Halifax 2-1 Stalybridge: We won the war of attrition, says Heath

Actions from the FA Cup, Halifax Town v Stalybridge, at the Shay
Actions from the FA Cup, Halifax Town v Stalybridge, at the Shay

Town boss Billy Heath said his team won the “war of attrition” against Stalybridge in the FA Cup third qualifying round on Saturday.

Goals from Josh Wilde and Danny Hone earned Town a place in the hat for the fourth qualifying round in an ill-tempered contest at The Shay.

Referee Paul Marsden struggled to control the game, with a melee breaking out at one point and several contentious decisions.

Heath felt his side’s first-half display merited their place in the next round.

“In the first-half we were outstanding for the first 35 minutes,” he said. “We should have been out of sight, played some really good stuff.

“Then they had a bit of a spell just before half-time, which you expect because you can’t dominate all the way through.

“Then it got dragged into being very bitty, very broken up. That’s how Stalybridge like to play and we got dragged into it a bit.

“It was stop-start, stop-start, and then we got the goal.

“I think we deserved to win, even for our first 35 minutes, because we were really were very good.

“Then it became a war of attrition and we stood up to that.

“We fought fire with fire, but at the end of the day we got the goal and we’re through to the next round.”

Heath was pleased his team didn’t cower against Stalybridge’s physical approach, but warned the Town fans not to expect champagne football after another disjointed 90 minutes.

“We totally dominated,” said Heath. “In the first 45 minutes I think they had one effort, but it wasn’t even a shot on goal. The free-kick came in and I think Denton’s headed it into his own net.

“But that’s the only attempt they had on goal.

“It sometimes happens that way, but you have to dig in against Stalybridge and they ask you a lot of physical questions.

“They make it difficult for you to play and you have to stand up to that, and I think we did.

“If people want to see scintillating football all the time, it’s not going to happen.

“It’s as simple as that. Sometimes you have to grind things out.”

Heath wouldn’t be drawn on the referee’s performance, but said Gary Gee should have been sent-off for his elbow on Town’s David Lynch.

“It’s hard for me to say. The referee didn’t see it that way and he’s the important one,” Heath commented.

“I think a lot of people did see it other ways, but he deemed it wasn’t, so it wasn’t.

“The game was difficult to handle at times because it was a physical game.

“It’s a difficult job but I was surprised the lad stayed on.

On Lynch, who had to be taken off after the challenge, Heath said: “We were very concerned because his cheekbone swelled. But it’s gone down now.

“He’s a tough cookie and he wanted to stay on but sometimes you have to protect players from themselves at times.

“He’s fine and he’ll be fine for next Saturday.”

Heath feared the game was heading for a replay before Hone’s winner, adding: “Because it got so bitty and disjointed I thought it was maybe looking like a draw.

“But I don’t think you can say we didn’t deserve to win the game.

“The first 35 minutes we totally dominated. We didn’t get the second goal.

“The thing is everybody expects you to dominate a full game constantly, but it doesn’t happen.

“A lot of these games are played in chunks and there are parts of the game where you need to get the goals.

“The good thing is the resilience we showed when we needed to dig in and scrap.

“When things aren’t as fluent as you’d like, that’s what you have to do.”