FC Halifax Town maintained their perfect home start to the season with a 2-1 win over Barnet at the Shay.
Town raced into a two-goal lead through Scott McManus and Lois Maynard but Curtis Weston’s goal heralded a pulsating climax to the game as the Shaymen repelled the previously unbeaten Bees to record their fourth consecutive home win.
Ryan Toulson and Lois Maynard both shook off knocks to play, while Marcus Carver was given the nod to make his debut ahead of Alex Johnson in attack.
Perhaps the biggest absentee of all was Barnet boss Edgar Davids, who apparently doesn’t do away games
The Bees’ assistant manager Ulrich Landvreugd, who had a fairly dodgy barnet of his own, did his best to make up for the absence of Davids with some ‘expressive’ moments on the touchline, usually accompanied by turning away in frustration after a stray pass by one of his players.
Barnet did their best to stake their claim as the Arsenal of the Conference Premier as former Gunners keeper Graham Stack began almost every Barnet move from the back with a short pass forward.
Their football was easy on the eye, and it wasn’t difficult to see the influence of Davids as the team in orange flatly refused to hit anything close to resembling a long ball.
But Town worked their socks off from the off to stop the Bees playing out from the back, with Matt Pearson and Maynard typically making their presence felt with bustling performances in central midfield.
England C striker Jake Hyde, who had five goals to his name before today, got two sights of goal early on but fired over from both occasions inside the box.
Town were by no means outplayed by the joint-leaders though, and took the lead after a strong spell of pressure that called on the visiting defenders to block three goal-bound shots.
But even Stack could get nowhere near McManus’ low drive from 25 yards out as it curled tantalisingly out of his reach.
Barnet struggled to carve out too many chances but when they did, they were well-crafted, as evidenced by Keanu Marsh-Brown’s exquisite low cross that just evaded Luke Gambin at the far post after some lovely interplay with Curtis Weston.
Town produced some eye-catching stuff of their own though as the continually-impressive Maynard’s thunderous shot from 30 yards rattled the bar and left it rattling shortly before the interval.
But there was still time for Barnet to do the same before the break as centre-back David Stephens ventured forward to unleash a similarly powerful piledriver that struck the underside of the bar.
Barnet’s unbeaten start to the season then looked in serious danger as Maynard doubled Town’s lead when he smashed the ball home following Marc Roberts’ nod down from McManus’ free kick.
Barnet could probably have done with an inspirational word or two from their manager on the touchline at this point, but hauled themselves back into the game regardless with a stunning 30-yard effort by Weston, a former FA Cup finalist with Millwall, that flew past the outstretched reach of Matt Glennon.
The impressive Marsh-Brown, who was linked with a move to Ipswich on transfer deadline day, lead the charge from the visitors as he pepppered Glennon’s goal with shots, with Barnet looking rejuvinated since Weston’s goal.
It seemed to have the opposite effect on Town though, who were forced back by waves of Barnet attacks that threatened to weave their way through the resilient home defence.
A rare Town corner gave their defence a chance to catch their breath, but Marc Roberts’ header nearly finished the contest as Stack fumbled the ball onto the bar.
It was only a temporary rest though as Marsh-Brown’s cross then inadvertantly drifted onto the far post and somehow evaded two Barnet attackers lingering in front of goal waiting for the rebound.
Barnet threw everything at Town late on, including Stack, who came up for two late corners, both of which were met by Roberts, who typified Town’s battling spirit as he headed away whatever the visitors kicked in his direction and preserved a hard-fought three points.
Halifax: Glennon, Toulson, Roberts, Ainge, Lowe, Smith (McReady 78), Pearson, Maynard, McManus, Gardner (Marshall 66), Carver (Johnson 60). Subs not used: Senior, Williams.
Scorers: McManus (22), Maynard (51)
Shots on target: 3
Shots off target: 5
Barnet: Stack, Yiadom, Johnson, Weston, Acheampong (Crawford 57), Marsh-Brown, Byrne, Hyde, Gambin (Vilhete 79), Casabella (Villa 57), Stephens. Subs not used: Jupp, Brown.
Scorers: Weston (65)
Shots on target: 8
Shots off target: 6
Man of the match: Marc Roberts