Southport 1-0 FC Halifax Town

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Scott Kay’s goal nine minutes from time condemned FC Halifax Town to their first league defeat of 2015 as they lost 1-0 at Southport.

Town suffered their first defeat on the road since Torquay back in December, which was two days after Southport’s last home win over Eastleigh.

But the relegation-threatened side produced a battling display to give manager Paul Carden his first win in charge and put a debt in Town’s play-off push.

This is the first of eight game in 26 days for Halifax, who have no respite from the fixture backlog, with Dartford next up on Saturday.

The Shaymen can expect a similarly spirited performance then against another club battling the drop and will need to step up a gear from a subdued display at Haig Avenue.

Lee Gregory scored for Town after just five minutes in this fixture last season, but no such luck this time around.

Town were uncharacteristically sloppy early on, with Lois Maynard, Matt Pearson and Scott McManus all guilty of poor passes inside their own half.

Neil Aspin must have been watching on enviously at the comparative bowling green of a pitch, but the two teams in front of him didn’t show enough composure to assert themselves over the other.

Even Matt Glennon was misfiring his kicks, with one of them returned with interest as Charlie Joyce fired over from 25 yards.

The lively Jack Muldoon had come close to connecting with Pearson’s cross at the other end, but Southport seemed encouraged by the odd jitter in the Town defence and pressed the visitors back, belying their recent form of no win from their last nine matches.

Town were working hard against what was a competitive Southport side, who were almost given a helping hand by referee Martin Coy when he gave a soft-looking free-kick against Graham Hutchison and then allowed the hosts to take it quickly, although it came to nothing.

For all their effort, Southport were lacking quality in the final third, something Town weren’t short of if they could feed the ball to the front three of Muldoon, Richard Peniket and Scott Boden, making his first league appearance since the 1-0 win at Telford more than a month ago.

Another sloppy pass by Maynard led to Southport again firing over from distance before Town had a penalty appeal waved away for a push on Muldoon as he raced to reach the ball before ‘keeper Peter Brezovan.

The industrious Muldoon was then penalised for a push on left-back Will Beesley just as he threatened to win the ball and launch a counter-attack as Town’s frustrations mounted.

Town playing against the wind was also a mitigating factor, with Glennon’s goal-kicks swirling in the air and usually getting no further than the halfway line.

Southport’s threat during the first-half rarely surpassed long-range shots though and by half-time, had dissipated altogether.

The hosts had the ball in some dangerous areas but invariably either shot off target or misplaced their final pass, perhaps explaining why they had the lowest home tally of goals in the league before the game.

Then just as Town won their first corner after a goalmouth scramble, Mr Coy blew for half-time, summing up his half pretty well.

After veteran keeper Peter Brezovan experienced a baptism of fire on his debut for the club, conceding five at Forest Green on Saturday in his first match for three months, Town will have been disappointed not to have tested him during the opening-half.

To that end, Adam Smith was brought on at half-time, with the Town boss throwing caution to the wind that was now at least blowing in Halifax’s favour.

Top-scorer Richard Brodie headed off target at one end before Peniket, he of the countless penalty appeals at Kidderminster, had a goal disallowed from a corner at the other end for pushing.

That reflected the more even nature of the second-half with Town showing more urgency and committing more bodies forward.

Brodie then saw a shot deflected just wide before James Bolton cleared a header off the line from the resulting corner.

Only Bristol Rovers and Grimsby may have kept more clean sheets in the league than Halifax, but Glennon’s goal was starting to lead a charmed life.

The game was much more open now as both sides went in search of a goal, but still lacked the requisite composure to take advantage of the spaces now appearing at both ends.

Maynard brought a first save of the night from Brezovan in the 69th minute while Danny Schofield’s vicious free-kick flew just over the bar 10 minutes later.

By now it was pretty much next goal wins, and it fell for Southport as defensive-midfielder Kay showed the presence of a seasoned striker to roll in his first goal of the season from 15 yards.

Southport: Brezovan, Challoner, Kay, Foster, George, Connor, Joyce, Smith (Donnelly 62), Beesley, Rutherford (McCarthy 69), Brodie. Subs not used: Lloyd-Weston, Fitzpatrick, Thompson.

Scorer: Kay (81)

Shots on target: 5

Shots off target: 8

Corners: 7

Halifax: Glennon, Bolton, M Roberts, Hutchison, McManus, Muldoon (Hatfield 73), Schofield, Maynard, Pearson (Smith 46), Boden, Peniket (Jackson 60). Subs not used: Senior, K Roberts.

Shots on target: 2

Shots off target: 5

Corners: 6

Attendance: 715

Town man of the match: Lois Maynard