FC Halifax Town put in a spirited performance but failed to climb out of the relegation zone after a 0-0 draw with Eastleigh to leave their National League status hanging in the balance.
Town were the better side against their promotion-chasing opponents and created the much clearer chances, but have now gone six hours without a goal, a run that simply has to end soon.
How it didn’t here remains a mystery as Halifax forged some extremely presentable opportunities as they huffed and puffed but were ultimately left to rue some poor finishing and decision-making in front of goal.
If points were awarded for effort, the hosts would be out of the drop zone by now.
As it is, they face the prospect of survival being out of their hands with two tough looking games to go.
The first chances for some heroics fell to Jordan Burrow, who first prodded wide at the near post from Josh Macdonald’s cross, then headed straight at keeper Ross Flitney from Nicky Wroe’s cross six yards out.
Wroe himself then went close with a drilled shot from 30 yards before Macdonald’s cross was headed wide at the far post, all inside the first 15 minutes.
If Jim Harvey wanted a response from his team’s last three matches, they were doing their utmost to provide one.
Although the home side’s approach play was incisive enough to create chances, their profligacy let them down in finishing them, with Shaquille McDonald next to get a half-chance on the edge of the box from his namesake’s cross, only to scuff his shot into the turf.
Richard Peniket then fired straight at Flitney from 20 yards, with the visiting keeper seeing a lot more action than his team-mates who, to say were guaranteed a return to the top-five with a win, were playing like a side mired in mid-table obscurity.
That was until Matt Tubbs produced an excellent piece of control from a lofted pass before his shot was deflected over, but that was the away side’s only clear chance of an underwhelming half; they must have played much better than this to have won at Crewe, Macclesfield, Dover and Tranmere this season.
The only real grumble for the hosts after 30 minutes was the fact that Town hadn’t converted their chances into the goal their overall performance merited, with the half-hour mark making it five hours since their last one.
Harvey was concerned about Town firing blanks after three consecutive games without a goal, and you could see his point, with The Shaymen not quite possessing enough guile and killer instinct to break down a defence that had kept six clean sheets in their last eight games.
That run looked unlikelier to end the longer the first-half went on, although Town’s applause as they walked off for the interval reflected what an encouraging opening half it had been.
Jake Hibbs especially stood out with some driving runs from right-back that helped shift Halifax further up-field, while Shaquille McDonald was a bundle of energy just lacking some composure when in and around the box.
A superb run by Peniket carved out a chance just after the restart, but Burrow’s poke went wide and just out of McDonald’s reach too as he stretched a leg towards the ball.
Peniket himself then spurned the best chance of the night up until then as he charged to the far post unmarked to reach a cross but chose to cut the ball back rather than shoot, and as quickly as it arrived, the opportunity had gone.
It was now five-and-a-half hours without a goal, although how Town reached that landmark was almost beyond comprehension.
James Bolton’s looping header was acrobatically tipped over by Flitney before Eastleigh scrambled the ball off the line from the resulting corner.
Three times in 15 second-half minutes Town had come mightily close to scoring, and must have been left wondering what more they had to do.
Both sides had so much to play for, but it was Halifax showing far more fighting spirit.
However, the momentum they’d accumulated after the restart had gradually fizzled out as the half wore on, with the hosts appearing to tire and Eastleigh showing hints of having more left in their tank.
Connor Hughes brought a save out of Flitney at the second attempt with a right-foot shot from just outside the box before Tubbs poked the ball just wide from Lee Cook’s cross with five minutes left.
With a goal for either side potentially meaning so much, the tension was palpable, but in the end, Town’s destiny had slipped from their grasp when it should be in their own hands.
Halifax: Johnson, Hibbs, Bolton, Roberts, McManus, James, Wroe, J Macdonald (Hattersley 79), Peniket (Fairhurst 74), S McDonald (Hughes 66), Burrow. Subs not used: Porter, Harrison.
Shots on target: 5
Shots off target: 8
Eastleigh: Flitney, Partington, Green, Drury, Coulson (Cook 74), Turley, Evans, Odubade (Midson 60), Reason, Strevens, Tubbs. Subs not used: Poke, Reid, Harding.
Shots on target: 1
Shots off target: 4
Town man of the match: Kevin Roberts