FC Halifax Town 1-3 Tranmere Rovers

editorial image

FC Halifax Town were knocked out of the FA Cup at the first hurdle after a 3-1 defeat by Tranmere at The Shay.

Goals from Connor Jennings, James Norwood and Liam Ridehalgh eased Tranmere through, with Town briefly enjoying parity after an own goal by Steve McNulty.

There wasn’t quite a chasm between the teams, at least on the scoresheet, but there could have been had Rovers taken their chances.

Despite being 15th in the league and only scoring three times in their last six games, Rovers looked a class above The Shaymen, who went out of the cup with a whimper.

As a measure how much importance Billy Heath was placing on the competition, the Town boss selected his strongest available side, but at times they struggled to contain a talented Tranmere team.

As if Town’s task wasn’t hard enough without influential duo Matty Kosylo and Tom Denton, it was made a lot harder still when Jennings finished calmly eight yards out after being played through by Ollie Norburn’s incisive pass after just five minutes.

Adam Morgan cleverly drew a foul by keeper Scott Davies to earn Town a penalty, but his spot-kick was saved.

But Town equalised in comic circumstances when former Tranmere forward Ben Tomlinson latched onto a loose ball and sprinted round Davies, just managing to produce a cross before the ball rolled behind, which was then inexplicably booted into his own net by McNulty.

That was as bad as it got for he and central defensive partner Ritchie Sutton though, who were rarely troubled after that.

It was mostly Tranmere for the rest of the half, with Norwood twice going close to restoring their lead with a chipped effort from a tight angle that went across goal before Connor Oliver cleared his header off the line.

Morgan had seen a flick header flash wide from Josh Macdonald’s cross in what was a very watchable contest.

Understandably there were far fewer lofted balls forward from Halifax, who produced some decent football at times, with Tomlinson and Morgan linking-up well and both looking dangerous at times, although that faded alarmingly as the game went on.

Too many unforced errors peppered the hosts’ play throughout and their defence looked uncharacteristically frail.

Andy Cook and Norwood both went close for Tranmere towards half-time before Jennings squandered a great chance to score by skewing his shot wide after Town were sliced wide open at the back.

Norwood then again went close as the chances, and the misses, started to mount up for Rovers.

The former Forest Green forward then finally found the net in a manner which left you wondering what had taken him so long with a left-foot rocket that flew past Sam Johnson.

It was at 2-1 down after the interval where Kosylo and Denton’s absence was perhaps keenest felt, with the likes of Macdonald and Dion Charles, a shadow of the player he was on loan last season, unable to conjure up the required inspiration.

But even with those two on the pitch, the game would probably have been beyond reach for Town after Ridehalgh curled in an exquisite free-kick from the edge of the box after a silly foul by Charles, who was then taken off having come on earlier for Scott McManus.

Norwood should have scored again after being put clean through, but Tranmere were in the hat for round one long before full-time.

Halifax: Johnson, Moyo, Wilde, Brown, Garner, McManus (Charles 30, King 64), Macdonald (Lynch 64), Oliver, Hotte, Morgan, Tomlinson. Subs not used: Nicholson, King, Hibbs.

Scorer: McNulty (og 20)

Shots on target: 4

Shots off target: 3

Corners: 2

Tranmere: Davies, Buxton, McNulty, Sutton, Ridehalgh, Norburn, Mottley-Henry (Duggan 68), Hughes, Norwood (Mangan 90), Jennings, Cook (McDonagh 67). Subs not used: Pilling, Harris, McEveley, Waring.

Scorers: Jennings (5), Norwood (45), Ridehalgh (57)

Shots on target: 6

Shots off target: 6

Corners: 4

Attendance: 1,630

Referee: Matthew Donohue

Town man of the match: Ben Tomlinson