his goal or not, it was certainly a very welcome one, coming at a time when the outcome was in the balance.
Jackson’s third of the season was either a mis-hit cross over the stranded Walker or a magnificent chip from the right-side of the area that gave the keeper no chance.
Either way, it was quite an introduction barely a minute after coming on.
But whatever Jackson could do, so could fellow sub Dan Holman, who produced a clinical finish low across Glennon after escaping the attention of Town’s centre-halves.
Again, Dover had scored when Town seemed to be in control of the game, and the result was the hosts losing some of their composure.
A good turn and cross by Murphy, who justified his bright green boots with an impressive display, found Holman at the far post, who would have equalised had he made a better connection with his head.
Killock saw a shot which would have settled it once and for all blocked before Walker saved brilliantly one-on-one from Peniket to prolong the anxiety.
Deep into added time, Francis had a goal ruled out for offside, which Dover protested strongly about, with the win in doubt until the very last moment when a free-kick was flicked wide by Richard Orlu.
Halifax: Glennon, Bolton, M Roberts, Killock, McManus, Smith (Hatfield 69), Maynard, Pearson, Schofield, Peniket, Hattersley (Jackson 65). Subs not used: Senior, Boden, Muldoon.
Scorers: Maynard (5), Peniket (19), Jackson (66)
Shots on target: 6
Shots off target: 7
Dover: Walker, Essam, Raggett, Orlu, Francis, Deverdics (Holman 72), Taiwo (Cogan 72), Sterling, Modeste (Kinnear 79), Murphy, Poole. Subs not used: Mekki, Wynter.
Scorers: Murphy (35), Holman (77)
Shots on target: 5
Shots off target: 2
Town man of the match: Richard Peniket