FC Halifax Town suffered their first defeat of pre-season at the hands of League Two Rochdale at the Shay.
Kevin Holsgrove continued his impressive start to his second spell with Town as he got a goal back after George Donnelly and Andrew Tutte had established a two-goal lead for Dale.
Town can take plenty of encouragement from a battling display against league opposition, but Rochdale did just enough to warrant the win on a bright afternoon in front of more than 1,000 fans at the Shay.
Neil Aspin again shuffled his pre-season pack, with Josh Wilson, Lee Gregory, Simon Ainge, Dan Gardner and Phil Senior the survivors from the starting line-up at Brighouse on Tuesday.
The Town boss said he expected Rochdale to be the fitter side ahead of the game, but it was Town who made the more energetic start as Adam Smith found space on the right within the first minute before crossing for Josh Wilson, who headed over at the far post.
An impressive opening ten minutes should then have been capped with Wilson’s first goal in a Town shirt after Gregory battled manfully to first gain control of Smith’s long ball against a Dale defender and then find Wilson in the box, but the former Guiseley man fired over from inside the box.
There was no mistake from Rochdale’s first chance moments laterthough when Donnelly tapped in after Senior had spilled a free-kick into his path. to give the visitors an undeserved lead.
But that goal heralded a much more composed spell for Keith Hill’s side, who knocked the ball around with the precision expected of a Football League outfit while Town tried to regain their early momentum.
If nothing else, the hosts were being given a much sterner test than their previous two friendlies, and something a lot closer to resembling the kind of opposition they can expect to encounter among the elite of the Conference Premier.
Wilson then had a chance to redeem himself just before the break when Matt Pearson characteristically barged his way on to the ball before playing in the striker to his right, but Wilson’s shot arrowed over the angle of post and bar from just inside the box.
Rochdale then extended their lead with a cleverly constructed second goal as Ian Henderson’s run into the box was well picked out before he laid the ball back to Tutte, who curled the ball beyond Senior into the far corner.
Chances began to dry up as the game wore on, but Holsgrove halved the deficit all by himself as he barged his way into the box from a tight angle and drove the ball high into the net past Rob Thompson.
The introduction of Alex Johnson, and the subsequent number of fouls he forced Rochdale into, added some bite to the second-half as some contentious challenges started creeping into proceedings from the visitors.
Town fought to the finish and made the distinction between league and non-league club almost non-existent as they pressed for an equaliser, with Rochdale being given as much of a workout as Town in the end.
Halifax: Senior, Lowe (St Juste), McManus (Knowles 68), Pearson, Roberts, Ainge (Marshall 46), Smith (Moke 59), Briggs (Williams 46), Wilson (Kerr 85), Gardner (A Johnson 59), Gregory (Holsgrove 46). Subs not used: Thewlis.
Scorers: Holsgrove (72)
Shots on target: 2
Shots off target: 8
Rochdale: Thompson, Rafferty, Maynard, Eastham, Tanser, Grant (Done 71), Lund, Cavanagh, Tutte, Henderson, Donnelly. Subs: Collis, O’Connor, Allan, Logan, Hery, Barry-Murphy, Gray, Viddal.
Scorers: Donnelly (14), Tutte (53)
Shots on target: 2
Shots off target: 2
Man of the match: Matt Pearson