FC Halifax Town began life back in the National League with a defeat as they lost 2-0 at home to Aldershot.
Shamir Fenelon’s goal after an hour and James Rowe’s late penalty handed The Shots a deserved win on the opening day, as Town competed well enough but were outplayed by the visitors.
Town didn’t do much to dispel the pre-season consensus that they were solid defensively and a hard-working unit but perhaps lacking a cutting edge up-front.
Aldershot, who finished in the play-offs last season, arrived with the reputation as a good footballing team, and will leave with that intact too thanks to some sharp, well-crafted approach play.
There were some bright moments from Halifax, who were far from out of their depth, but will already have learned harsh lessons about taking their chances at one end and not presenting opportunities too easily at the other.
New signing Michael Duckworth. from Fleetwood, came straight into the starting line-up at right-back, but there was surprisingly no place in the squad for Adam Morgan or Bohan Dixon.
The clues to Heath’s selection were there from pre-season, with Nathan Hotte and Connor Oliver an effective partnership in midfield, and Josh Macdonald an impressive performer on the right.
Town started confidently, with Macdonald continuing his sparkling pre-season form in energetic style. Tom Denton was the starting point for most of Town’s attacks, with Ben Tomlinson trying to pick up his knock-downs, but Halifax looked better when they bypassed the high balls to their giant striker and used the likes of Macdonald, Matty Kosylo and Oliver to try and find a way through, but that wasn’t often enough.
Duckworth slotted in nicely at right-back; quick to the tackle and comfortable on the ball, often picking out a good forward pass.
Route one wasn’t in Aldershot’s armoury, as the visitors repeatedly tried to play through Halifax as Bradford had a week previously, but with limited success early on.
Bobby-Joe Taylor nearly produced a moment of magic with a left-foot curler just wide from 30 yards either side of efforts off target by Kosylo. But that spurt of attempts, which hadn’t been preceded by many, wasn’t followed by many others either before the break.
Halifax had given as good as they’d got up to then, and were as good, bad or indifferent as their opponents, although there was a shade more flair and imagination about Aldershot’s attacks, while midfielder Emmanuel Oyeleke became increasingly omnipresent.
The away side were more dominant as the half went on though, and saw two free-kicks go close just before the break from Nick Arnold and Scott Rendell.
Goalkeeper Jake Cole parried Oliver’s rising drive from the edge of the box a few minutes after half-time following a good run by Macdonald down the right.
But Aldershot replied with a Will De Havilland header that dropped just wide and a fierce drive by Arnold that Sam Johnson did well to steer behind.
But the keeper made a rash decision to charge out of his area and attempt to stop Fenelon as he raced clear, but the Aldershot forward ran round Johnson and rolled the ball into the empty net after he’d skillfully nipped on to Rendell’s forward pass, despite being outnumbered by blue shirts.
A delightful one-two between Kosylo and Tomlinson created some space for the latter, who saw his outstanding effort with the outside of his right-foot tipped over by Cole, which was seen by everyone except the referee, who gave a goal kick.
But like a week ago against Bradford, Town were fading badly as the game wore on, second to every ball and making no inroads going forward, with Macdonald again taken off after failing to reproduce his first-half impact.
Johnson’s excellent double-save from Rendell and Fenelon just about kept Town in the game, but there didn’t seem much point as The Shaymen were blunt in attack, offering nothing.
And after Hotte was rightly denied a penalty at one end, Matty Brown was harshly adjudged to have fouled substitute Shaun Okojie at the other end, giving Rowe the chance to cap a fine individual display by rifling the spot-kick high into the net.
Halifax: Johnson, Duckworth, Garner, Brown, Wilde, Macdonald (Clarke 70), Hotte, Oliver, Kosylo, Tomlinson (Charles 64), Denton. Subs not used: Nicholson, Riley, McManus.
Shots on target: 2
Shots off target: 8
Aldershot: Cole, Arnold, De Havilland, Reynolds, Alexander, Fenelon, Rowe, Gallagher, Taylor (Kellermann 74), Oyeleke, Rendell (Okojie 81). Subs not used: McClure, Lyons-Foster, Smith.
Scorer: Fenelon (59)
Shots on target: 6
Shots off target: 6
Referee: Joseph Johnson
Town man of the match: Matty Kosylo