FC Halifax Town 1-1 Macclesfield

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FC Halifax Town were relegated from the National League after drawing 1-1 with Macclesfield and Guiseley beat Torquay 4-3.

Town beat Guiseley in the semi-finals of the Conference North play-offs to gain their National League status, but were sent back to that division by The Lions and former Halifax skipper Mark Bower.

Scott McManus scored only his second goal of the campaign and his first in the league since the final day of last season at Woking to trigger unrestrained joy inside The Shay just before half-time.

But that joy was short-lived when Danny Rowe equalised after the interval - a blow from which Town never recovered, despite hitting the post in added time.

Halifax have had their fair share of nerve-shredding moments this season - practically the whole 120 minutes plus in the FA Trophy at Gateshead, the home wins over Altrincham and Boreham Wood - and this was no exception.

Safety looked hopelessly optimistic during the dying days of Darren Kelly’s ill-fated reign, and it proved to be just out of Jim Harvey’s reach despite a gallant effort since taking charge.

Wembley now seems rather inconsequential now.

A mis-kick by Richard Peniket under no pressure handed Macclesfield their second corner inside the opening two minutes, and perhaps hinted at some early nerves, as did Sam Johnson dropping a fairly harmless cross, again under no pressure.

Pressure had been put on Town after just four minutes as Guiseley took the lead against Torquay, news that soon spread around The Shay.

Josh Macdonald got into his stride quickly though, running half the length of the pitch before playing in Shaquille McDonald, whose shot was charged down by Ritchie Branagan.

As if a second goal for Guiseley wasn’t bad enough, Kristian Dennis should have made it worse for Town but skied his shot on the run after a deft through ball by Danny Rowe on the counter-attack.

There was another unforced error when James Bolton slipped trying to reach Scott McManus’ back pass, which mercifully had enough pace to reach Johnson and run away from Dennis nearby.

Town were trying to play the ball out from the back, which was just as well because any lofted passes forward were mopped up by the Macclesfield centre-backs up against the diminutive Shaquille McDonald.

With Guiseley 3-0 up 30 minutes in and Boreham Wood winning at Welling, it was looking like Halifax would be getting no help from elsewhere.

The Town fans could only hear of the Guiseley rout and dream of such a opening half-hour from their team, who had been solid but largely unproductive in comparison.

The Shay collectively held its breath when Peniket’s darting run resulted in a cross to Jordan Burrow, whose shot was blocked before Josh Macdonald volleyed the rebound over.

The Shay then collectively exploded when superb play by Peniket, who had just moved up front in place of the injured Shaquille McDonald, preceded a neat through ball to the onrushing McManus, who drilled a low finish past Branagan from an acute angle.

Cue delirium.

Would Town have scored at that moment without the presence and hold-up ability of Peniket in attack rather than the more on-the-shoulder, over-the-top approach of McDonald? Possibly not.

A nerve-jangling second-half in prospect should have been made much easier to watch with three chances in 10 seconds when Connor Hughes’ shot was saved by Branagan, who also blocked Burrow’s rebound from six yards before Hughes cleared the bar with his second effort.

The ball then fell to Burrow from Nicky Wroe’s free kick, but the striker volleyed wide from six yards out before setting up Josh Macdonald, whose low drive was saved by the suddenly overworked Branagan.

It was almost as if McManus’ goal hadn’t happened and Town were in desperate need of one; if anyone was protecting their goal, it was Macclesfield.

Meanwhile, Torquay had pulled it back to 3-2 as Town’s prospects of staying up suddenly looked as bright as the sun shining on the East Stand.

That was until Rowe’s shot from inside the box was deflected past Johnson after a long punt forward and the carnival atmosphere was punctured like a pin pricks a balloon.

The Town fans were watching with their hands over their eyes now as Macclesfield gained control of the game, with Dennis and Rowe but shooting off target from around 12 yards in quick succession, while the hosts now looked like a boxer reeling from a hefty punch.

Hopes of a Torquay comeback were seemingly extinguished by a fourth Guiseley goal after 70 minutes, with Town needing inspiration closer to home but lacking the pace and incisiveness of McDonald or Macdonald.

Another goal back for Torquay, making it 4-3, offered some hope of redemption, which was more than The Shaymen were doing until a flick header by Kingsley James agonisingly missed the target by inches after beating the stranded Branagan.

McManus drove the ball just over the bar from 25 yards at one end before Danny Whitaker went even closer for Macclesfield at the other as Town’s National League status hung in the balance.

Town couldn’t have come any closer as Burrow hit the post with a header in added time before substitute Danny Hattersley prodded the ball over seconds later.

Halifax: Johnson, Hibbs, Bolton, Roberts, McManus, Wroe, James, J Macdonald (Fairhurst 65), Peniket (Hattersley 83), Burrow, S McDonald (Hughes 45). Subs not used: Porter, Walker.

Scorer: McManus (45)

Shots on target: 6

Shots off target: 8

Corners: 2

Macclesfield: Branagan, Halls, Byrne, McCombe, Fitzpatrick, Turnbull (Cowan 55), Whitaker, Rowe, Sampson, Holroyd (Sutherland 59), Dennis (Diagne 88). Subs not used: Jalal, Styche.

Scorer: Rowe (60)

Shots on target: 2

Shots off target: 8

Corners: 5

Attendance: 2,943

Town man of the match: Scott McManus