FC Halifax Town drew a blank for the first time this season as they suffered their second defeat of the campaign, losing 2-0 at Forest Green.
After a fairly nondescript first 20 minutes, Town conceded twice in the next 10 as James Norwood and Jon Parkin handed Forest Green an unassailable lead.
The manner of the two first-half goals were particularly hard to take as two crosses escaped any Town touches before being converted.
Neil Aspin had warned his side to expect a battle and that’s what they got; what the hosts lacked in finesse they made up for in strength and stamina.
There’s no shame in losing to a side expected to finish in the top-five this season, but the unusually timid nature of Town’s performance was arguably as disappointing as the result.
While the Shaymen could justifiably feel hard done by on the coach journeys back from Bristol and Macclesfield, there can be no complaints here.
In his programme notes, Rovers boss Adrian Pennock insisted he wasn’t pressing the panic button after an alarming dip in form.
But his players looked nervy in possession early on, perhaps mindful of the reaction a third straight defeat could provoke.
Pennock wanted the Rovers fans to get behind his side right from the first whistle, but there wasn’t much for either set of supporters to shout about during a fairly cagey opening.
A delightful move perked up the natives though when David Pipe’s low cross just evaded Marcus Kelly’s lunging frame in the penalty area.
The aerial prowess of six-footers Luke Oliver and Jon Parkin, a trained nursery nurse according to a programme interview, at either end of the pitch made it tricky for Town to assert their physical presence on the hosts.
And it was an excellent header from Rovers’ star man Norwood, who passed a late fitness test to play, that put Rovers ahead as he nodded Sam Wedgbury’s peach of a cross back across goal.
England C international Norwood was already standing out for the hosts as he embarked on a wonderful run inside his own half, although his shot from the edge of the area deflected straight to Matt Glennon.
Parkin hadn’t endeared himself to the home supporters in the preceding 28 minutes with some ponderous touches, but the 32-year-old was perfectly placed to stroke in Clovis Kamdjo’s cross as Forest Green scored twice in the first-half for the first time this season.
That prompted a a switch to 3-5-2 as Simon Ainge replaced Danny Schofield, but it already looked a long way back for the Shaymen, who were struggling to replicate their impressive form on the road so far this term.
Not surprisingly, Rovers had an extra spring in their step, with Town trying to inject the same energy into their play.
Even set-pieces, so often a source of goals, were proving fruitless as Forest Green relished the aerial battle.
A well-drilled home defence restricted front-two Scott Boden and the returning Richard Peniket to very few chances, with the in-form Boden not getting much change from experienced centre-backs Luke Oliver and Danny Coles.
Admittedly, performances in the win at Chester and the second-half at Bristol Rovers set very lofty standards for Town to follow on the road, but Halifax were a long way off those heady heights.
Ain’t No Stopping Us Now was played over the tannoy at half-time; it was hard to argue with that.
The omens for the second-half weren’t great either as play was called back with Town in possession inside the box because of an apparent injury to Pipe.
Moments later, Town had a goal disallowed when Simon Ainge was adjudged to have fouled his opponent before heading in Paul Marshall’s free kick.
Officials and Town just aren’t mixing this week.
It took an outstanding tackle by Marc Roberts and an equally impressive save by Glennon to prevent a seemingly decisive third.
Lois Maynard’s below-par season continued as he was substituted before the hour-mark as Aspin shuffled his pack again hoping to produce an ace from his sleeve.
But Oliver proved the joker in the Rovers pack as he hoovered up most of Town’s forays into their penalty box.
Peniket got a brief glimpse of goal but glanced Adam Smith’s wonderful cross off target.
The same combination produced Town’s best chance of the game minutes later but Peniket headed over unmarked.
Forest Green: Russell, Pipe, Oliver, Coles, Stokes, Norwood, Wedgbury, Kamdjo, Kelly, Sinclair (Oshodi 86), Parkin (Guthrie 89). Subs not used: Arnold, Frear, Rodgers.
Scorers: Norwood (20), Parkin (29)
Shots on target: 4
Shots off target: 2
Halifax: Glennon, Bolton, M Roberts, Williams, McManus, Schofield (Ainge 32), Maynard (Smith 57), Pearson, Marshall, Peniket, Boden. Subs not used: Senior, K Roberts, Dyer.
Shots on target: 1
Shots off target: 5
Town man of the match: Richard Peniket