FC Halifax Town 0-0 Gateshead

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Neil Aspin held his former club to a goalless draw as FC Halifax Town and Gateshead played out a poor game on his return to The Shay.

The two sides will meet again on Wednesday night for a place in the semi-finals of the FA Trophy after a match which had 0-0 written all over it.

Aspin’s side kept their sixth clean sheet in nine matches, with neither side doing enough to warrant a place in the last four first time round.

Jim Harvey could have done without another fixture in an already busy schedule, and will know his side will need to play better if a further two Trophy fixtures are to be accommodated.

The sight of Aspin in the away dugout took some getting used to, with the former Town boss getting a standing ovation when his return was announced over the tannoy.

Eight of the starting eleven for Halifax were brought to the club by Aspin, with CJ Hamilton, who started for Gateshead, making it nine overall.

Aspin watch was probably more interesting than anything on the pitch once the game began, with the ex-Town boss prowling the touchline in his usual manner and responding to the home fans with a wave upon request; it was like he’d never been away.

Both teams started with one man up front and packed the midfield, so a free-flowing, chance-laden contest inevitably didn’t follow.

Hamilton jinked into the box in the style Halifax fans would have recognised before Johnson comfortably saved his shot, while Josh Macdonald embarked on a run of his own before firing way wide left-footed.

Gateshead captain Ben Clark was arguably lucky to stay on the pitch when he bustled Macdonald off the ball, having already been booked for a foul on the winger a fe wminutes earlier.

Jake Hibbs, in an unaccustomed role at right wing-back, caught the eye with his willingness to push forward, while Matty Pattison looked a dangerous creative presence for the visitors.

Hibbs and Macdonald combined well to force a corner, from which Richard Peniket headed wide when well-placed at the back post.

But on the whole, it wasn’t clear to see what both teams’ plans were, other than primarily to stop the other playing; when they got on the ball in the opposition box, neither seemed too sure what to do with it.

The Gateshead dugout were off their seats when Pattison turned and shot inside the box, but his driven effort hit the stanchion and ruffled the side-netting.

Guy Mafuta and Hamilton then had further shots at goal before a nice move ended with Paddy McLaughlin’s effort comfortably saved by Johnson.

Peniket had another decent opportunity just before the interval with a near-post prod that dribbled wide, but the game had yet to catch fire by half-time; Wembley seemed a fair way off yet.

And it didn’t look any closer after the restart as the game descended into a tetchy affair beset by niggly fouls and a general lack of quality from both teams.

Referee Steve Rushton didn’t help much either with a tendency towards the pedantic, but the official was still a vast improvement on recent appointees for Halifax games.

Hibbs, now playing in central midfield after Town had switched to a flat back four, showed great tenacity to win possession before Nicky Wroe launched a rocket of a shot narrowly over from 25 yards.

The Shaymen seemed the likelier scorers as the second-half wore on, with substitutes Connor Hughes and Shaquille McDonald providing an injection of fresh legs into a game sorely lacking in pace and tempo.

Hughes then McDonald both had efforts off target as Aspin applauded his side on from the touchline, perhaps sensing the momentum was with the hosts.

It was next goal wins territory by the time Danny Johnson shot just wide across goal after a run from the halfway line; hence Aspin’s head in hands reaction as it flashed wide.

Johnson sent another shot crashing just wide late on, but by that time, any plans for Wednesday were already being cancelled.

Halifax: Johnson, Bolton, Brown, Bencherif, McManus, J Macdonald (S McDonald 66), Wroe, James, Hibbs, Whitehouse (Hughes 57), Peniket (Burrow 63). Subs not used: Porter, Walker.

Shots on target: 1

Shots off target: 8

Corners: 3

Gateshead: Russell, McLaughlin, Clark, Curtis, Pattison (Gillies 63), Bennett, Ramshaw (Johnson 46), Mafuta, Whitmore, Hamilton (Chandler 89), Bowman Subs not used: Shaw, Pearson

Shots on target: 2

Shots off target: 7

Corners: 2

Attendance: 1,431

Town man of the match: Hamza Bencherif