FC Halifax Town 1-1 Bishop’s Stortford

Actions from FC Halifax Town v Bishops Stortford at the Shay.
Actions from FC Halifax Town v Bishops Stortford at the Shay.

FC Halifax Town missed their chance to move back into fourth place as they were held at home by ten men Bishop’s Stortford .

It’s now five games without a win at home for The Shaymen, who pulled level after falling behind to a shock opener after half-an-hour.

Dan Gardner missed a second-half penalty for Town as they beseiged their opponents, who had a man sent-off in the build up to the spot kick.

Town are getting little home comfort at the moment, and will hope to move back above Altrincham in the table with a win at home to Corby on Thursday as their frantic schedule offers little time to recover.

Neil Aspin made three changes from the side that started against Altrincham three days ago, with James Knowles replacing Ryan Toulson in defence, Jon Worthington coming in for Chris Worsley in midfield and Gareth Seddon returning from injury in place of Adriano Moke.

Bishop’s Stortford, with one win in their last ten games, rather predictably set themselves up with two banks of four, which looked more like one bank of eight at times as Town took control of the game from the off.

Sean Williams had Halifax’s first sight of goal after eight minutes, but dragged his shot narrowly wide from just inside the box before Liam Needham’s cross found Seddon at the far post shortly afterwards, but the striker’s header drifted back across goal and wide.

Like so many teams before them at the Shay, Bishop’s Stortford showed little ambition going forward and issued an open invitation for Town to attack them, which they did relentlessly.

But the visitor’s defending was just as vigorous as they closed down every inch of free space Town managed to work in and around their box.

The limited threat they had offered on the counter-attack in the first half gave no clue as to what was then in store as Matt Johnson picked up on a loose ball 25 yards from goal and unleashed a stunning strike that arrowed low past a helpless Matt Glennon.

After that brief interlude from the script, things returned to normal as Town continued to try and worm their way through the watertight defence in front of them.

Matt Pearson almost produced an immediate reply when he bustled his way into the box from the right but his powerful left-foot shot flew over the bar.

But Tonw’s leveller was created by Pearson’s fellow full-back Scott McManus, who had already been firirng a series of cross-field balls to Seddon, but this time his near post cross was met with a cushioned header by Needham to loop the ball over the stranded Carl Pentney five minutes before the break.

Even in that short spell until the interval, Town created three chances to go ahead as Seddon’s low shot across goal was parried by Pentney before Gregory’s close range shot hit the post.

Then Pearson’s header from a corner was cleared off the line as Bishop’s Stortford desperately held on until half-time.

But they only needed to look at Neil Aspin’s half-0ti me substitution to know they’d be in for a similar second-half as Adriano Moke replaced Matt Pearson at right-back.

Bishop’s Stortford’s defence had long since become a bank of ten as they retreated time and again to the sanctuary of their 18-yard box.

Gregory managed to find half a milimetre of space six yards out to meet Williams’ cross from the right, but his shot went harmlessly over under pressure from assembled mass of the away side.

Seddon’s cross then found Gardner in more space on the left edge of the area, but he delayed his shot, which eventually drifted wide.

Another raft of chances fell to Town mid-way through the second-half as Bishop’s Stortford’s goal continued to lead an extremely charmed life.

Gregory suddenly found room in the box, and after his first shot was brilliantly saved by Pentney, his second strike was deflected onto the bar and over for a corner,

From it, Johnny Herd cleared a goal-bound header off the line with his hand, for which he was sent-off and Town were given a golden opportunity from the spot.

But Gardner’s penalty was saved by Pentney as the visitors survived their latest scare.

The away side’s furthest player forward now rarely ventured out of his own half, never mind within shooting distance of Matt Glennon.

When Ali Abdullah earned Bishop’s Stortford’s first booking for time-wasting, the only surprise was that it came with 12 minutes left as the clock couldn’t tick fast enough for the visitors.

Barely a minute then went by without the away team engaging in some form of time wasting as the finish line crept further into view.

Gardner dragged a left-foot shot wide after the ball had popped free from the mass of bodies in the Bishop’s Stortford box, but Town were feeding on the crumbs spilt by the resolute defence they faced, marshalled superbly by centre-back Sean Francis, as the visitors held on to esnure another frustrating evening at the Shay.

Halifax: Glennon, Pearson (Moke 46) (Toulson 90), McManus, Williams, Knowles, Lowe, Worthington, Needham, Gregory, Gardner, Seddon (Titchiner 64). Subs not used: Senior, Jackson.

Scorers: Needham (40)

Shots on target: 7

Shots off target: 12

Corners: 6

Bishop’s Stortford: Pentney, Sampayo, Herd, Prestedge, Anderson, Francis, Johnson, Abdullah, Woodhall (Elmes 74), Webb Wilson 63), Baker (Cawley 90). Subs not used: Mattock, Dodge.

Scorers: Johnson (32)

Shots on target: 2

Shots off target: 2

Corners: 1

Attendance: 926

Man of the match: Sean Williams