Warrington 2-2 FC Halifax Town
FC Halifax and Warrington will meet again at The Shay on Tuesday night after a 2-2 draw in the fourth qualifying round of the FA Cup.
Warrington belied the 34-place gap between the sides to push Town all the way at Cantilever Park in a terrific clash.
The FA Cup clearly wasn’t the hottest ticket in town for everyone in Warrington, with a group of children enjoying a kick-about on an adjacent pitch throughout the match, but they missed a very watchable cup tie.
Town will have to play better in the replay though if they are to claim a place in the first round, while Warrington may reflect they ultimately didn’t seize their best chance of causing an upset.
Nathan Clarke’s fifth-minute header got Town off to the perfect start, but that was cancelled out by Ben Garrity’s superb equaliser midway through the first-half.
Tony Gray then finished smartly just after half-time to hand Warrington the lead, but Matty Kosylo restored parity when he capitalised on a defensive error.
Good skill by Sanmi Odelusi won Town’s first corner after four minutes, and from Jordan Preston’s delivery, Clarke rose well to thump a header into the bottom right corner.
But Town didn’t build on their dream start, while Warrington responded with determination and endeavour.
The hosts hastled and harried Town and were purposeful on the ball, with Halifax lacking the same urgency and quality.
Robbie Evans’ drilled effort was kept out by the legs of Sam Johnson before Dayle Southwell’s free-kick hit the top of the bar.
But after that, Town produced little going forward for the rest of the opening half.
By the time Warrington equalised, the goal had been on the cards, and it belied their Evo-Stik status as Jake Kirby’s left-wing cross was nodded back into the danger zone by Jack Mackreth, with Garrity volleying home from 10 yards.
Dylan Vassallo’s free-kick forced a terrific save by Johnson at full-stretch soon afterwards, while the hosts racked up 11 first-half corners, plenty of which caused panic in the Town box, with Ryan Sellers nearly scoring an own goal from one, and another headed straight at Johnson.
Matty Kosylo had looked sharp and skillful for The Shaymen, but Town didn’t offer enough of a threat or a presence going forward, which meant the ball kept coming back towards them.
Warrington had played to their maximum in the first-half, but Town had been below-par.
And the turnaround was completed just after the break when Mackreth’s run and cross was met with a fantastic first-time finish by Gray from 12 yards.
Warrington keeper Tony McMillan easily dealt with a Kosylo shot and a Southwell header soon after the hosts went in-front, but Town struggled to mount a sustained response.
The home side remained the more dangerous, with Kirby turning well inside the box before firing narrowly over, and Joe Skarz producing an important last-ditch block to deny the Warrington man a shot from close range.
Warrington continued to play with real heart, full of running and aggressive in the tackle. Town defended doggedly, but lacked composure and any kind of cutting edge in attack.
But out of nothing, an error by former Town trialist mark Roberts allowed Kosylo to latch onto a forward pass, and he side-stepped McMillan before firing across goal.
The tie was in the balance now, with substitutes Cameron King and Jonathan Edwards influential; from the latter’s surging run and cross, Preston skied his shot at the far post.
Warrington: McMillan, Duggan, Roberts, Raven, Whittle, Mackreth, Evans (Beeley 76), Garrity, Vassallo, Gray (Amis 88), Kirby. Subs not used: Benjamin, Carden, George, Hughes, Williams.
Scorers: Garrity (25), Gray (48)
Shots on target: 5
Shots off target: 6
Halifax: Johnson, Duckworth, Clarke, Skarz, Sellers, Staunton, Lenighan (King 52), Preston, Odelusi, Kosylo, Southwell (Edwards 65). Subs not used: Rowley, Hanson, McLeod.
Scorers: Clarke (5), Kosylo (72)
Shots on target: 5
Shots off target: 6
Referee: Andrew Kitchen
Town man of the match: Joe Skarz