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FC Halifax Town 3-1 Dartford

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FC Halifax Town sealed their place in the quarter-finals of the FA Trophy with a 3-1 win over Dartford at Droylsden’s Butchers Arms ground.

Town’s route to Wembley took an unexpected detour through Greater Manchester but now should be back at the Shay on Tuesday.

Marc Roberts, who Neil Aspin may have expected to have left the club this week, and Scott Boden handed Town a thoroughly deserved 2-0 half-time lead.

History briefly looked to be repeating when Andy Pugh halved Dartford’s deficit, but this time there was no way back for them as Steve Williams restored Town’s two-goal cushion.

If Town escaped the Shay in search of a better pitch, they didn’t really find one at Droylsden, with a particularly muddy patch near the halfway line scarring the bobbly surface.

It begged the question of just how bad the Shay pitch was that this was seen as a preferred alternative.

Neil Aspin admitted the fixture pile-up was reminiscent of Town’s packed end to the 2012-13 season.

The fact that Town were forced to play a home game at Rochdale in that run-in only added to the similarities.

Whether this will be an isolated incident this season remains to be seen.

At least for now, Aspin’s options were limited in team selection, despite the recent spate of new signings, due to the idiosyncratic selection criteria for the FA Trophy, where only players eligible for the first game were available for the second.

That 2-2 draw at Dartford seemed so far away it hardly bore any resemblance to the long, long-awaited replay any more.

But Town started as if they’d been chomping at the bit to get back to action.

Danny Schofield and Matt Pearson fired just wide before Schofield’s free-kick was spilled by Jason Brown, who recovered to save Pearson’s shot on the rebound.

Pearson then played a lovely through ball to Richard Peniket, whose shot was well blocked.

All that in the first seven minutes. Can we play at Droylsden every week?

Barely another six minutes had elapsed before Williams had headed over from a free-kick and Brown had saved another Pearson shot.

In amongst the travelling Town fans at the Butchers Arms, the seemingly lone voice of a passionate Dartford fan in the main stand was increasingly forlorn as his side’s goal started to lead a charmed life.

McManus, with probably the best chance of the lot so far, was next to fire over after being left unmarked at the far post with Dartford besieged by a dominant ‘home’ side.

The constant cries of ‘come on’ from the Dartford fan were tinged with pained realisation that his team were being comprehensively outplayed.

A thumping effort by Schofield would have capped a superb start to the game from the midfielder but for Brown’s tip over the bar.

It had been a question of when rather than if since kick-off, so Roberts’ goal was little surprise, although Dartford hotly disputed whether his header crossed the line.

Unfortunately, the Butchers Arms doesn’t come with video technology so it was up to the officials to decide, with the linesman’s excitable flag-waving signalling his belief it was over the line before the despairing lunge of a Dartford player headed it away.

Still that Dartford fan yelled ‘come on’ despite his side surviving another scare when McManus hit the bar with a thunderous shot after great approach play from Peniket and Boden.

But the sight of Boden running clear of a beleaguered Dartford defence and drilling his shot beyond Brown was enough to send that Dartford supporter off for a consolatory half-time cuppa five minutes early.

Despite a more competitive performance from the away side, as in the first-half, Halifax belied the playing surface to produce some excellent football, with some sharp, incisive passing that left Dartford wearily chasing shadows.

Of course, Town were 2-0 up in the first game and succumbed to a stunning Dartford fight-back.

And substitute Pugh set the wheels in motion for a repeat performance when he slipped the ball under the previously redundant Matt Glennon following a through ball.

That precipitated a much better spell from Dartford, who sprayed the ball around confidently in rejuvenated fashion.

But thoughts of a second comeback were quashed when Williams headed in Schofield’s corner after Brown had turned behind substitute Jamie Jackson’s shot.

Halifax: Glennon, K Roberts, M Roberts, Killock, Williams, McManus, Schofield, Pearson, Hatfield (Hillhouse 80), Boden (Dyer 84), Peniket (Jackson 63). Subs not used: Senior, Marshall.

Scorers: Roberts (31), Boden (40), Williams (73)

Shots on target: 11

Shots off target: 7

Corners: 9

Dartford: Brown, Burns, McAuley, Collier, Driver, Bradbrook, Noble, Hayes, Daley (Cornhill 61), Doidge (Harris 74), Crawford (Pugh 61). Subs not used: Sweeney, Ibrahim.

Scorer: Pugh (65)

Shots on target: 2

Shots off target: 2

Corners: 3

Town man of the match: Danny Schofield

Attendance: 451