FC Halifax Town v Chorley: Former Town skipper makes Shaymen favourites in final

FC Halifax Town v Bradford Park Avenue.'Former Town player Mark Bower who has just been appointed manager of Bradford Park Avenue
FC Halifax Town v Bradford Park Avenue.'Former Town player Mark Bower who has just been appointed manager of Bradford Park Avenue

Former Town skipper Mark Bower makes Halifax favourites to win promotion on Saturday - but believes the first goal will go a long way to decide the tie.

The Bradford Park Avenue boss was at The Shay on Sunday to see Halifax progress on penalties after a 1-1 draw with Salford.

Bower isn’t underestimating Chorley’s threat, but feels The Shaymen are in good shape heading into the game.

“You’ve got to make them strong favourites,” he said. “They’ve got everyone fit, they’re looking strong.

“I thought Matty Brown was head and shoulders above anyone else on the pitch on Sunday, he’s massive for them. They’re strong defensively and they always look like they can score at any time.

“Chorley have been good away from home, got some good results, and they’ll go to The Shay as underdogs with nothing to lose.

“They’ve sneaked in to the play-offs in sixth place and sometimes the team that does that does go on to win.

“People will expect Halifax to win but that can come with its own pressure.

“There’ll be a big crowd there, it’ll be a massive occasion. I think the key is to start well. If they set off on the front foot and take them game to Chorley, that will get rid of any nerves.

“I would expect Billy Heath to have them well prepared. He’s been in the play-offs before and was successful last year.

“If you look at the players who can’t even get in the 16 they’ve got such a strong squad to choose from.”

Bower believes Halifax’s biggest threat is from set-pieces, but feels Chorley should not be underestimated.

“Chorley need to avoid giving set-pieces away,” he said. “Obviously Tom Denton is a big target for them. They’ve got two big centre-halves, they’re physically strong in midfield. Their goal on Sunday came from a set-piece, a free-kick from deep that Denton flicked-on.

“But they’ve got more to their game than that. They’ve got quality in wide areas with Matty Kosylo and Dion Charles so they can mix it up.

“Stopping balls into the box is a big thing against Halifax. Jordan Sinnott’s delivery is very good.

“You’ve got to try and move them about and keep the ball. If you play direct against the likes of Scott Garner and Matty Brown it’s simple for them to deal with.

“Chorley will be looking to play football and cause Halifax problems.

“They’ve played with three centre-backs and it’s worked well for them throughout the season.

“Not many people gave them a chance to beat Kidderminster, but they’ve come into the play-offs through the back door if you like, so the pressure might not be on them as much.”

Bower is well-placed to analyse the play-off final, having won and lost in it as Guiseley manager.

He added: “We played Chorley in the play-off final two years ago with Guiseley. They were 2-0 up at half-time and crumbled under the pressure.

“You don’t get classic, free-flowing matches in play-off finals. They’re about hard-work.

“Goals can come from anywhere. The winning goal for Altrincham against us when I was at Guiseley was from a simple ball over the top.

“You need to be switched on for 90 minutes, or 120 minutes.

“Those two teams are strong defensively so the team that gets in-front could have the strength to keep the other out.

“The first goal will be big, especially if Halifax get it because it will get the crowd going.

“But if Chorley get it, the crowd could work the other way because they’ll be expectant and it might lead to them getting frustrated.. Chorley will enjoy that and thrive on that atmosphere.

“The first thing both teams will be saying is ‘keep it tight, don’t take any chances and play your way into the game’.”