Tom Denton’s 18th goal of the season was enough to earn FC Halifax Town a 1-0 win at home to Alfreton.
Town have invariably and frustratingly struggled against teams in the lower reaches of the National League North this season, and after good results against the likes of FC United, Kidderminster and Brackley, The Shaymen reverted to not quite producing when the onus was on them to.
Alfreton came into the game with the worst defensive record in the division and having not scored for more than five hours - probably the opposition Town would have hand-picked beforehand.
Halifax did enough to win the game, but no more than that against a limited visiting team. The performance could have been better, but the result is another crucial one in the season’s home straight.
Town had the better of the early chances, with Andy Monkhouse clearing Scott Garner’s shot off the line and David Lynch shooting over from 20 yards.
But their style of play was fragmented and disjointed, with too many inaccurate passes and not enough of a quick tempo to sustain any prolonged pressure.
Lynch was the driving force for the hosts from the off, picking up loose balls, darting forward on the ball and breaking up Alfreton possession. But those around him in blue shirts were flat and not really up to speed.
Billy Heath switched to 4-4-2 well before half-time, moving Richard Peniket off the right flank and up alongside Denton, but the front two were getting no service inside the 18-yard-box, with Alfreton proving a disciplined, well organised nut to crack.
When Denton did receive the ball in a good area, he nodded it down perfectly for the onrushing Liam King, but he was prevented from shooting at goal by some excellent defending from ex-Town midfielder Paul Marshall, who then also blocked Peniket’s cross to the unmarked Denton.
The match had the look and feel of an end-of-season dead rubber, with Halifax again producing an underwhelming opening half as they had against Brackley, Kidderminster and a few others before then.
Alfreton offered nothing going forward, barring Wes Atkinson’s rising drive over in the first five minutes, and were happily following in the footsteps of Boston, Telford and Gloucester in cancelling out a frustrated home side.
It wasn’t any better after the break, and the fans’ patience started to wear thin as Sinnott took a short corner to Roberts, whose cross went straight to the keeper Fabian Spiess before neither Charles nor Roberts could deliver the ball into the box after great work by the tireless Lynch to regain possession.
The heckles of the crowd seemed to kick Halifax into action though, with The Shaymen at least demonstrating more urgency in attack and forcing corner after corner as the pressure gradually built.
And on the hour mark, the latest Sinnott delivery was nodded in at the near post by Denton as Alfreton’s resistance was broken; finally, after two-and-a-half hours this season, Town had scored against the worst defence in the league.
Not that the goal preceded the floodgates opening. In fact very little changed, with Alfreton still toothless in attack and Halifax remaining too pedestrian going forward.
Substitute Liam Hearn had a shot deflected inches wide before fellow sub Adam Priestley got the ball caught between his feet six yards out from Atkinson’s cross as Alfreton sniffed an equaliser. If they had more quality in attack, they might have got one.
Josh Macdonald returned off the bench and produced a fine run and cross, from which King’s shot was blocked in front of goal by Jordan Richards.
Halifax: Johnson, Roberts, Garner, Hotte, Wilde, Peniket, King, Lynch, Sinnott, Charles (Macdonald 68), Denton (Moyo 80). Subs not used: Drench, Moyo, Hone, Morgan.
Scorer: Denton (61)
Shots on target: 4
Shots off target: 3
Alfreton: Spiess, Richards, Jordan, Heaton, Monkhouse, Marshall, Shelton (Evans 80), Atkinson, McFadzean, Smith (Hearn 69), Westcarr. (Priestley 69) Subs not used: Wright.
Shots on target: 0
Shots off target: 3
Town man of the match: David Lynch
Referee: David McNamara