FC Halifax Town suffered a surprise 2-1 defeat at home to Boston United in their final game of pre-season.
A win with a confident display would have been just the ticket for Town on the eve of the big kick-off, but instead, it was a patchy performance from The Shaymen, who conceded two first-half goals to the National League North side through Adam Marriott and Ryan Qualter.
Dayle Southwell got one back for Town during their best spell of pressure in the match.
Pre-season games are notoriously unreliable as a guide for the actual campaign itself - Sheffield United lost 2-0 at Halifax two summers ago but went on to win League One - but on this evidence at least, there’s work to be done before Braintree in a week’s time; they can play better than this, and must do when it starts for real.
Sanmi Odelusi didn’t pass his pre-match fitness test, so Mekhi McLeod started in his place.
Matty Brown made a welcome return from injury for his first appearance since the opening friendly of pre-season against Stockport, but there was still no starting place for Matty Kosylo.
Should all the trialists sign permanently, Town’s squad should, perhaps barring one or two final additions, be pretty much there.
After Jonathan Wafula’s charge down the right, Marriott nodded in his cross at the far post.
And the Town defence were caught napping again minutes later as Ashley Jackson charged forward and forced Sam Johnson into a save, with Marriott hitting the side-netting from the goal-line on the rebound.
Town should have been ahead before that though when Jordan Preston found Southwell on the overlap, but Ben Tomlinson’s effort from inside the six yard box went just wide of the near post.
The torrential rain mercifully died down by the midway point of what was a scrappy first-half from The Shaymen, with possession lost too regularly.
Boston looked tidy on the ball, and worked hard off it, nullifying the hosts effectively.
Jamie Fullarton won’t have liked the defending for Boston’s first, nor for their second, which came from a corner unnecessarily conceded when a Town defender headed behind under no pressure, and from which Qualter nodded in at the near post.
A stray pass then handed possession to Marriott, but the striker sent a low shot just wide from the edge of the box.
Half-time couldn’t really come quickly enough for a subdued-looking Halifax.
Substitute Ryan Sellers’ crashed a low shot just wide from 20 yards moments after the restart, but that didn’t really herald much change in the pattern of the contest.
Johnson reacted well to tip a header behind from a Boston free-kick after an hour, with Town yet to register an effort on target.
That changed though when a header was cleared off the line from a corner before Southwell’s shot was blocked.
But from the next corner, after Brown’s shot was saved, Southwell nodded in from a dinked cross from the right.
Town were getting better as the game went on, and at least showing some fighting spirit, with Southwell testing substitute keeper Dylan Parkin from a free-kick.
Town’s trialist striker then cut in from the right and fired a thumping shot at goal that was beaten away.
Halifax: Johnson, Trialist, Trialist, Trialist (Sellers 46), Brown, Maher, Staunton (King 46), Tomlinson, Preston (Trialist 65), McLeod (Kosylo 65), Southwell. Subs not used: Rowley, Trialist, Trialist.
Scorer: Southwell (72)
Shots on target: 6
Shots off target: 6
Boston: WIllis, MIddleton, Jackson, Thanoj, Trialist, Qualter, Arnold, Abbott, Margetts, Marriott, Wafula. Subs: Roberts, Harris, Parking, Johnson, Walker, Topliss, Trialist, Gough, Trialist.
Scorer: Marriott (15), Qualter (31)
Shots on target: 8
Shots off target: 6
Referee: Sam Barrott
Town man of the match: Dayle Southwell