FC Halifax Town 0-0 Dartford

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FC Halifax Town were held to a frustrating 0-0 draw by 10-man Dartford, who kept their first clean sheet in the league in 31 games.

Town had drawn a blank in their last two outings against Kidderminster and Southport, the first time they had failed to score in back-to-back league games since January last year, so a third game without a goal is almost unheard of.

Halifax weren’t at their fluent best and made hard work of carving out clear-cut chances against a stubborn Dartford side.

Dartford were reduced to 10-men in the first-half when Lee Burns was sent-off but Town couldn’t make their advantage count.

Town are still in position to reach the play-offs, although the result is certainly two points dropped in the circumstances.

Halifax looked to have extra gears to move into but never reached them. A return to winning ways at Aldershot away on Tuesday would be very welcome.

Neil Aspin made just one change from the underwhelming defeat at Southport on Tuesday, with Danny Hattersley replacing Lois Maynard as Halifax started with practically a 4-2-4.

The game immediately fell into the expected pattern of Town pushing Dartford back towards their own box and seeing plenty of possession.

It was just a shame the pitch seemed to have more mud on it than grass, making free-flowing football extremely difficult.

Despite Dartford playing Town for the fourth time this season, it was their first visit to the Shay this term, with lots of drama packed into the previous three meetings involving red cards, late comebacks and moves to Droylsden.

And 20 minutes in, there was another dismissal between the sides as Lee Burns was ordered off after taking out Richard Peniket, who was racing clear on goal after a lovely through ball by Scott Boden.

In the grand scheme of things, it didn’t actually change things too much as Town were already in the ascendancy, with Hattersley and Muldoon having an early sighter apiece.

From the resulting free-kick, Peniket dusted himself down and sent a swirling shot just over the bar.

Peniket had earlier continued his unfortunate recent interactions with Conference officials when he was booked for throwing the ball away after referee Ben Toner ignored his pleas for a corner and gave Dartford a goal kick.

Town looked sharper than they had in midweek but were sometimes hampered by the odd bobble and bounce on the patchy surface when they approached the Dartford box.

Patience was the order of the day as Town switched the ball from side-to-side trying to work an opening, with Peniket eventually shooting off target from 25 yards with Ibrahim turning to see it drift just wide of the far post.

After more Town possession, Bolton picked out a superb long pass to play in Boden, whose scuffed shot was saved.

The hosts were trying to build from the back and after more keep-ball, Muldoon’s cross was headed narrowly over by Hattersley.

The second-half picked up where the first had ended, with Pearson drilling a shot wide after more Halifax possession.

Of course Dartford were in no rush to restart the game at free-kicks and throw-ins and could hardly be blamed for doing so.

Even before Burns’ red card it had resembled a training ground session of attack versus defence, but the longer it went on the more it seemed Town needed something special or a bit of luck to break the deadlock.

James Bolton and Scott McManus were basically playing as wing-backs with four forwards strung out across the front but Town couldn’t get any momentum going, experiencing a sloppy spell of surrendering possession cheaply.

With no other chances seemingly on the horizon, Pearson tried a left-foot shot from outside the area that Ibrahim spilled before Dartford scrambled it clear.

It’s rare for Town to have gone through a dry-spell by their standards of the previous 180 minutes but also rare for them to create the few chances when enjoying so much possession.

Dartford deserve credit for their discipline and diligence in defence but Halifax will be disappointed not to have tested Ibrahim more than they did.

Thoughts naturally turned to Jamie Jackson’s late heroics against Braintree and whether Town could pull a similar rabbit from the hat late on.

But there was to be no repeat of that, with Danny Schofield sending a free-kick a yard over the bar in added time.

Halifax: Glennon, Bolton, M Roberts, Hutchison, McManus, Pearson (Hatfield 74), Schofield, Muldoon (Maynard 62), Peniket, Hattersley (Jackson 46), Boden. Subs not used: Senior, K Roberts.

Shots on target: 3

Shots off target: 8

Corners: 3

Dartford: Ibrahim, Pugh (Crawford 49) (Daley 90), Noble, Green, Sweeney, Burns, McAuley, Harris, Richards, Doidge (Driver 24), Dallison. Subs not used: Collier, Kessell.

Shots on target: 1

Shots off target: 0

Corners: 1

Attendance: 1,253

Town man of the match: Richard Peniket