ASHTON United’s ultra-defensive approach to Saturday’s game at the Shay surprised Town boss Neil Aspin.
He had not expected the visitors to commit too many players into attack but they rarely strayed into Halifax territory.
As a result, it proved very difficult for Town to break down the opposition and it took a last-gasp close-range Jamie Vardy header from an Aaron Hardy cross to give them the spoils and maintain their 12-point lead at the top of the table.
“If I was the manager of the opposition I would come and play defensively,” said Aspin.
“But they were probably more defensive than even I imagined and more defensive than I have come across.
“They stuck to their plan well, made it difficult and there was no space at all.
“We couldn’t get down the flanks and the only space we had was with the full backs and that’s why we ended up hitting a lot of diagonal balls.
“The one bit of quality we did get got us the goal.
“It is just a case of: we have the points, we got a clean sheet, move on.
“As a spectacle it was terrible to watch but credit to the players, they got the points.”
There was a real sense of disappointment in the ground at the end of a goalless first half in which few clear cut chances were created.
But Aspin did not lay down the law to his players at the break because he knew they were doing everything they could to get their noses in front.
“You ask your players to give 100 per cent and to do the right things,” he said.
“I am not going to go in at half time and start ranting and raving because they tried to move the ball, they tried to do what I asked.
“You either score early, which opens the game up, or you are in for a frustrating afternoon.
“I understand that the crowd want to see some action, some entertainment and be entertained.
“If it is not happening they are going to be quiet.
“At that time you want them to get behind you but you are not doing enough on the pitch to warrant it and everything is flat.
“When you score right at the death it sends everyone home happy.”
The longer the game went on, the less likely it appeared that the Shaymen were going to score.
Lee Gregory had landed the ball on the roof of the net after racing onto a Danny Holland flick.
And Aspin admitted that once that chance had been spurned that he thought it was not going to be his side’s day.
“I didn’t think we were going to score,” said Aspin. “I felt Lee Gregory’s chance was the one we had to take and he missed.
“I never thought we would get another chance as good as that.
“Who is going to come to the Shay and give us a leg up?
“Teams are going to be defensive, they are not going to throw bodies forward.
“But when we do get chances you have to take them because you are not going to get many in games like this.
“If they set out their stall to go away from home and play like that they will make it difficult for teams.
“They were well organised, the players concentrated well and stuck to their task.”
While the Shaymen were putting on their late, late show there were points being dropped all over the place by the chasing pack.
North Ferriby United ran out comfortable 3-0 winners against Hucknall, and there were also wins for Colwyn Bay and Marine who have played two and three games more than the Shaymen respectively.
But FC United of Manchester were held to a goalless draw by lowly Mickleover Sports at Gigg Lane and Matlock had to come from behind to share the spoils with Northwich.
Buxton let a lead slip in a 2-2 draw at Frickley Athletic and Worksop dropped two points as Burscough came from behind at Cannon Park.