First half dominance wins it for Shaymen

Halifax Town 3 Boston United 2

Town moved back into the Blue Square Bet North play off places with victory over Boston United.

But after looking comfortable when they led 3-0 with a little over 10 minutes of the first half remaining, they were made to fight all the way for the points.

The Shaymen were in cruise control for much of the first half, playing as well as they have at home for a long time.

In the end, they were glad to hear the final whistle as the nerves that have dogged them at the Shay this season returned.

Liam Needham failed in his bid to shake off an ankle injury and was replaced by Simon Garner with Tom Baker returning to the bench.

And the Shaymen opened brightly with Ross Hannah raiding down the right to force the first corner of the game inside the first minute.

Sean Clancy’s first delivery was headed behind by a defender and his second was headed wide by James Dean on the stretch.

Moments later Matt Crooks curled a pass to Lee Gregory wide on the left and he cut inside before firing a 20-yard effort into the keeper’s arms.

Town were looking very bright as Garner picked out Dean on the right and he laid it through to Ryan Toulson whose cross was cleared.

The ball landed at Crooks’s feet and he steadied himself but was unable to get his shot on target.

The Shaymen’s good start paid dividends after five minutes when Gregory released Hannah on the right.

He bought himself valuable time with some clever footwork and kept his cool to rifle the ball beyond United keeper Rick Drury’s grasp from 15 yards.

Garner won the ball back in midfield after 13 minutes and fed Dean wide on the right but he was unable to find Gregory or Hannah with his cross.

And Dean had the ball in the net within a minute, diving to head home a Scott McManus cross only to be denied by the linesman.

Crooks hammered in a shot on an increasingly greasy surface that the keeper managed to cling onto with Gregory racing in.

There was a lull in the game as one or two passes started to go astray but the Shaymen were rarely troubled at the back.

Simon Eastwood’s first involvement was to punch clear a Ben Milnes free kick midway through the first half.

That came during a spell in which Boston enjoyed more and more of the ball with Ian Ross flashing a free kick narrowly wide.

None of the decisions were going Town’s way either with the players getting increasingly frustrated at the referee allowing them to be manhandled by United.

There was some respite when Gregory crossed low from the right for Clancy, but just too far in front of the loan man.

The Shaymen doubled their advantage with 11 minutes to go before the break after Dean had found Toulson on the right.

His cross went deep and was nodded back into the danger area for Gregory whose shot on the turn was blocked.

The ball looped across the edge of the six yard box and Hannah was able to react quickly, sending an overhead kick into the net.

Four minutes later Dean crossed with his left foot from the right and Gregory won his header as he challenged the keeper but the ball bounced back off the post.

The Shaymen were three-up after 39 minutes when Dean won a ball in the air then took a pass from Hannah before lashing home from an angle.

A Clancy corner was flicked on by Gregory but neither Dean nor Hannah could capitalise at the far post.

But there was still time for Boston to pull a goal back in stoppage time at the end of the half when Eastwood failed to hold on to Spencer Weir-Daley’s header from a left wing cross and Marc Newsham fired home from close range.

Boston almost caught Town out with a quickly taken, albeit incorrectly awarded, free kick a couple of minutes after the break but Ben Fairclough failed to control inside the area.

At the other end, McManus whipped in a cross and the ball flashed wide off Dean’s head after a defender had got the first touch.

Hannah had no joy with penalty claims when he went down on the edge of the area but did win a free kick 10 yards outside the box after a foul by Tom Ward.

The Bradford man’s finishing let him down on this occasion as he ballooned the ball into the empty North Stand.

Dean pulled the ball back at the second attempt for Gregory but he was unable to get the ball goalwards and it skidded past Clancy as he followed up.

Moments later Lowe was cautioned for dissent after a free kick was given against Hannah who had clearly taken a blow to the shin.

Hannah returned and was incredulous as the referee gave another foul against him, this time for a tussle with Fairclough.

It was getting a little tetchy and Dean picked up one of the more bizarre yellow cards of the campaign when he was cautioned for unsporting behaviour which consisted of trying to help Milnes off the floor at a free kick.

There was a distinct lack of goalmouth action at either end, which suited the Shaymen given their two goal advantage.

That lead was down to a single goal with 18 minutes remaining when Town failed to clear the ball inside their box, Eastwood let it slip from his grasp and Boston sub Josh Burge fired home despite the efforts of Toulson on the line.

You could feel the tension inside the Shay and the mood was not helped when Boston floated over a 78th-minute corner from the left but Eastwood claimed well.

Liam Hogan cleared well from a cross and when Connor Marshal whipped it in from the right after his initial corner had been cleared, the ball skimmed off the Town bar.

The board displaying four minutes of added time did little to calm the nerves although a foul on Aaron Hardy inside the Boston half did.

And the Shaymen held on for an important three points.