FC Halifax Town: Review of the Year 2018

Matty Brown, pictured celebrating his goal in the 2-0 home win over Barrow in August, has probably been Town's most consistent performer during 2018.
Matty Brown, pictured celebrating his goal in the 2-0 home win over Barrow in August, has probably been Town's most consistent performer during 2018.

FC Halifax Town end 2018 a very different club to the one that started it.

Their league position is similar - 14th in the National League on January 1, and 16th before their trip to Harrogate Town on Boxing Day - but that is where the similarities end; different manager, different squad, different training base, different training model.

Billy Heath talks to his players during Town's 4-1 home defeat to Maidenhead in the FA Trophy. He would be sacked two games later.

Billy Heath talks to his players during Town's 4-1 home defeat to Maidenhead in the FA Trophy. He would be sacked two games later.

Billy Heath appeared to be in a reasonably safe position as Town boss at the turn of the New Year.

But other than a 1-0 win over Macclesfield in the FA Trophy and a goalless draw at Maidenhead, Town leaked goals in heavy defeats to those two sides and Bromley.

And a 2-1 home loss to Leyton Orient spelled the end for Heath, after just two wins in 19 league games.

A three-game caretaker spell for head of scouting Neil Young restored some pride with a draw at Wrexham and a win over Hartlepool either side of a home defeat to Ebbsfleet.

Matty Kosylo celebrates his goal in the 2-1 home defeat to Ebbsfleet during Neil Young's brief spell as caretaker-manager following Billy Heath's departure last season.

Matty Kosylo celebrates his goal in the 2-1 home defeat to Ebbsfleet during Neil Young's brief spell as caretaker-manager following Billy Heath's departure last season.

Jamie Fullarton - a name not on the lips of many, if any, Town fans - was then appointed as the new gaffer before that Hartlepool match.

And results picked up; a draw at Eastleigh provided something to build on, and preceded an impressive 3-1 win at Woking and an even better 2-1 home victory over Dagenham and Redbridge.

Two points from the next three games was followed up with terrific back-to-back victories over high-flying Boreham Wood and Sutton which put them on the verge of safety.

Loan signing Mike Fondop-Talom made an impact after joining from Guiseley, offering pace and power up-front, while Michael Collins anchored the midfield with authority and quality.

Jamie Fullarton takes his place in the stands to watch Town's home game with Hartlepool in February after being announced as The Shaymen's new manager.

Jamie Fullarton takes his place in the stands to watch Town's home game with Hartlepool in February after being announced as The Shaymen's new manager.

There were no wins in the last four games of the campaign, but their National League status had been secured with room to spare.

Fullarton’s 12 games in charge until the end of the season delivered four wins, five draws and three defeats, compared to Heath’s final 12 games at the helm bringing three wins, three draws and six defeats.

There was certainly enough improvement to warrant some optimism going into the new campaign.

Only Matty Brown, Matty Kosylo, Sam Johnson, Josh Macdonald, Ben Tomlinson, Niall Maher and Michael Duckworth remained from the squad that ended last season going into the next - not many other National League clubs will have seen such a turnover of players.

Mike Fondop-Talom celebrates one of his four goals in 12 games on loan at Town last season against Dagenham and Redbridge.

Mike Fondop-Talom celebrates one of his four goals in 12 games on loan at Town last season against Dagenham and Redbridge.

Town’s trajectory at the start of the 2018-19 season mirrored that of 12 months previously, as they soared to the top of the table before plunging back down again.

There were five wins from Halifax’s first seven games, with Jordan Preston’s winner against his former side Gateshead on August 27 putting Town top of the table.

The subsequent slide down the league was gradual, with creditable draws against Sutton, Wrexham and Leyton Orient before a 3-0 humbling at Maidenhead.

Things were a bit more inconsistent after that, with good draws against Fylde, Solihull and Bromley mixed in with poor defeats against Aldershot, Eastleigh and Havant and Waterlooville.

A much-needed win against bottom-side Dover ended Town’s miserable run of 13 games without victory, before Morecambe were swept aside in the FA Cup after they’d been held to a draw first time round.

Inconsistencies continued with a 4-0 drubbing at Ebbsfleet before honourable defeat to AFC Wimbledon in the cup.

Ben Tomlinson, pictured scoring against Guiseley in March, has thrived under Jamie Fullarton.

Ben Tomlinson, pictured scoring against Guiseley in March, has thrived under Jamie Fullarton.

There were draws against Dagenham and Redbridge and Boreham Wood either side of an FA Trophy win in the bleak mid-winter of Barrow.

But a frustrating home defeat to Sutton told a story that has occurred too regularly over the last 12 months of Town failing to take their chances due to a lack of quality.

Some things never change. But the club Billy Heath departed back in January is a very different one nearly a year on.

Player of the Year

It has to be Matty Brown. The Town skipper is a leader on and off the pitch, exemplifying the commitment and character Halifax supporters love to see from their side.

Brown deserves huge credit for battling back from injury problems earlier in his Town career to become such a consistent performer, leading the back-line with a calm head, excellent positional sense and bravery in abundance.

High point of the year

Town produced a stirring display to knock League Two Morecambe out of the FA Cup first round.

Cameron King’s goal capped a team performance full of endeavour, energy and determination against Football League opposition.

Low point of the Year

The day after Town’s 2-1 home defeat to Leyton Orient, Billy Heath was sacked after two wins from 19 league games.

Heath left Halifax in 19th place, four points above the relegation zone.

Whether Heath would have kept The Shaymen up, we will never know for sure, but it was a nervous time at the club until Jamie Fullarton eventually steered them away from the trap door.

Jordan Preston scored the winner against former club Gateshead that sent Town top of the National League table on August 27.

Jordan Preston scored the winner against former club Gateshead that sent Town top of the National League table on August 27.

Matty Kosylo scores the goal that brought Town's run of 13 games without a win to an end against Dover at the Shay.

Matty Kosylo scores the goal that brought Town's run of 13 games without a win to an end against Dover at the Shay.

Cameron King scores Town's winner in their memorable 1-0 victory over League Two Morecambe in the first round of the FA Cup on November 20.

Cameron King scores Town's winner in their memorable 1-0 victory over League Two Morecambe in the first round of the FA Cup on November 20.

Dayle Southwell in action during Town's second round FA Cup defeat to League One AFC Wimbledon at the Shay on December 1

Dayle Southwell in action during Town's second round FA Cup defeat to League One AFC Wimbledon at the Shay on December 1