A Boxing Day brace from Lois Maynard helped FC Halifax Town to a richly-entertaining 2-2 draw at Gateshead.
It’s now six goals in six games for Maynard, who has eight for the season, surpassing last season’s tally already.
Both Maynard’s goals preceded those from John Oster and Danny Wright in a frantic first-half.
The second-half featured a bucket-load of chances but no further goals as Town were put under sever pressure but survived to claim a very creditable draw against a fellow play-off contender.
The early chances fell to Town, with Will Hatfield’s free-kick drifting over from 25 yards before Scott McManus miscued when well-placed after the impressive Jamie Jackson, making only his fourth start for Town, crossed from the right.
Then for the 18th game this season, Gateshead fell behind when Maynard directed an excellent header past Adam Bartlett from Marc Roberts’ floated cross.
But Neil Aspin will have been disappointed at the nature of Gateshead’s equaliser, never mind the fact it came barely two minutes after the opener.
There was some neat build-up play culminating in Albanian Valentin Gjokaj’s low cross, but Oster was left unmarked six yards out to slip the ball past Matt Glennon.
Gateshead were more nervy in possession than they had been in the double-header with Town 12 months ago.
In and around the Town box, they played some quick, neat football but getting the ball to Halifax’s final third was often a laborious process for the hosts.
Gateshead had been the better side since equalising but gifted Halifax the lead when Bartlett badly misjudged Maynard’s speculative effort from 25 yards and let it fly past his outstretched arm.
It was a decent hit by Maynard but undoubtedly a late Christmas present from Bartlett.
Gateshead were back to being second-best after that and picked up a couple of bookings with some poor tackles that barely concealed the hosts’ frustrations; what a difference a goal makes.
An announcement advertising tickets for the hosts’ third-round FA Cup tie at West Brom was greeted by one particularly vociferous home supporter with “You’ll not sell many of those after this display”.
Now it was Halifax displaying some fancy footwork, with Danny Schofield and Will Hatfield looking bright.
But the contest swung again when James Bolton brought down the lively Rob Ramshaw in the box.
Wright sent Glennon the wrong way from 12 yards with a dinked shot, although the Town side protested to referee Ryan Johnson at his stop-start run-up.
Were it not for Bolton’s trip, Town looked nailed on to be in-front at the interval and perhaps should have been after a stream of late chances and incisive football before the break, with Boden twice going close and Schofield firing wide from 25 yards.
Schofield also cleared Matty Pattison’s header off the line as the opening-half declared at just the four goals.
Only four Conference Premier sides had conceded more home goals than Gateshead before kick-off, and you could see why.
The hosts were recently told by a tribunal they’d have to pay York £25,000 for defender Tom Allan, but it didn’t look money well spent after Allan was repeatedly overrun down the Gateshead left, a constant source of Halifax attacks.
But Gateshead were far sharper after the restart and were nearly beneficiaries of another goalkeeping error when Glennon let half-time substitute Michael Rankine’s effort slip his grasp before clamouring back to claim it on the line.
The hosts looked half-a-yard quicker and flung plenty of crosses into the Town box, requiring some stubborn defending by Roberts and Steve Williams, making his first appearance since the FA Cup tie against Bradford in November.
The pressure continued as Rankine found space but skewed his volley wide before James Curtis nodded Oster’s corner off target.
Town were offering little in response as Roberts and Williams’ workload mounted, not helped by the added attacking presence of Rankine since the interval.
He then hit the post from a superb Craig Baxter cross as the Town defence creaked but refused to buckle.
Oster should have scored but finished meekly after a delightful pass by Ramshaw sent him clear.
Curtis then nearly did but for an outstanding save at point blank range by Glennon.
Rankine then skied their next big chance from six yards out before Jackson missed Town’s opportunity for a smash-and-grab when he slid the ball wide after a delightful through ball by Hatfield.
Gateshead: Bartlett, Curtis, Clark, Baxter, Ramshaw, Allan, Pattison (Rankine 46), Oster, Turnbull, Gjokaj, Wright. Subs not used: Jones, Chandler, Shaw, Guy.
Scorer: Oster (12), Wright (39)
Shots on target: 8
Shots off target: 8
Halifax: Glennon, Pearson (Smith 59), Bolton, M Roberts, S Williams, McManus, Jackson, Maynard, Schofield, Hatfield, Boden (Peniket 76). Subs not used: Senior, Ainge, Marshall.
Scorer: Maynard (10, 26)
Shots on target: 3
Shots off target: 8
Town man of the match: Jamie Jackson
Referee: Ryan Johnson (Bolton)