Goals from Alex Simmons and Liam King helped FC Halifax Town secure an impressive 2-0 win at Gloucester City.
Simmons’ first-half header put Town in-front before King’s penalty after an hour doubled Halifax’s lead.
Neither goal looked on the cards before they arrived, but Halifax took their chances at crucial times; had Gloucester done the same, it could have been a different result.
Billy Heath talked beforehand about “winning the arm-wrestle” in games before his team should worry about how pretty their football is, and The Shaymen stuck to that mantra by gradually wearing down their hosts with a hard-working performance before finishing the match as the stronger side.
Zack Kotwica got in behind the Town defence twice in the space of a minute early on, but chipped a shot across goal and wide before his low cross was just too far ahead of the unmarked Craig Reid moments later.
The impressive Joe Hanks then sent a free-kick whistling just over the bar from 20 yards.
Gloucester were creative and full of running going forward, more often than not opting to play the ball out from the back, while Halifax struggled to retain the ball once it left their own half.
The Shaymen’s only effort of note in the first quarter of the game had been a clever corner-kick routine that saw Jordan Sinnott’s low delivery met by the unmarked Simmons, whose shot was blocked.
The combative David Lynch was probably Town’s stand-out performer by this point, which says much about the pattern of the game.
But, somewhat out of the blue from the team in orange, just before the half-hour mark, Sinnott’s long-throw was flicked on by Tom Denton and Simmons headed the ball into the ground and it looped into the far corner beyond the reach of Jasbir Singh.
Heath raised the hackles of the home fans soon afterwards with his protestations about some of the officiating, but the Town boss could reflect on a textbook away performance so far.
It wasn’t until the 35th minute that the hosts had their first shot on target, when Kotwica launched a blistering 25-yard shot at goal which Steve Drench did well to parry to safety.
Gloucester hadn’t quite been the same since Simmons’ goal though, and while they still saw much more of the ball, more of their passes were going astray as Town cancelled them out more effectively.
Halifax had absorbed the loss of Danny Hone through injury too, with Nathan Hotte slotting in seamlessly alongside the excellent Scott Garner.
Heath had the luxury of having 18 fit players to choose from before kick-off, but that number was quickly dwindling as Lynch was next to be forced off at half-time.
His replacement Jake Hibbs’ error just after the interval let in Kotwica at an angle, but the striker mercifully skied his shot.
Kotwica then found himself unmarked at the far post from a free-kick but couldn’t find the net as the story of the game continued, with Town offering little in attack but defending resolutely.
Halifax broke forward after Gloucester wasted a free-kick, and after he’d been sent through by a superb Sinnott pass, Josh Macdonald was tripped in the area.
Heath turned his back as King stepped up to take it, but the Town boss needn’t have worried as Singh was sent the wrong way.
Gloucester had done little to deserve being two goals down, but were a shadow of the sharp, incisive side of the first 20-odd minutes, with The Shaymen now playing the better football and Sinnott coming to the fore with an authoritative display in midfield.
Simmons should have removed any doubt about the result but headed off target when well-placed from Macdonald’s cross before spurning a further two chances to double his tally.
Gloucester: Singh, Thomas, Greenslade, Hamilton, Avery, Owen-Evans (Parker 66), Hanks, Webb, Reid, Kotwica (Fitzgibbon 66), Williams (Dinsley 76). Subs not used: Deaman, Phipps.
Shots on target: 3
Shots off target: 9
Halifax: Drench, Roberts, Garner, Hone (Hotte 37), Wilde, Macdonald, Lynch (Hibbs 46), King, Sinnott (Moyo 79), Simmons, Denton. Subs not used: Nicholson, Peniket.
Scorers: Simmons (29), King (61)
Shots on target: 4
Shots off target: 4
Town man of the match: Scott Garner
Referee: Adam Ricketts