FC Halifax Town lost 3-0 to neighbours Bradford City in their final game of pre-season, played behind-closed-doors at The Shay.
Town have played in some strange surroundings in recent years - using Rochdale as a home venue, the austere ground at Ashton Athletic and the athletics track at Gateshead - but The Shay with no supporters was a new one on the list.
The club expected a crowd of between 3,000 and 4,000 had fans been allowed in, but it was for the press’ eyes only as Halifax’s pre-season campaign came to a close in-front of four empty stands.
The shouts of players and managers could be clearly heard all game, with Scott Garner and Matty Brown particularly vocal presences, while Billy Heath still barked out instructions as if there were 10,000 screaming fans in the stadium.
Had there been, they’d have seen a decent spectacle, with Town competing well in the first-half before fading after the interval.
Substitute Omari Patrick put City ahead just after half-time before fellow sub Ellis Hudson put the result beyond doubt with a late double.
If Town players were playing for their places in next week’s season-opener, then Josh Macdonald’s audition was the most effective, with the winger making inroads down the right by repeatedly driving past Bradford left-back Adam Chicksen.
Town forced four corners in the first 10 minutes, and Garner nearly headed in from one of them as the hosts started well.
The lack of supporters didn’t significantly dull the intensity of the contest, with Halifax quick to the tackle, pressing their opponents and looking likelier to score.
Bradford should have taken the lead though when Alex Jones got the better of Brown from Nicky law’s long ball, but sliced his shot off target one-on-one with Sam Johnson.
Town continued to be a threat down the right-flank, with Macdonald and Cliff Moyo combining well and Tom Denton nearly pouncing on the latter’s crosses but for some excellent defending.
While Bradford’s tactic of playing out from the back often led to them losing the ball, Town’s more direct approach to Denton helped them get the ball forward much more proficiently, with City unable to deal with the striker’s aerial prowess.
Adam Morgan, who had earlier fired over from 25 yards, had another effort saved by Colin Doyle from similar range before Doyle tipped behind Denton’s shot from six-yards from another superb Macdonald cross, with Bradford struggling to contain the winger or Town’s number nine; if there was an Aldershot scout in the trees behind the Skircoat Stand, Macdonald and Denton will have been written in capital letters on their notepad.
Defensively, Town appear to have been working hard on their offside trap in training, as it continually caught out Bradford going forward, with Brown and Garner impressive again.
But Town’s good work from the first-half was undone when Josh Wilde’s sloppy back-pass let in Jones, who squared the ball for Patrick to tap-in with his first touch; Billy Heath will be hoping the usually reliable Wilde has got any rare errors out of his system in time for the proper stuff next week.
Bradford assumed superiority in the second-half, upping their game considerably while Halifax became more disjointed and didn’t play with the same cohesion, with Denton a more isolated figure up-front until he was taken off.
Town were offering nothing going forward as the game went on, so by the time substitute Hudson finished well across Johnson after Law’s pass, it was game over.
Shortly afterwards, Hudson was the only one alive to a punt forward by Matt Kilgallon, and he dinked the ball past the on-rushing Johnson as Heath’s side withered after such a promising first-half.
Halifax: Johnson, Moyo (Ross 37), Garner, Brown, Wilde (McManus 65), Macdonald (Hibbs 83), Oliver (Dixon 78), Hotte (Lynch 70), Kosylo (Charles 46), Morgan (Tomlinson 46), Denton (Clarke 66). Subs not used: Nicholson, King.
Shots on target: 4
Shots off target: 4
Bradford: Doyle, McMahon, Knight-Percival, Vincelot (Hudson 79), Chicksen, Law (Hanson 83), Dieng (Patrick 46), Reeves, McCartan (Pybus 76), Jones (Devine 79), Gilliead (Kilgallon 46). Subs not used: Sattelmaier.
Scorers: Patrick (47), Hudson (80, 83)
Shots on target: 4
Shots off target: 8
Referee: Jamie Rhodes
Town man of the match: Josh Macdonald