FC Halifax Town 1-1 Dartford

Town goal against Dartford.
Town goal against Dartford.
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FC Halifax Town will have to squeeze another game into their fixture list as they drew 1-1 with Dartford in the quarter-finals of the FA Trophy.

With a Wembley final at stake, both sides will be happy if not quite ecstatic at having to go through a replay to decide who faces Grimsby in the last four.

But Town may well reflect they could and perhaps should have sealed their place in the semi-finals first time around as they failed to get the win their committed display deserved.

Gareth Seddon made a welcome return to the starting eleven after suffering a dead leg in the 3-0 win over Chelmsford in the previous round, but the lack of options at Neil Aspin’s disposal was evident with the inclusion of assistant manager Lee Nogan as one of four substitutes.

There have been more fans than players on the pitch over the last couple of weeks, but The Shaymen played as if they’d never been away with an assured performance against their Blue Square Premier opponents.

The fact that Town were chomping at the bit to get back playing was there for all to see as they zipped into tackles with all the energy and frustration of two game-free weeks.

The run of postponements was particularly hard on Dan Gardner, who had only made his return to the side from a serious knee injury shortly before the big freeze.

And it was Gardner who looked sharpest from the off, nearly sliding Seddon through before shooting wide from the edge of the box.

But Chris Worsley then showed a little too much enthusiasm when he slid into a challenge with Mark Arber on the halfway line.

Arber certainly came off worse as Worsley appeared to make contact with his studs and was subsequently sent-off, much to the chagrin of the home supporters.

As Worsley walked down the tunnel shaking his head in disagreement, his team’s task seemed to have got a lot tougher, but a Seddon shot that drifted harmlessly wide moments later was a warning Dartford didn’t heed.

Ten minutes after Worsley saw red, Seddon played in Gregory, who fired low across the ‘keeper from the right of the area to move Town a tiny step closer that big stadium in London with the arch over it.

Dartford nearly equalised immediately from Dominic Green’s cross from the left but Jacob Erskine just failed to connect while unmarked in the middle.

But the Dartford attack looked somewhat toothless in the absence of their top scorer Harry Crawford, who left to join Barnet before the tie was postponed last week.

Gardner and Seddon continued to display some neat touches and help retain possession in the opposition half as the interval approached, with Gardner especially belying the bobbly nature of the pitch with some delightful trickery to evade his marker.

The Shaymen were still largely untroubled for the rest of the first half as they made light work of their numerical disadvantage.

Dartford had also suffered some snow-imposed exile since their last game, and the visitors did little to warrant their higher league status.

Matt Glennon reacted sharply to tip over a cross that deflected off Scott McManus before Dominic Green’s well-struck shot flew narrowly over from the left edge of the box.

But most of Dartford’s crosses failed to find their target as Town defended their lead with resilience.

It was Dartford’s resilience that was tested after the restart though, with Seddon denied a well crafted goal on the counter-attack by a marginal offside flag.

The Gardner’s blistering strike from 30 yards was tipped over by Marcus Bettinelli as The Shaymen offered the greater threat.

But a double substitution from the visitors threatened to rejuvenate their blunted attacking threat as Liam Hogan was forced into a goal-line clearance.

Then one of those substitutes, Danny Harris, was on hand to head in a Ryan Hayes corner from four yards out as all of Town’s hard work was undone.

But Dartford rarely threatened after equalising as a replay gradually loomed larger on the horizon.

Halifax: Glennon, Toulson, McManus, Hogan, Needham, Lowe, Worsley, Marshall, Gardner, Gregory, Seddon (Abadaki 81). Subs not used: Senior, Nogan, Kelly.

Shots on target: 6

Shots off target: 9

Corners: 6

Dartford: Bettinelli, Erskine (Harris 59), Hayes, Wallis (Noble 59), Champion, Green (Rogers 87), Bonner, Rose, Arber, Collier, Burns. Subs not used: Evans, Wells.

Shots on target: 5

Shots off target: 3

Corners: 6

Attendance: 921

Man of the match: Dan Gardner