FC Halifax Town 2-2 Guiseley

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FC Halifax Town squandered a 2-0 half-time lead as Guiseley fought-back to earn a replay in the fourth qualifying round of the FA Cup.

Town looked to have set off on the long road to Wembley in purposeful stride as they went 2-0 up thanks to first-half goals from Sam Walker and Kingsley James.

But that wait for a clean sheet drags on as Adam Boyes scored twice in five minutes to force a replay on Tuesday night.

Like at Chester, there were encouraging signs from The Shaymen, who deserved their half-time lead, but the Achilles heel of poor defending is still a long way from being remedied, despite a new-look to the defence.

The changing face of the Town squad continued to evolve, with four of Kelly’s signings in from the off, with debuts for Tommy Miller, who took the captain’s armband, and Keil O’Brien, while Sam Walker made only his second start since Kelly took charge.

The drastic nature of Kelly’s overhaul was emphasised by the fact that Miller made his first start since Hartlepool’s 2-1 defeat at Cambridge on October 25 last year, while it was O’Brien’s first appearance since Bury’s 1-0 loss at Luton on December 16 last year.

But the hastily-assembled side made the better start, with Town attacking with purpose and popping the ball around nicely.

The guiding hand of Miller, like Nat Brown at Chester, was immediate from the start as he clapped and cajoled his team-mates from the centre circle and pointed to where passes should be played.

The new Town skipper was also at Walker’s side before he stepped up to curl a delightful free-kick across goal and in off the post from 20 yards for his first Halifax goal.

It was just reward for Town’s start, with Guiseley unable to establish a foothold on the contest.

Brown, along with six foot five inch centre-back partner O’Brien, added aerial prowess and an assuring presence at the back, with those in front of them working hard to support lone striker Jordan Burrow, with James in particular joining up to good effect at times.

There was a more confident feel about The Shaymen, with a triangle of passes near the corner flag after a Guiseley attack had been thwarted drawing a warm round of applause.

The best the visitors had offered by the half-hour mark was a 35 yard shot by ex-Town man Will Hatfield that dipped just too late on its way over.

Hatfield then drilled a shot just wide after a Guiseley corner wasn’t cleared.

Their first effort on target arrived just before the break when a lovely move culminated in Adam Boyes heading straight at Matt Glennon from Nicky Boshell’s curled cross.

Guiseley had gradually found their feet, but proceeded to shot themselves in one of them as a terrible back header by Jake Lawlor let in James, who ran clear before lifting the ball high past Steve Drench for his third goal for the club, all since Kelly’s appointment.

They were only the third and fourth goals Town had scored at home before half-time this season, making it the first time they’d been 2-0 up at half-time against Bristol Rovers at The Shay in March; that was before a second-half comeback too.

Defending like that made it little surprise Guiseley had kept only three clean sheets all season, while their record of the third worst goals tally on the road in the National League meant it looked a long way back for them at the interval.

There was a nastier edge to the game after the restart, as the contest became blighted by niggly fouls and half-hearted flashpoints meaning there was little time elsewhere for either team to create much.

Gone was the fluency to Town’s attacks from the first-half, although Guiseley, barring a decent free-kick at goal from Nicky Boshell, had offered little too, although that 26, soon to be 27, game wait for a clean sheet gave lingering hope to the visitors.

The afternoon continued to frustrate and exasperate ex-Town skipper Mark Bower watching on from the touchline, who was probably as infuriated with the referee’s performance as his own side.

But he’d have been happy to have produced a performance of the ilk of Brown and O’Brien during his playing days, as the two centre-backs repelled any Guiseley crosses with some towering headers.

But a sloppy clearance by O’Brien from another Guiseley cross fell to the nearby Boyes, who curled his shot expertly into the net from just inside the box.

It was now Halifax hitting the self-destruct button as, five minutes later, a long-kick befitting Manuel Neuer from Drench, 30 yards from his own goal, was met by Boyes, who had escaped the attention of a suddenly vulnerable-looking Town defence before lifting the ball over the on-rushing Glennon.

What a difference a half makes as Guiseley now had the momentum, and finished the game with the best chances as Boyes and substitute Tom Craddock both had shots at goal in a nervy climax.

Halifax: Glennon, O’Brien (M Brown 78), N Brown, Bolton, K Roberts, McManus, Wroe, James, Miller, Walker (Tuton 76), Burrow. Subs not used: Porter, Hattersley, Bencherif, Macdonald, Hillhouse

Scorers: Walker (14), James (44)

Shots on target: 6

Shots off target: 5

Corners: 4

Guiseley: Drench, Lawlor, Lockwood, Lowe, R Atkinson, Marsden (Toulson 85), D Boshell (Parker 59), Hatfield, N Boshell (Craddock 72), Boyes, Dickinson. Subs not used: D Atkinson, Morton, Hall, Porritt

Scorer: Boyes (73, 78)

Shots on target: 5

Shots off target: 5

Corners: 2

Attendance: 1,078

Town man of the match: Kingsley James