James Bolton marked his first Town start for more than two months with a goal as FC Halifax Town beat Nuneaton 2-0 at the Shay.
Lois Maynard sealed the win late on with his sixth of the season as Halifax recorded their third win in four games to begin their hectic festive schedule.
The statistics made for grim reading for Nuneaton before kick-off, with QPR and Blackpool the only other teams in the top-five divisions yet to win away from home.
But they provided sterner opposition than most Town fans may have anticipated, keeping the hosts at bay for 74 minutes.
By then though, it looked fairly inevitable after James Armson has been dismissed and Nuneaton started to tire after a spirited display.
A lot has happened at the Shay since the final whistle of their last home outing against Forest Green; and not just the mass brawl seconds after full-time.
Town have suffered more games being called-off than a rainy day at Wimbledon and been charged by the FA for their alleged part in the Forest Green melee.
So it was probably a relief all round to get back to the football after an-11 day break since the loss at Torquay.
The game suffered a stodgy start, with Nuneaton forcing a couple of early corners and looking nothing like a team with just one win in their last 13 games.
The conditions were dreary enough to remove any festive cheer among the home supporters, while the pitch was as bobbly as last year’s Christmas jumper.
It had been a bit of a false start by the Shaymen, although Adam Smith’s jinking run and shot was a more promising sign after 15 minutes.
Despite not training all week after a neck injury at Torquay, Smith was as lively as anyone in blue and saw a vicious left-footed strike flash wide soon afterwards.
Town tried to play on the deck as much as the surface would allow, but the visitors’ work ethic belied their unenviable records of scoring the fewest and conceding the most away from home in the whole division.
Halifax know a thing or two about unwanted away records after last season, but Nuneaton can only have been encouraged as the clock crept towards the 30-minute mark with the game still goalless.
Town’s corner count was steadily rising by now though, while Lois Maynard nearly added to his recent spate of goals by heading just wide from the impressive Smith’s cross.
The pitch continued to cut-up as the first-half wore on, with Town seeing more of the ball but struggling to penetrate Nuneaton’s two banks of four.
Halifax couldn’t have come much closer to scoring 10 minutes before the break when Richard Peniket’s header was brilliantly saved by Christian Dibble before Scott Boden and Will Hatfield both had shots cleared off the line, first by Theo Streete then Ben Starosta.
If Nuneaton were to keep only their second clean sheet in 21 games, they’d look back on that as a key moment.
Matt Glennon nearly turned provider with a superb kick up-field from a Nuneaton corner, but Smith blazed wide after charging into the, for once, un-crowded away penalty area.
A flowing move almost ended with Kevin Roberts’ first Town goal just after the interval, but the full-back drove across goal after charging into the box.
Boden then produced his best moment of the match so far with a flick header that required a fingertip save by Dibble.
Smith again looked dangerous, firing just wide after a strong run in-field, but chances still had to be earned against a surprisingly resolute Nuneaton.
Then Town hoped to be the beneficiaries of an early Christmas card when James Armson was sent-off for what looked like an elbow on Scott McManus just after the hour mark.
Ross Dyer’s GP probably wouldn’t have recommended playing football in the freezing cold when suffering with flu, but needs must for Town, and he was brought on as the hosts tried to press home their man advantage.
And it didn’t take long wither as Bolton deftly nodded in Jamie Jackson’s dinked cross following a Town corner.
Jackson was as lively as usual after coming on, bringing another good save from Dibble and cutting in from the left flank with menace.
Adam Dawson’s run and shot was a reminder that Town couldn’t relax just yet, although they might have done had Dyer fired either side of Dibble after great approach play by Boden.
After an impressive afternoon’s work, Dibble then made himself look something of a Christmas turkey after awfully mishandling Maynard’s header from another Town corner.
Halifax: Glennon, K Roberts, M Roberts, Bolton, McManus, Smith (Pearson 83), Maynard, Hatfield, Peniket (Jackson 61), Schofield (Dyer 69), Boden. Subs not used: Senior, Williams.
Scorer: Bolton (74), Maynard (90)
Shots on target: 11
Shots off target: 10
Nuneaton: Dibble, Starosta (Smith 84), Walker, Cowan, Franklin, Armson, Dawson, Sodje (Barrington 71), Streete, Gash (Stankevicius 75), Brown. Subs not used: Quinn, Richards.
Shots on target: 1
Shots off target: 6
Town man of the match: Adam Smith