FC Halifax Town v Chorley: Heath not underestimating play-off final opponents

Billy Heath
Billy Heath

Billy Heath says he is not surprised to be facing Chorley in Saturday’s play-off final after their semi-final victory over Kidderminster.

Kidderminster finished eight points above Chorley, winning five more games and scoring 16 more goals.

They also won the first-leg at Chorley 1-0, but Town’s opponents on Saturday produced a stunning 2-0 win to reach the final.

“Nothing surprises me in football,” Heath insisted. “People looked at that tie and wrote Chorley off before a ball had been kicked, which was totally disrespectful to Chorley, who are a very good side.

“They’ve been strong all season, up there near the top all season, they’ve got a good manager and good players.

“The best team in the league football-wise was Kidderminster, but the best footballing teams don’t get out of this league. You have to have certain attributes to get out of this division, certain ways of playing.”

Chorley is former Blackburn Rovers striker Matt Jansen’s first job in management, and he is in only his second season at the helm.

“He’s done a great job,” Heath said. “I like Matt. He took over last season and he’s got an organised team together and a team that understands how he wants them to play.

“They’re a strong outfit, functional, good at set-pieces, good at staying in games.

“We’ve beaten them home and away this season but that has no bearing on this game. That’s totally irrelevant.”

On Halifax’s semi-final second-leg, Heath said: “The atmosphere on Sunday was unbelievable. The crowd were magnificent from start to finish.

“Even in the penalty shoot-out they played their part. It’s an intimidating place when our fans are so vocal.

“They were trying to suck the ball in, especially in the last five minutes. You could almost feel them trying to grab the ball and pull it in.”

Heath took seven of his squad from North Ferriby with him to The Shay this season, something which provoked a backlash among some Town supporters. But that is a reaction the Halifax boss is puzzled by.

“I never understood the problem with bringing players from a certain club - it happens at every level of professional football,” he said.

“Managers bring players they trust, even more so when players from that club have been successful and won virtually everything.

“You know their mentality is strong enough.”

Heath feels the new year started to see a new understanding among his rebuilt squad, and that they are now going into the final in good shape.

“Since Christmas the players have started to gel,” he said. “We’ve had a bigger squad since then than the squad we should have had at the start of the season.

“The players were getting used to each other and used to how we wanted them to play.

“But we’ve hit form at the right time. Our form over the last few games has been better than anybody’s, so we’re in a good place and it bodes well for Saturday.

“We’re confident but we know we have to be at the top of our game.”

The Town boss has no concerns about the squad freezing on the big stage, reckons his team has risen to the occasion many times before this season when it has mattered.

“We prepare them as best we can on the limited time we get with the players,” he added.

“We’re only part-time so time with them is limited, which gets lost a bit sometimes.

“But the players have been magnificent. Every time we’ve had a big game, that’s when we have been at our best through the season.

“The 1-0 defeat at home to Fylde - we should have won that game comfortably, we played really well.

“We’ve done very well in 95 per cent of all the big games.”

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