The Harriers record breaking home run came crunching to an end against Halifax today when a missed penalty set the scene for a second half in which we showed very few glimpses of our style of play and finally having to sit and watch how to put a penalty away. Up until an early Joe Ironside goal we looked un-beatable but once Halifax had drawn level there was only going to be one winner.
There was a return to the side, from injury, for Zaine Francis-Angol and Arthur Gnahoua while the players they replaced from the Harrogate game, Josh Ezewele and Tyrell Waite, dropped out of the squad completely or dropped to the bench. Also not on the bench was Liam Truslove following his signing of a contract extension earlier in the week. Shades of the ZFA pre-match interview from last week and his subsequent failure to appear came to mind.
Halifax came to Aggborough with aims of being in the play-offs themselves having climbed to third place behind us last Saturday. They have run into form at the right time of the season and with a strong away following they were eager to close the gap and also do the double on us.
The game kicked off following a horrendous hail storm that left the pitch wet and heavy in places so it was going to suit the visitors more than us. While it was still in a decent condition we showed the visitors how to play with some fine passing football that led to numerous chances to open the scoring if it hadn't been for the excellent saves from their keeper, Sam Johnson.
Jordan Tunnicliffe was the first to test him out when he got down to his downward header from a corner and then Joe Ironside tried his luck with a slightly soft shot from just inside the area that Johnson collected easily. The opening goal came from another corner delivered by James McQuilkin that was flighted perfectly for Ironside to rise above the static Halifax defenders and nod home.
We continued to take the game to the visitors with our new found shoot on sight tactics but still found that Johnson was equal to our efforts. Slowly, as the playing surface started to deteriorate, Halifax began to come into the game and stopped us getting into shooting spaces by fair means or foul. Some of the challenges on Ironside didn't even garner a talking to from the referee though.
They signalled their intent when Jordan Sinnotts free kick fell to the unmarked Dion Charles to head wide of the upright and then they drew level.
Halifax collected the ball deep and, with our defence back pedalling, the ball was crossed in deep to the towering Tom Denton to head home. Jordan Tunnicliffe tried to jump with him but failed to make the three foot difference.
We tried our best to regain the lead but their strongarm tactics weren't winning any awards from the Harriers fans. The constant shirt pulling and body checking was putting us off our normal style of play so we began to resort to the old fashioned ball over the top and that led to the disastrous penalty effort that could have seen us go into the break with a 2-1 lead and a promising second half.
The ball came over into the Halifax area but as Ryan Croasdale shaped to play the ball on he was pushed in the back by Sinnott and the referee immediately pointed to the spot. McQuilkin claimed to job of putting the ball away for himself even though most fans were hoping that Ironside would be given the chance. His run up looked good but the resulting kick was soft and bobbled along the grass and the wrong side of the post. Embarrassing!