Pontefract Collieries 0-0 FC Halifax Town: Shaymen taken to replay after goalless draw
FC Halifax Town and Pontefract Collieries will meet again at The Shay on Tuesday night for a place in the first round of the FA Cup after a 0-0 draw.
Pontefract were good value for the result, defying the three-division gap between the sides with a display of grit, hard work and character.
The Shaymen will be strong favourites to go through, but they were made to work hard for that chance in an absorbing contest that had so many of the ingredients that make the FA Cup so special.
Anyone doubting the importance of the game to Halifax and Pete Wild had their answer in his team selection - no squad rotation, no run-outs for those on the fringes.
But anyone doubting the extent of the test at hand was corrected by a performance full of heart and spirit from the hosts in-front of a record crowd.
Town saw plenty of the ball, with Kian Spence heavily involved collecting it off the back four and trying to launch attacks.
But as soon as Halifax reached the final third, they were met with some snappy resistance from the hosts, while anything over the top was hoovered up by the superb Spencer Clarke at the heart of the home side's well-drilled back four.
Pontefract weren't going out of the cup without a fight, and Halifax weren't going through to round one without one either.
Right-back Jack Greenhough's long throws were a distinguishing feature of Pontefract's attacks, and from one of his missiles into the Town box, Vaughan Redford fired off target
Jack Vann then brought a good save from Sam Johnson with a well-struck shot from outside the box after great tenacity from Gavin Rothery.
Pontefract had to pick their moments to attack, conceding territory and possession most of the time, but when they did get forward, with the buoyant crowd behind them, they looked dangerous.
There was no doubting their commitment, and Town needed to defend resiliently when the ball went near their box, with Jesse Debrah and Niall Maher handling the aerial assaults effectively.
Billy Waters was twice called offside before putting the ball in the net, while the Town striker's effort across goal - Halifax's first shot of the match - ten minutes before half-time was saved by keeper Ryan Musselwhite.
Moments later, Eli Hey got a sight of goal but ballooned his effort over the bar off balance as they home crowd held their breath.
Town were struggling to create chances, with their usual short, sharp build-up play not getting through against a diligent, disciplined Pontefract team.
Pete Wild wasn't expecting to just turn up and roll Pontefract over, and his suspicions had been confirmed by half-time.
The second-half continued in much the same vein, with Halifax struggling to impose themselves on the contest, and Pontefract taking confidence from staying in the game.
The Shaymen were making no inroads, with the hosts arguably getting into the more dangerous positions, exuding a real desire and hunger to match the visitors stride for stride.
The excellent Clarke should have done better from a free-kick into the Town box than heading straight at Johnson, but then Ben Gordon's block from Waters' shot at the other end was as good as a goal.
Jamie Allen, Elliot Newby and Martin Woods were brought on to try and change the game before Niall Maher came closest yet to scoring when his header from Woods' free kick hit the bar.
The Town skipper then nearly caught Musselwhite off his line from inside his own half but the keeper got back to avoid embarrassment.
The tempo of the game was up now as it entered the final 15 minutes, and could definitely be filed under 'proper cup tie'.
Halifax looked like themselves for the first time in the game now as Newby's rasping drive was well saved by Musselwhite.
Vann then brought a save from Johnson after a corner had fallen to him on the edge of the box, before Allen's low shot was saved from inside the box.
The tension was palpable, the result in doubt, the excitement unquestionable.
Substitute Scott Brown was sent off in added time for a second booking, pulling back Allen, but the ten men held on for what must surely rank as one of the best results in their history.
Tuesday may be Halifax's day, but today was Pontefract's.
Pontefract: Musselwhite, Greenhough, Clarke, Williams (Brown 64), Gordon, Rothery, Vann, Robson, Smith (Bailey 82), Hey (Hinsley 55), Redford. Subs not used: Brook, Lazenby.
Shots on target: 5
Shots off target: 4
Halifax: Johnson, Warren, Maher, Debrah, Senior, Spence (Woods 68), Green, Slew (Newby 68), Warburton, Gilmour (Allen 59), Waters. Subs not used: Vale, Summerfield, Scott, McDonagh.
Shots on target: 4
Shots off target: 7
Referee: Matthew Dicicco
Town man of the match: Not many to pick from, but Jesse Debrah did his job well at the back, winning countless headers and providing some much-needed muscle.