FC Halifax Town 0-1 Guiseley

Halifax v Guiseley - FA Trophy
Halifax v Guiseley - FA Trophy

Former Town striker Alex Johnson’s goal knocked FC Halifax out of the FA Trophy at the first hurdle as they lost 1-0 to Guiseley at the Shay.

The Shaymen were second best to their West Yorkshire rivals, managed by ex-Town skipper Mark Bower, as the Lions exacted a measure of revenge for their defeat in the Conference North play-offs last season.

Johnson was the star of the show as his superb strike on the brink of half-time capped a display bristling with the kind of effort and competitiveness unmatched by their hosts.

Town got to within touching distance of a semi-final spot last season, but a side deprived of half of its strongest starting 11 through injury never really looked like making much headway on the road to Wembley this time around.

Sam Patterson made his home debut for Town, with Simon Ainge also starting in a back four missing three of its regular incumbents in Ryan Toulson, Marc Roberts and Danny Lowe.

Dan Gardner again had to settle for a place on the bench, along with loanee Tom Anderson.

Guiseley, who handed starts to former Town strikers Johnson and Danny Forrest, came into the game on the back of six consecutive wins, and it showed as they started confidently.

Johnson was his typical industrious self ahead of a lively midfield quintet who offered plenty of support to ensure the visitors gave as good as they got from the off.

Ainge and his centre-back partner Lois Maynard will have known what to expect from the brief time they shared with Johnson in pre-season, and the striker rekindled memories of what made him such a fans’ favourite at the Shay as he hassled and harried any blue shirt he came into contact with.

Neil Aspin was forced into some early Christmas shopping this week, bringing in three loan players to boost his depleted squad, and it was perhaps understandable his side looked a little disjointed given the disruption Town have suffered of late.

Joe Ironside struggled to recapture his impressive performance from Hereford on Tuesday night, but wasn’t helped by the in-form Josh Wilson seeing less of the ball than he had at Edgar Street.

At the other end, Johnson’s tenaciousness earned Guiseley a free-kick and Ainge a booking before Gavin Rothery put the set-piece just wide of Matt Glennon’s near post.

The absence of Lee Gregory, which would be felt by any side below the Football League, and the incisive runs of Dan Gardner seemed to have blunted Town’s attacking threat, with Scott McManus as creative as anyone when joining in from left-back.

Given the familiar faces in both line-ups, the clash lacked the fiery edge that have pervaded past meetings between the two clubs, although tempers did flare when Rothery was booked for a foul on Matt Pearson.

It looked like Town would reach half-time unscathed from a below-par first 45 minutes, but Johnson then produced a spectacular strike from 20 yards that dipped over Glennon and just under the bar.

No wonder a smattering of applause could be heard from the South Stand.

Unfortunately no player in blue looked like provoking a similar response, which is perhaps why Dan Gardner replaced Kevin Holsgrove at the interval.

Guiseley keeper Steve Drench was finally tested just before the hour mark when Town won their first corner, from which Ainge’s header was kept out with a fine reaction save.

Johnson nearly doubled his tally with an excellent volley from a hanging cross which Glennon blocked as the visitors crafted some neat one and two-touch interplay inside the Town half.

This was epitomised with a delightful one-two as Wayne Brooksby back-heeled the ball back to Rhys Meynell, who curled his shot across goal and wide.

By the time Johnson was substituted, Town fans could do little but applaud him off, a gesture which the forward reciprocated.

Even his replacement Craig Hobson was getting in on the act as his low shot hit the post as the visitors looked the likelier to score again.

Adam Lockwood’s free header then flashed wide before the Shaymen mounted a very late last stand, with Jon Worthington’s header palmed onto the bar by Steve Drench.

Halifax: Glennon, Patterson, Ainge, Pearson (Worthington 55), McManus, Love, Smith, Maynard, Holsgrove (Gardner 46), Wilson, Ironside (Marshall 70). Subs not used: Senior, Anderson

Shots on target: 4

Shots off target: 4

Corners: 1

Guiseley: Drench, Holdsworth, Meynell, Rea, Lockwood, Hall, Brooksby, Boshell, Johnson (Hobson 78), Forrest, Rothery. Subs not used: Lawlor, Potts, Parker, Dickinson.

Scorer: Johnson (45)

Shots on target: 3

Shots off target: 4

Corners: 4

Attendance: 935

Town man of the match: Scott McManus