FC Halifax Town 1-0 Braintree

Actions from Halifax Town win over Braintree, at the Shay
Actions from Halifax Town win over Braintree, at the Shay

Substitute Jamie Jackson’s 90th minute winner sealed a 1-0 win for FC Halifax Town over Braintree at the Shay.

Just when the clock was about to indicate five hours since the last goal between the sides, Jackson stooped to head in James Bolton’s cross and break Braintree hearts.

If anything, the hosts had looked to have a sting in the tale in the second-half with a couple of breakaway chances.

But Jackson popped up to snatch victory from the jaws of a draw.

Town have had their fair share of cup games lately which have perhaps obscured their fine recent league form, which is now seven wins in their last 10.

The comparatively trivial ups and downs of a play-off pursuit were put into perspective after the untimely death of Town’s director of business development Debbie Charlton last weekend.

The impeccably-observed minute’s silence and black armbands were both a fitting tribute.

The final whistle has been a blessed relief in recent meetings between the sides and there wasn’t too much evidence from the first whistle here that this game would be that different.

Town certainly started on the front foot and remained that way for most of the opening half, pressing Braintree back and setting the pattern for the contest.

Chances were intermittent but fell almost exclusively to the hosts, with Lois Maynard bursting forward from midfield before firing straight at Nick Hamann.

A delightful move then saw Paul Marshal play a quick one-two with Danny Hattersley before scooping his shot over the bar.

Space was at a premium in the Braintree half, as Town were presented with an orange wall to break down.

With Hattersley and Richard Peniket being kept relatively quiet by Braintree’s centre-halves, it fell to the likes of Adam Smith and Scott McManus to try and create some openings.

There was some nice approach play from Halifax, but they were frustrated at Braintree’s not-so-subtle attempts to break-up play.

Some of the visitors’ over-exuberant challenges prompted the Town faithful to call for more protection towards the hosts from referee Steven Ross.

Eventually Matt Paine was booked, but a second yellow wasn’t forthcoming when Paine fouled Matt Pearson minutes later, much to the Shay’s frustration.

The 32-minute mark heralded four hours of football between the sides since Kenny Davis’ penalty at Braintree back in November 2013.

And the more the opening-half went on, the less likely it was a goal would break the seemingly interminable deadlock.

Neil Aspin had warned no-one should have expected an easy win against Braintree, who despite their lowly position of 17th came into the game with seven wins from their last 11 games.

Alan Devonshire’s side are paying the price for an awful run of form that saw them not win for 12 games between mid-September and mid-November.

Despite the presence of both a Marks and a Sparkes in their line-up, there wasn’t much magic and sparkle about the Essex side, although Braintree defended resolutely, working hard to win back possession whenever Town approached their penalty area.

But they offered little going forward in the first-half; Kenny Davis’ wayward shot from 25 yards would have been a fine conversion for Halifax RFLC at the Shay 24 hours later.

What condition the pitch will be in after that game for the visit of Eastleigh on Tuesday remains to be seen.

It said much of the opening half that the closest either side came to scoring was through a miscued clearance by débutant Graham Hutchison just before the break.

Hutchison has had nearly a three-week wait for his first Town appearance but it was only prevented from turning into a nightmare start when Matt Glennon reached back to claw the ball away just before it crossed the line after looping over his head.

There was a bit more urgency about the Shaymen after the restart, with McManus seeing a close-range shot blocked before Matt Pearson fired over after a typically-surging run into the box.

But a sustained spell of pressure didn’t follow, cue the introduction of Jackson before the hour mark.

Town were also playing against the pitch as well as Braintree, as evidenced when the ball got stuck in the mud just as Maynard was preparing to blast the ball goal-wards 20 yards out.

Braintree broke away to finally test Glennon in the 65th minute, but Sean Marks’ effort was tamely struck, spurning a rare chance.

With Town struggling to break Braintree down, they nearly fell victim to a break away goal again minutes later when Simeon Akinola forced Glennon into another save.

It was almost as if the Town players could feel two precious points slipping away as they tried in vain to build some momentum in the last 10 minutes.

But Braintree’s Alan Massey and Remy Clerima continued to win the aerial battle at the back and too many passes went astray for Halifax to create any clear chances.

Even when they did, substitute Jack Muldoon’s effort was ruled out for offside in the dying minutes before Jackson finally ended the seemingly never-ending stalemate.

Halifax: Glennon, Bolton, M Roberts, Hutchison, McManus, Smith (Muldoon 65), Pearson (Hatfield 82), Maynard, Marshall, Hattersley (Jackson 57), Peniket. Subs not used: Senior, K Roberts.

Scorer: Jackson (90)

Shots on target: 4

Shots off target: 5

Corners: 1

Braintree: Hamann, Brundle, Habergham, Paine, Massey, Clerima, Akinola, Isaac, Sparkes (Mensah 71), Davis, Marks. Subs not used: Maybanks, Pollen, Peters, Pentney.

Shots on target: 4

Shots off target: 6

Corners: 0

Attendance: 1,268

Town man of the match: Matt Glennon