FC Halifax Town are still looking for their first points of the new season after they were beaten 3-2 by Torquay United at The Shay.
Town’s new-look squad is still a work in progress, particularly at the back, where some sloppy defending proved costly.
Torquay led 2-1 at half-time through Angus MacDonald and James Hurst, both of whom took advantage of some slack defending to score from set-pieces either side of Jordan Burrow’s equaliser.
Burrow scored again at the start of the second-half to level, but Torquay took advantage of a vulnerable-looking defence to regain the lead through Alex Fisher.
The last time Town started a league campaign with three straight defeats was in 1984, a year which lived up to its dystopian connotation by ending with the club having to apply for re-election to the Football League after finishing in the relegation zone.
With Tranmere away up next, Town will need to tighten up at the back if they’re to get off the mark this campaign.
Town may have made just one change from Tuesday, with Andy Bishop replacing Elliott Whitehouse, but the bigger alteration came in a change of shape to a 4-4-2.
The Town dugout, occupying the opposite bench to their normal place, put their heads in their hands when Jake Hibbs almost capped a superb move that saw the marauding Scott McManus feed Bishop, who fed Hibbs, who fired just wide.
Minutes later, Torquay made the breakthrough with their first effort at goal as towering centre-half Exodus Geohaghon’s long-throw was flicked on at the near post by his defensive partner Angus MacDonald, whose unopposed header looped over Matt Glennon.
Given how much Neil Aspin had stressed the importance of the first goal, it was disappointing to see the opposition score it for the third consecutive game, but even more so from a set-piece.
Town’s reaction was almost instantaneous though as Burrow was well-placed to prod in from close range following Josh Macdonald’s flighted free-kick from the right flank.
But if Town’s defending for Torquay’s first was poor, it was far too easy for the visitors to regain the lead when Dan Butler’s free-kick was allowed to travel four yards from the goal without a touch before James Hurst turned it in.
There was a touch of after you Claude about it as neither the Town defence or Glennon made a decisive interception, causing Halifax to fall behind for the fifth time this season.
Halifax came close to a second eqiualiser, again in quick succession, but Sean Tuton’s shot inside the area was blocked in the midst of a frantic goal-mouth scramble before Hibbs fired over.
At the other end, Town continued to look vulnerable from set-pieces as Louis Briscoe found space to shoot from another long-throw.
Toruqay had obviously been studying Marc Roberts’ technique very closely from last season.
The visitors, and Hurst, were only prevented from again scoring from a set-piece by the offside flag just before the interval.
It was all looking a far cry from the start of last season, when Town conceded just one in their opening four matches.
Like with his new-look squad, Aspin is preaching patience with winger Connor Hughes, but his introduction at half-time in place of Josh Macdonald sparked Halifax into life.
The former Hyde wide-man displayed some fine close control and a good turn of pace, both of which combined to set-up Burrow for a tap-in from his low cross.
McManus then drilled a shot just wide from 20 yards after galloping forward; this was more like it, and the Town fans began to find their voice in response.
Halifax had certainly upped the the tempo since the interval, with Hughes’s low drive across goal kept out by the fingertips of Fabian Spiess at full-stretch.
Hughes had added a whole new dimension to the Town attack, and was only prevented from another shot at goal by a last-ditch tackle after flick-ons by Bishop and Burrow.
But Town’s defensive frailties remained, with James Bolton inadvertently heading a long-throw backwards, mercifully into the hands of Matt Glennon.
From their next long-throw, Torquay hit the bar through MacDonald before Geohaghon then fired across goal and wide.
It was a temporary reprieve though as Fisher was left unmarked to side-foot the ball past Glennon after a cut-back from the right.
It hardly seemed fair given Town’s improved start to the second-half, but the Shaymen were just being too generous at the back; a poor clearance from Bolton a case in point, although Bayan Fenwick’s shot at goal was blocked by Graham Hutchison to prevent the error from being compounded.
The momentum that Hughes’ impact had initiated seemed to have ebbed away as the clock ticked down, with Torquay taking the sting out of the contest and slowing the tempo.
Hughes looked the obvious outlet, and produced a chance by himself with a neat turn and dart into the box, but dragged his shot wide of the near post.
Hibbs also went close in the 90th minute with a free-kick which shaved the post before Fenwick was sent-off for a second-booking in stoppage time for kicking the ball away.
Halifax: Glennon, Bolton, Hutchison, Bencherif, McManus, Macdonald (Hughes 46), James, Hibbs, Tuton, Burrow, Bishop (Hattersley 62). Subs not used: Porter, Whitehouse, Roberts.
Scorers: Burrow (24, 48)
Shots on target: 6
Shots off target: 7
Torquay: Spiess, Hurst (Fenwick 55), MacDonald, Geohaghon, Butler, Briscoe (Fairhurst 59), Carmichael, Richards, Fisher, Smith, Quigley (Lavelle-Moore 77). Subs not used: Marsh, Murombedzi.
Scorers: MacDonald (20), Hurst (31)
Shots on target: 6
Shots off target: 4
Town man of the match: Jordan Burrow