FC Halifax Town: Morecambe striker facing the side where it all began

A-Jay Leitch-Smith shields the ball against Oldham.
A-Jay Leitch-Smith shields the ball against Oldham.

FC Halifax Town was where it all started for Morecambe striker A-Jay Leitch-Smith.

The then 18-year-old was yet to play a game at senior level for parent club Crewe when he joined The Shaymen on loan a decade ago.

Halifax Town v Chorley'Ajay Leitch-Smith

Halifax Town v Chorley'Ajay Leitch-Smith

Leitch-Smith only made four appearances for Town, against Chorley, Harrogate Railway, Wakefield and Radcliffe Borough, but sees it as an important step in his development, after which he went on to play for Yeovil, Port Vale, Shrewsbury and Dundee before joining current club, and Town’s opponents on Saturday, Morecambe.

“I think I was a first-year pro at Crewe,” he recalled. “Jim Vince was the Halifax manager at the time.

“I went on loan to a couple of clubs around that time - Curzon Ashton, Newcastle Town, then to a club in Iceland for six months, which was a bit different.

“So I had my fair share of loans when I was a young lad at Crewe.

“But I remember Halifax being a decent club, they had a good following, especially for the level they were playing at.

“It always seemed like it was a big club for that level.

“I remember making my debut at home. I think I had a chance when I should have scored.

“When you get to be second year scholar or first year pro, you usually get sent out on loan because you’ve got to get used to playing with the big boys.

“It was good experience, getting you used to playing in the men’s game.

“You don’t want to be playing with kids all the time, you need to get used to the rough and tumble.

“I think it was good for me to go on loan, experience that, and I think it helped me in the long run.”

The 28-year-old striker has five goals in 17 appearances this season for Morecambe.

“I think I’ve started alright,” he said. “I’ve scored a few goals, although I probably could have got a few more.

“But you’ve got to start worrying when you’re not getting the chances.”

Leitch-Smith thinks 20th is an unfair reflection of Morecambe’s season so far in League Two.

“I think the performances have been there, but the results we’ve probably deserved haven’t been there,” he said.

“We’ve played well against most of the teams we’ve played, but not come away with the points we’ve deserved.

“A few of the boys that have played against us have said they don’t know how we’re so low in the table.

“But we’ve had a few decent results in the last eight games or so, and hopefully we can push on now and forget about that bad start to the season.

“We know we’ve got quality in the team, and the performances have been there.

“It’s just a matter of grinding out results now.

“We like to get the ball down, try and play.

“I think we’ve got a few different strings to our bow because we can go direct.

“We’ve got some strong lads and players who can play on the deck as well.

“We’re not bad off set-pieces. I think we’re quite a well-rounded team.

“Hopefully we can start picking up results our performances are meriting.”

When asked what he knew of Halifax, Leitch-Smith said: “I’ve seen a few of their results. We’ll do work on them before the game.

“When it comes to cup games, anything can happen. You see that all the time.

“We know it’s going to be a tough game, and we’re going to have to perform to get to the next round.

“These games are always tricky when you’re the team that’s looking like you should be going through.

“When I was at Port Vale a few years ago, we played a team that was three leagues below us, and that was a tough game.”

Leitch-Smith was part of the Yeovil squad that was drawn against Manchester United in the FA Cup in 2015.

“I was on the bench for that Man United game though!

“They brought all their big stars - Di Maria, Rooney, Mata. That was a great experience.”

When asked if he was confident of finding the net on Saturday, Leitch-Smith said: “You’ve got to be confident haven’t you, you’ve got to fancy yourself to score in every game.

“Hopefully I’ll score, but we’ll see.”