Goals in each half from Matty Kosylo and Richard Peniket sealed FC Halifax Town’s first win in 10 games as they beat high-flying Chorley 2-1 at The Shay.
Kosylo’s penalty and Peniket’s bullet header put Town in control of the contest before Chorley skipper Dale Whitham halved the deficit.
In what could be interpreted as a deliberate public display of unity, the Town players went into a huddle just before kick-off, and went on to produce a disciplined, hard-working performance that boasted moments of quality when it mattered; mainly from Kosylo.
This was arguably Town’s most complete performance since beating Dagenham in mid-November, with plenty of effort and commitment to the cause, married with a potent attacking threat; again, mainly from the outstanding Kosylo.
If Town have needed a Plan B in recent weeks, that became a requirement for a new Plan A as Tom Denton was dropped to the bench after an awful run of form, with Scott Garner returning from suspension as part of a back three.
It was certainly a bold move by Billy Heath as he went back to the drawing board in search of a winning formula.
But credit to the Town boss, who got the tactical switch spot on, and got a much-needed win as a result.
If Saturday was the low point of the season, maybe Town have taken their first step on the road to recovery.
If Stalybridge were one of the sides Billy Heath would have handpicked to play on Saturday, Chorley were one of the last teams he’d have wanted to play next.
And the visitors played with the confidence of a side third in the table who had already won at Fylde, with Josh O’Keefe and former Town loanee Marcus Carver getting early sights of goal.
But from Town’s first big chance of the night, and for the second game running, Adam Morgan won a penalty when he was tripped by keeper Ritchie Branagan, who mysteriously went unpunished.
Unlike on Saturday, Kosylo did assume the responsibility from 12 yards and sent Branagan the wrong way; three days too late for Stalybridge, but better late than never.
Town’s change in system seemed to be working well, with safety in numbers at the back, and Morgan and Peniket offering pace and mobility up front.
The goal certainly did more for The Shaymen than it did for Chorley, who struggled to create anything afterwards, partly due to Halifax getting enough men behind the ball and in the right areas to stop them.
There was more of the pressing game Heath has eulogised about at the start of the season, with Town seemingly relishing the rare position of having a lead to protect.
O’Keefe was denied a headed equaliser by a fine reaction save by Tom Nicholson, but from the resulting corner, the Town keeper arguably had a bit of luck on his side to be given a free-kick for an aerial challenge by Carver as O’Keefe headed the ball in.
Peniket had a glorious chance to double Town’s lead just after the restart when he latched onto a sloppy back-header, but took too long to shoot, allowing Branagan to race off his line and block his shot.
Kosylo and Morgan produced a delightful one-two as the former charged into the box, but his low shot from a tight angle was kept out by Branagan.
Chorley didn’t heed the warnings though, and from a swirling Kosylo free-kick, Peniket doubled Halifax’s lead with a bullet header at the back post.
Kosylo was relishing his number 10 role now, marauding forward from inside his own half before playing in Morgan to his right, but his low shot was sent wide of the near post.
But none of Town’s three centre-backs were anywhere near Chorley skipper Whitham as he was left inexplicably unmarked to head in a left-wing cross.
The undertones of discontent briefly reared their head when the magnificent Kosylo was replaced by Liam King, which provoked a murmur of boos before the midfielder was applauded off.
King could have put the result beyond doubt with a low shot that rolled just wide, but Town hung on fairly comfortably.
Halifax: Nicholson, Roberts, Hone, Garner, Wilde, Kosylo (King 84), Hotte, Lynch, Clarke, Peniket (Denton 79), Morgan. Subs not used: Simmons, Moyo, Macdonald.
Scorers: Kosylo (16), Peniket (59)
Shots on target: 4
Shots off target: 6
Chorley: Branagan, Challoner, Charnock, Leather (Teague 82), Jordan, Roscoe (Beesley 63), Whitham, Blakeman, O’Keefe (Azam 75), Cottrell, Carver. Subs not used: Sheron, Jarvis.
Scorer: Whitham (68)
Shots on target: 6
Shots off target: 5
Town man of the match: Matty Kosylo
Referee: Garreth Rhodes