It’s now back-to-back defeats for FC Halifax Town after they lost 1-0 to Harrogate Town at The Shay.
Jack Emmett’s goal midway through the second-half sealed Halifax’s second defeat in three days following their 3-2 loss at AFC Fylde, and The Shaymen could have no complaints.
Harrogate set-up with a defensive mindset and asked The Shaymen to do their worst; Town obliged with a dreadful performance beset by sluggish play and a distinct lack of clear goal-scoring chances.
Four points had been deemed a good return from Town’s Bank Holiday double, but instead they got nothing against two of their promotion rivals.
Food for thought for Billy Heath at the post-match barbecue.
Heath had decried his lack of a defensive central-midfielder at Fylde, and sought a solution in the shape of Scott Garner, with Southport loanee Keil O’Brien, making his second debut for Town, partnering Danny Hone at the back.
Town looked inventive and incisive at Fylde, but were blunted in attack here, not helped by Harrogate starting with one-man up-front and working hard to deny the hosts any time and space on the ball in the final third.
As usual, Tom Denton looked a possible route to goal, and as usual, he was the most utilised option, but with mixed results.
His flick-on played in Richard Peniket within the first two minutes, but Peniket scuffed his shot wide.
It was another 20 minutes before the game’s next chance, when Matty Kosylo’s mis-hit shot fell to Denton, but his goal-bound header was blocked.
Simon Ainge, captaining Harrogate on his return to The Shay, relished the aerial battle with Denton and frustrated the Town striker and the crowd by winning more fouls from the referee than his opponent in their frequent duels.
Halifax’s creative influences - Kosylo, Josh Macdonald and Jordan Sinnott - had seen far too little of the ball inside the opening half to have any impact on the contest, with too many mis-placed passes and a lack of urgency the biggest bugbears from The Shaymen.
O’Brien’s attempted shot from 45 yards just after the half-hour mark summed up the hosts’ frustrations going forward; the fact it got no further than the nearest Harrogate player five yards away also summed up Town’s success.
Ainge was booked for a crunching aerial challenge on Hone before Sinnott fired narrowly over from the resulting free-kick.
That and another Denton header straight at Peter Crook was pretty much it before the interval.
Harrogate could reflect on a half of disciplined and diligent defending, while Heath might have reflected that a defensive central-midfielder wasn’t perhaps as important as it had been on Saturday.
Hone was arguably lucky to stay on the pitch after the restart when, already on a booking, he fouled Joe Leesley just outside the box after Steve Drench had come to the rescue by saving a shot following a bad mis-judgement by half-time substitute Jake Hibbs, who had replaced the injured Josh Wilde.
Harrogate were now coming closer to scoring, with Lloyd Kerry curling a free-kick just wide and Leesley squandering a decent chance from a short corner.
Halifax’s performance was visibly deteriorating as the game went on, with Denton and Peniket spectators as Harrogate grew in confidence.
Their goal wasn’t much of a surprise when it arrived, with Emmett producing a fierce rising shot after out-pacing Kevin Roberts that hit the underside of the bar on its way past Drench.
By now, Town looked devoid of ideas and needed a drastic change of ideas, tempo or fortune to get anything from the game, none of which looked likely.
Interestingly, Heath left Jordan Burrow on the bench and opted to use Connor Hughes as his final alteration.
Halifax’s afternoon was summed up when a corner fell to Denton at the far post, but he side-footed it wide.
Halifax: Drench, Roberts, Garner, O’Brien, Hone, Wilde (Hibbs 46), Macdonald, Sinnott (Hotte 64), Kosylo (Hughes 74), Peniket, Denton. Subs not used: Nicholson, Burrow.
Shots on target: 3
Shots off target: 5
Harrogate: Crook, Colbeck, Turner, Burrell (Thanoj 39), Ainge, Sheils, Kerry (Chilaka 90), Leesley, Pitman (Robertson 66), Platt, Emmett. Subs not used: Ellis, Stewart.
Scorer: Emmett (67)
Shots on target: 2
Shots off target: 6
Town man of the match: Matty Kosylo
Referee: Anthony Tankard