Lee Gregory made it 22 goals for the season as FC Halifax Town secured their first win of 2014 with a 5-1 victory over Salisbury.
Town fans may not have witnessed the sight of Gregory bulging the net at the Shay again had things worked out differently on deadline day, but the Shaymen’s top-scorer also became the division highest scorer as he netted his 20th league goal of the campaign, and made it nine in his last eight matches to boot.
Lois Maynard also bagged a rare goal and Josh Wilson rounded off the night late on as Town moved back above Salisbury in the table and stretched their unbeaten home run to five games while taking their home total to a whopping 46 goals from 17 games.
Paul Marshall and Josh Wilson replaced Craig Clay and the suspended Matt Pearson in Town’s two changes from Saturday’s 3-1 loss at Lincoln.
If Gregory was a peripheral figure at Sincil Bank, then he came back with a bang here, netting for the eighth consecutive time at the Shay when Scott McManus’ low cross left him with a tap-in at the far post.
It was the highlight of a blistering start by the Shaymen, the polar opposite of their opening 10 minutes at the weekend, something which no doubt was at the forefront of the players’ minds ever sinceleaving Lincolnshire.
This time it was Town giving the opposition a mountain to climb, although Maynard’s fourth of the season was more of a self-inflicted wound by the visitors as Salisbury keeper Will Puddy made a hash of punching a corner clear, leaving the Town midfielder with a tap-in.
Home debutant Ryan Crowther also went close with a long-range effort, but it wasn’t quite one-way traffic as the odd slip in the hosts’ defence caused Neil Aspin to prowl nervously in his technical area.
First Jon Challinor’s error let in Jamie White, who produced a poor finish, before Simon Ainge twice failed to clear a through ball and was only let off the hook a second time thanks to a fine save by Matt Glennon, again from White.
It was only the kind of poor finishing that had seen Salisbury fail to score in three of their last four away games that preserved Town’s clean sheet, with each wayward shot prompting gleeful chants of ‘You’re not Lee Gregory’ from the South Stand.
But the hosts offered much more of a threat than they had at Lincoln, with Crowther offering the same sort of direct, incisive running on the left that Adam Smith does on the right in a well-balanced system.
Salisbury did their best to emulate Town’s superb start in the first-half as they came mightily close to halving the deficit immediately after the restart when Dan Fitchett’s shot hit one post before rolling across the line and behind for a goal kick.
Town replied with a sweeping move which culminated in McManus firing just over after Crowther’s lay-off before Puddy almost spilled Gregory’s shot into Smith’s path but for a last-ditch tackle.
But where Fitchett’s shot had stayed out at one end, Crowther’s low drive fell perfectly for Gregory to bundle home after Puddy could only help it onto the post.
Crowther was proving a menace down the left flank as a lung-busting run and cross was almost turned in by a Salisbury defender as Gregory lurked close-by.
Glennon then made another good save to tip Fitchett’s shot over the bar as Salisbury refused throw the towel in.
But there was none of the hesitant defending that offered them encouragement before the break as Ainge in particular looked a far more assured presence.
Substitute Marlon Jackson made a fine impression from the bench and nearly scored what would have been one of the goals of the season with a jinking run past three challenges before he fired over.
Salisbury continued to be their own worst enemy as Puddy allowed Crowther’s shotto wriggle under his body before the attempted clearance hit the prone keeper.
Seconds later, Town were awarded a penalty when Gregory was fouled in the box before the Town skipper’s spot-kick looped in off Puddy, bobbling almost apologetically over the line.
With that in mind, it was hard not to begrudge Salisbury getting one back as White smashed home a loose ball after Town had failed to clear a corner.
The impressive Crowther then eventually proved too just hot to handle as Theo Lewis was sent-off for a cynical tug on the winger as he threatened to run clear on goal.
Wilson then added the coup de grace in stoppage time with an assured finish after Gregory’s through ball for his sixth of the campaign.
Halifax: Glennon, Challinor (Bolton 66), Ainge, Roberts, McManus, Smith (Jackson 56), Maynard (Clay 74), Marshall, Crowther, Wilson, Gregory. Subs not used: Senior, Gray.
Scorers: Gregory (3, 53, 74), Maynard (16), Wilson (90)
Shots on target: 7
Shots off target: 9
Salisbury: Puddy, Ryan, Clarke (Dutton 60), Wilson, McDonald, McPhee (Wellard 46), Kamdjo (Sinclair 46), Frear, Lewis, White, Fitchett. Subs not used: Feeney, Bittner.
Scorer: White (78)
Shots on target: 5
Shots off target: 5
Town man of the match: Lee Gregory