Jordan Sinnott came off the bench to score a superb equaliser against his old club as FC Halifax Town drew 2-2 with Altrincham at The Shay.
James Lawrie’s opener was quickly cancelled out by Tom Denton for his fourth goal in two games.
Provide the service he will score had been Billy Heath’s message after Saturday; two games in and there’s no arguing with that.
Altrincham were denied an opening day win thanks to a 95th minute equaliser by Darlington on Saturday which cancelled out a Jake Moult penalty.
Town faced the same scenario when Altrincham regained the lead shortly after the restart and took most of the second-half to equalise for the second time, through substitute and ex-Altrincham midfielder Sinnott.
The visitors’ pre-match team-talk will probably have focused on the subject of stopping Denton after his hat-trick at Nuneaton.
Stopping Josh Macdonald was probably discussed too, and left-wing back and former Town loanee Sam Patterson had a nice, quiet opening 10 minutes before Macdonald’s first run down the right flank; although it only led to a corner that was cleared, it was the only time the home crowd had reason to inch towards the edge of their seats in a drab opening 20 minutes.
It didn’t get much better any time soon, with Town’s distribution from the back poor and Altrincham working hard to deny the hosts time and space on the ball.
Altrincham’s back-five was perhaps deployed with Macdonald in mind, as on the odd occasions he escaped Patterson’s clutches, one of the three centre-backs would fill the gap.
A tightly-packed defence might be something Halifax have to get used to facing this season, as they did when they were climbing the non-league ladder under Neil Aspin; although they had Jamie Vardy and Lee Gregory in their attacking armoury back then.
Denton showed on Saturday how effective he can be, but he was being starved of service.
If Halifax had created few chances, Altrincham had carved out even fewer but they took the lead with the game’s first effort on target 28 minutes in through a superb low drive by Lawrie from 25 yards after excellent persistence by Patterson had kept the move alive on the edge of the box.
But Denton was soon causing havoc when his nod down from the first decent Town cross in his direction of the night caused panic in the Altrincham penalty area.
After that the ball was never properly cleared, and when keeper Andrew Dawber unconvincingly parried Cliff Moyo’s cross, the striker was left with a simple header from two yards out.
Surely that team-talk had mentioned not giving Denton free headers from two yards out?
Two outstanding bits of last-ditch defending by Altrincham captain Alan Goodall kept Town at bay as half-time approached, with crosses by Macdonald and the marauding Moyo both intercepted in the nick of time.
Town had ended the first-half strongly, but started it falling behind again when Danny Hone brought down substitute Sean Miller in the box, with Moult smashing home from the spot.
In response, Heath, who had begun the match with the same side that started on Saturday, switched to three at the back, but it made no difference in Town’s fruitless search for a second equaliser.
A prolonged spell without a chance ended when Moyo blasted a shot just over from 30 yards after substitute Jake Hibbs’ cross had been half-cleared.
Another half-clearance from Kevin Roberts’ free-kick fell to debutant Matty Kosylo, but he dragged his shot wide of the near post.
It was nearly but not quite for The Shaymen as Richard Peniket then took a touch when he should have shot inside the box before Josh Wilde was inches from converting his cross minutes later.
Sinnott, with his first touches since coming on, then cut inside from the left and curled the ball delightfully above and beyond Dawber into the top corner.
He only scored three times last season; he’ll get more this campaign with shots like that.
That heralded a frantic end to the game, with the contest ramped up to 100mph speed and a melee featuring most of the players that had both benches on their feet and a booking for Altrincham’s Craig Hobson.
Altrincham had been clinging on to three points, but ended up desperately protecting one.
Halifax: Drench, Moyo, Wilde, Hone, Garner, Macdonald (Kosylo 66), Hotte (Sinnott 80), Roberts, Peniket, Burrow (Hibbs 57), Denton. Subs not used: Nicholson, Hughes.
Scorers: Denton (32), Sinnott (83)
Shots on target: 4
Shots off target: 7
Altrincham: Dawber, Patterson, Lynch, Cyrus, Hannigan (Miller 45 (Garner 89)), Goodall, Lawrie, Moult, Hobson, Metz (Reeves 73), Richman. Subs not used: Menagh, Preston.
Scorers: Lawrie (28), Moult (51)
Shots on target: 3
Shots off target: 1
Town man of the match: Josh Macdonald
Referee: Paul Marsden (Lancashire)