Second-half goals from Tom Denton and Matty Kosylo saw FC Halifax Town defeat League One Rochdale 2-0 at The Shay.
After a first-half devoid of a goal threat from the hosts, Billy Heath’s side were much improved after the break and produced two well-worked efforts to see off their higher-league opponents.
After an underwhelming defeat at Alfreton on Saturday, this was exactly the kind of result Town needed.
Pre-season is an unreliable barometer of future success or failure, but on what evidence was presented here, there are more pluses than minuses for Heath to reflect on.
Halifax looked far more comfortable in their second-half 4-4-2 than their first-half 3-5-2; defensively the hosts were solid; going forward they lacked incisiveness until the likes of Matty Kosylo, Bohan Dixon and Adam Morgan came on, all of whom impressed.
Connor Oliver, a central midfielder recruited from North Ferriby, caught the eye from the off with good control, vision and passing; perhaps comparisons with Jordan Sinnott are premature but he appeared to be of a similar ilk.
The signing of striker Ben Tomlinson on a one-year deal was announced shortly before kick-off, adding a much-needed option in attack along with Denton and Adam Morgan.
But Tomlinson struggled to get into the game, with neither side looking particularly inspired to do anything out of the ordinary.
Town’s primary route to goal was to use the height of Tom Denton for flick-ons and knock-downs, a tactic which rarely bore fruit, mainly due to a lack of sufficient players close to enough to the big striker.
Halifax, starting with a 3-5-2, also lacked width in the final third, with wing-backs Cliff Moyo and Josh Wilde not seen too often in the final third. As a result, Denton was starved of decent service from the flanks, only receiving the ball from deep down the middle of the pitch.
It wasn’t until midway through the first-half that the first shot arrived, with Sam Johnson keeping out Aaron Morley’s effort from 12 yards, shortly before Scott Garner hooked the ball away to deny Jordan Williams a tap-in at the far post.
Dale also had a Dale Inman shot deflected just wide and a Harrison McGahey header go narrowly over before the half-hour mark, with Town now looking second best.
There was more movement and pace to Rochdale’s attacks as the half wore on, while Halifax were more rigid and flat-footed by comparison.
Barring Rochdale’s five-minute burst of enthusiasm and imagination, the first-half had been of little value other than building up fitness levels and perhaps familiarising defensive line-ups; the goalkeepers needn’t have bothered wearing their gloves.
Six changes at half-time heralded a switch to 4-4-2, and Town looked much better going forward, with Kosylo and Josh Macdonald offering the width badly missing in the first-half.
And from Macdonald’s cut-back after dribbling past McGahey, Denton, presented with his first chance of the night, side-footed the ball past a Rochdale defender on the line.
Halifax were a far better side since the interval, with Kosylo adding pace and thrust on the left and Dixon providing a towering presence and driving force reminiscent of Lois Maynard in central midfield.
From a quick free-kick by Morgan, just the kind of creativity The Shaymen were lacking in the first-half, Kosylo sneaked in behind the Rochdale defence and rolled the ball across Josh Lillis into the far corner.
The visitors were a beaten side by now, with Town probably able to add another couple of goals if they’d reached top gear.
Halifax: Johnson, Moyo (Barrows 79), Riley (Hotte 46), Brown (Riley 64), Garner, Wilde (McManus 46), King (Kosylo 46), Lynch (Macdonald 46), Oliver (Dixon 46), Denton (Tomlinson 71), Tomlinson (Morgan 46). Subs not used: Nicholson, Khan, Basic, Hibbs.
Scorers: Denton (54), Kosylo (66)
Shots on target: 3
Shots off target: 4
Rochdale: Lillis, Rafferty, Kitching, McNulty, McGahey, Morley, Keane, Adshead, Inman, Andrews, Williams. Subs: Collis, Henderson, Hamzat, White, Yonsian, Kemgni-Kuemo.
Shots on target: 1
Shots off target: 6
Referee: Mick Denton
Town man of the match: Cliff Moyo