Goals from Richard Peniket and Lois Maynard sealed a 2-0 win for FC Halifax Town against Kidderminster as they moved back to second in the Conference Premier.
Neil Aspin stressed the importance of clean sheets before the game, and Town recorded their first in four games to put last week’s forgettable trip to Eastleigh behind them.
Defensively it was as different as night and day from a week ago as the Shaymen battled to an impressive win against a Harriers side who should be there or thereabouts come the end of the season.
Town hit two goals in five first-half minutes, with Peniket one of the stand-out performers despite only discovering he was even starting shortly before kick-off.
As it turned out, Eastleigh actually was Danny Hattersley’s last game of his scheduled loan spell as he was taken ill before the game and replaced by Peniket, making his first start for nearly a month.
Halifax started with a 3-5-2 system and featured three changes from last week’s defeat, with Maynard and England C duo Marc Roberts and Matt Pearson all starting.
Pearson certainly showed no effects of a midweek trip to Eastern Europe as he hared about in his usual breathless manner.
Town forced four corners in the first eight minutes without creating a clear early chance, although Roberts found space for a header at the far post.
His namesake Kevin also found plenty of room down the right and could have provided an assist had a couple of his crosses not been over-hit when well-placed.
Kidderminster became the first side to score three against leaders Barnet last week so couldn’t be taken lightly, but were mostly second best against a home defence looking back to something like its watertight best.
Boden looked a threat in his preferred position up top and just seemed to be missing the right service.
Chances were trickling rather than flowing, with Steve Williams prodding wide from Roberts’ long-throw and Peniket heading at Danny Lewis.
Neil Aspin called on the home supporters to encourage his side, and they appeared to be responding with a ripple of applause rather than groans when Maynard misplaced a pass in his own half.
Although the reaction to Pearson’s wasteful high ball was understandable after he’d won the ball back near the halfway line.
Peniket wasn’t getting too much change out of Kidderminster’s bruising centre-backs but he provided a superb assist for Maynard with a lovely flick in-field before the midfielder lashed the ball beyond Danny Lewis for his first goal since the win at Grimsby in April.
Peniket then hit the jackpot when he pounced on Chey Dunkley’s weak back-header before firing low past Lewis, who picked the ball out of his net for the second time in five minutes.
The general consensus was ‘this is more like it’, with Pearson launching himself in-front of Michael Gash’s free-kick and blocking the ball with such a thud it must’ve been heard back in Istabnbul.
That’s the kind of commitment Halifax fans love to see, although Roberts displayed the other side of Town’s game as he controlled a high ball with a magnificently delicate touch belying his role as defensive lynch-pin.
Peniket could have added a third soon after the restart after being played through by Maynard.
His rough and tumble contest with Dunkley and Jamie Grimes continued, although he didn’t get much sympathy from referee Martin Coy despite some crunching challenges.
Kidderminster were now in the ascendancy but their response was nowhere near as emphatic as it had been at Barnet.
Ahmed Obeng fired narrowly over before Marvin Johnson registered their first shot on target with 20 minutes left; a testament to Halifax’s dogged defending as much as the visitors’ lack of incisiveness.
Nathan Blissett then threatened to shoot only for Roberts to produce an outstanding block six yards out.
It’s not often Town are beaten in the corner count at the Shay but from the latest of Kidderminster’s growing number, Dunkley powered a header against the post before Obeng’s goal-bound strike was blocked by Maynard.
A typically-tenacious Pearson led the Town fight as they tried to keep Kidderminster at arms length, charging down and blocking passes forward.
Grimes headed over from close-range but Halifax had survived what the visitors could throw at them.
Halifax: Glennon, K Roberts, M Roberts, Williams, McManus, Pearson, Ainge, Maynard, Marshall (Smith 46), Boden (Jackson 58), Peniket. Subs not used: Senior, Bolton, Schofield.
Scorers: Maynard (36), Peniket (41)
Shots on target: 6
Shots off target: 5
Kidderminster: Lewis, Hodgkiss, Dunkley, Obeng, Nicholson, Grimes, Verma (O’Keefe 66), Gittings (Johnson 52), Byrne, Blissett (Styche 78), Gash. Subs not used: Green, Reid.
Shots on target: 2
Shots off target: 5
Town man of the match: Marc Roberts