FC Halifax Town 1-0 Grimsby
A stunning goal from Scott McManus was enough to win the FA Trophy for FC Halifax Town as they beat Grimsby 1-0 at Wembley.
Town fans will have felt like kids on Christmas Day on the morning of the game, and got the best present imaginable just after half-time when McManus curled the ball into the roof of the net from 25 yards.
It was a moment no Shaymen fan inside Wembley will forget, and one that bestows hero status on McManus, and probably means he’ll never have to buy another pint in Halifax ever again.
The fact that Town defeated a League Two team might have led some to question how they’d ended up in the Conference North, but the pain of that relegation was at least eased by victory here.
Halifax supporters got the first part of their dream scenario after Morpeth trounced Hereford 4-1 in the FA Vase final before the euphoria of seeing their team winning at Wembley.
Kingsley James’ weekend didn’t quite turn out as planned as he was surprisingly dropped to the bench along with Shaquille McDonald, with Matty Brown and Hamza Bencherif returning to form two-thirds of a back three.
Kevin Roberts completed the back line and was given the onerus task of marking Padraig Amond.
Nicky Wroe and Jake Hibbs began well in the Town engine room, offering a combination of youthful enthusiasm and a calm, experienced head to get on the ball and ensure possession was retained.
Town resisted what would have been a fairly pointless pursuit of playing high balls up to Jordan Burrow, given he was up against four Grimsby defenders, and played some decent stuff when on the ball, although it was too far from the Mariners’ box to create a clear chance.
The first effort on goal came in the midst of Town’s 17th minute applause, which was nearly spoiled by Amond’s header, but it was directed straight at Sam Johnson.
Any chances that were created had to be earned, with both teams giving little away at the back and restricting the other to long range efforts, although Brown headed wide from Town’s first corner after 27 minutes.
If Jim Harvey’s first objective had been to stop Grimsby creating chances, then he’d succeeded. But there weren’t many at the other end either; on the scale of Town’s run to the final, it was more Barrow at home than Gateshead away.
It had been 27 fairly uneventful minutes, not that you’d know it from the raucous noise coming from behind Sam Johnson’s goal from the Halifax fans, who were lapping up their first taste of Wembley.
Andy Monkhouse’s header brought a decent save from Johnson 10 minutes before the break, but it was so far, so good for Halifax; another 7-0 was definitely not on the cards.
A right-footed stunner by McManus wasn’t likely either, but his magnificent shot three minutes after the restart from Richard Tait’s poor clearance sent the Town fans into ecstasy behind the goal - a moment that will go down in Town folklore; not a bad way to celebrate a new two-year contract.
If it was Jim Harvey’s final match in charge, with rumours swirling round Wembley that North Ferriby boss Billy Heath is set to take charge next week, then his last half-time team-talk had worked a treat.
Grimsby were rattled, as evidenced by a strong tackle from Jon Nolan on Wroe, followed by a some unnecessary argy-bargy, all of which earned Nolan a booking.
Town now had Grimsby right where they wanted them, able to soak up pressure, what little of it there was after McManu’s goal, and hit them on the break.
If anything it was Halifax who were likelier to score again as James Bolton’s shot was blocked by Aristote Nsiala and Wroe’s shot was saved unconvincingly by James McKeown.
It took Grimsby 20 minutes to respond with a shot of their own, which Omar Bogle sent high over the bar shortly before substitute Nathan Arnold dragged a low shot wide from inside the box.
Arnold produced a much better shot with 15 minutes left, but was denied by a fine save from Johnson as Town’s defending began to get a little more desperate.
By then, McManus’ day had taken a turn for the worse as he was forced off injured, with Kingsley James getting onto the pitch after all a day after getting married.
If that was the best day of James’ life, this must run it pretty close.
The Town fans inside Wembley will have not known a day like it either as they cheered every successful pass, block and clearance that edged them closer to full-time.
It was basically attack versus defence in the last 10 minutes, but some superb defending from Brown, Roberts and Bencherif held Grimsby off.
Gregor Robertson headed at goal in the last minute of normal time, but it was straight at Johnson, whose save was greeted almost as enthusiastically as McManus’ goal.
James then sent sub Connor Hughes clean through, but his shot was blocked by Nsiala.
The late drama continued as McKeown came up for a corner, which was cleared off the line by a Town defender before the full-time whistle was heard with a roar that was probably heard back in Calderdale.
Halifax: Johnson, Brown, Bolton, Bencherif, Roberts, McManus (James 74), Hibbs, Wroe, J Macdonald (Walker 62), Peniket (Hughes 87), Burrow. Subs not used: Porter, S McDonald.
Scorer: McManus (48)
Shots on target: 2
Shots off target: 5
Grimsby: McKeown, Tait (East 82), Pearson, Nsiala, Robertson, Clay (Arnold 62), Monkhouse (Pittman 68), Nolan, Disley, Amond, Bogle. Subs not used: Venney, Gowling.
Shots on target: 6
Shots off target: 3
Attendance (overall): 46,781
Town man of the match: Sam Johnson
Referee: Lee Mason