Stalybridge 1-0 FC Halifax Town
More pressure was piled on to boss Billy Heath as FC Halifax Town slumped to a dire 1-0 defeat at strugglers Stalybridge.
Adam Morgan missed a penalty and Danny Hone was sent-off as The Shaymen’s season reached a new low point.
Town could hardly have hand-picked a better opponent against which to break out of their wretched run of form, with Stalybridge winning just three of their 23 league games this season, scoring fewer goals than any team in the division and conceding the most.
All of which meant anything other than victory at Bower Fold was surely unthinkable. Defeat certainly gives David Bosomworth something to think about.
Luck wasn’t on Billy Heath’s side, with a missed penalty and a sending-off testament to that, but again his team’s performance was poor, lacking in quality and cohesion.
Town’s injury problems this season were encapsulated by the fact that Tom Nicholson replaced Sam Johnson, who injured his ankle against Darlington after replacing hamstring injury victim Steve Drench.
The visitors made a good start, with Richard Peniket, Danny Clarke and Matty Kosylo all going close inside the first 11 minutes.
But Town didn’t build on that early momentum as the game fell into a scrappy contest, with both teams conceding possession too cheaply and struggling to contend with a poor pitch.
Keil O’Brien didn’t pull up many trees in two loan spells with Town, but the Stalybridge defender out-battled an off-colour Tom Denton, whose recent trend of wayward flick-ons and mis-directed nod-downs continued.
With Denton so pivotal to how Town play, The Shaymen needed inspiration from elsewhere; Kosylo looked the liveliest alternative, with Adam Morgan hardly getting a kick up-front.
It was nearly 20 minutes later when, from their next good chance, Danny Hone headed wide from Kosylo’s excellent free-kick, with the winger sending a free-kick fizzing just wide shortly before half-time.
Morgan finally came to life just before the interval with a low shot across goal that was kept out by Grant Shenton’s fine save.
Halifax had been the better side, but that wasn’t really saying much; Stalybridge offered commitment and hard work, but not much else.
Their starting 11 featured boasted just three league goals between them all season, and the division’s lowest scorers did little to dispel that statistic, with Nicholson, Town’s third different keeper in three games, having a quiet league debut.
Given the form of both teams, it would have been surprising had the contest been a thriller, but it played out like two sides desperate for a bit of luck or a moment of magic to come their way.
“Keep pushing,” yelled Billy Heath just after the restart as Town continued to dominate but looked a little short of ideas as to how they could break Stalybridge down.
That bit of luck appeared to have come Heath’s way when Morgan was tripped in the box by Darren McKnight.
Heath yelled from the touchline for Morgan to take the spot-kick, but it was brilliantly saved by Shenton, diving to his left.
It could’ve got even worse moments later had Nicholson not reacted superbly to tip over Lee Gaskell’s effort.
Gaskell then missed a great chance after Florian Da Silva’s effort was saved by Nicholson, but rolled the ball wide from an angle with Nicholson out of position.
if anything, Halifax’s performance was deteriorating, as evidenced when Kosylo’s attempted short free-kick to Kevin Roberts went straight out of play.
It deteriorated further when last-man Hone was sent-off for flooring Da Silva as he threatened to latch on to a through ball.
Heath reacted by substituting Morgan for Cliff Moyo, which prompted boos and cries of “you don’t know what you’re doing” from some of the travelling contingent.
Town remained in the ascendancy despite only having 10-men, with Shenton racing off his line to deny Clarke, although Nicholson made another excellent save from substitute Baguley.
But he could hardly miss a few minutes later when he prodded in after a low cross from the left found him unmarked.
Stalybridge: Shenton, Hughes, O’Brien, Horsfall, Mather, Chalmers (Wisdom 46), McKnight, Gee, Da Silva (Dickinson 82), Wilkins, Gaskell (Baguley 69). Subs not used: Morning, Dunbar.
Scorer: Baguley (89)
Shots on target: 4
Shots off target: 1
Halifax: Nicholson, Roberts, Hotte, Hone, Wilde, Kosylo, Clarke, Lynch, Peniket (Macdonald 84), Morgan (Moyo 70), Denton. Subs not used: Hibbs, Simmons, King.
Shots on target: 6
Shots off target: 9
Town man of the match: Matty Kosylo
Referee: G Hart (Darlington)