BILLED AS THE biggest game in recent Dolly Blue history this FA cup tie will be remembered for events off the pitch rather than on it.
Ugly crowd trouble with just seven minutes on the clock forced the referee to take the players off for half an hour before a police presence and a number of fans leaving calmed the crowd.
A mixture of alcohol and idiocy combined to stir up a small minority of City’s biggest crowd this season – the men involved did not even register Halifax’s opening strike on three minutes.
A stand-off on the terraces at the Marsh Road end of Giant Axe quickly escalated into a brawl, with one Halifax fan hospitalised as he fell and cut the back of his head on the stone terraces.
While the question of blame and fault rings around internet forums this small minority of alleged fans from either club can only look to themselves for blame and they should be punished severely for ruining what should have been a good game of football.
Whether it would have been without the incident we shall never know, it certainly didn’t turn into one, Halifax came to defend and counter and they did it brilliantly, stifling the Dolly Blues and after their early goal they never looked in trouble.
It came from a free-kick; dubiously awarded it must be said, whipped in from the left and hooked into the back of the net by defender Brett Renshaw.
The visitor’s back four, left back Danny Lowe in particular, were immense and gave City’s strikers very little breathing space, chances were minimal and when Simon Garner put the visitors ahead just after the half-hour mark the game looked over as a contest.
Concerted pressure from Halifax forced City’s defence back to the edge of their box, a cross from the left fell to Garner inside the box and he finished well with a similar volley to Renshaw’s opener.
It was an admirable showing from the Dolly Blues in the second 45, they are certainly not lacking in confidence even when not performing at their best, and lesser sides may have slipped up against their pressure and pace but Halifax – a decent Conference North side remember – defended resolutely.
Alex Meaney had a half-chance from the edge of the box as he finally managed to beat his man and grab a half-yard of space but his shot went over the bar.
City’s substitutes made a difference as Joe Bunney and Dave Swarbrick in particular added alternative options up front, Swarbrick’s skill finally showed a way past Lowe.
At the other end the brilliant Simon Garner was pulling the strings for his side in the whole behind the striker and he had a hand in the late final goal.
Jason St.Juste and Garner were having far too much freedom down the left, Martin Fearon had already swatted a cross from that area out from under his bar, and that was where the goal began.
It was simply done, an early cross from Garner met by the run of Lee Gregory who finished from eight yards.
While City will be disappointed that they did not create more or keep the ball they came up against two solid banks of four who, in classic away from home style, hit them on the break effectively.
The early goal killed the tie for the Dolly Blues before a minority had a chance to ruin it for everyone else.
No arrests were made but questions will no doubt be asked about the lack of police presence at the ground before kick-off, the incriminations in terms of fines for the clubs is yet to be seen, it seems inevitable and a terrible waste of the prize winnings earned thus far in the cup.
The overwhelming feeling is that this was a chance for Lancaster City to shine, they fell short on and off the pitch but at least on it the players can hold their heads high and be proud of themselves.
LANCASTER CITY: Fearon 6, Henry 6, Elderton 8, Duggan 6, Marshall 6, Kenyon 6, Wills 6 (Swarbrick 68), Clark 6 (Rothwell 54), Hattersley 7, Meaney 6, Dodgson 7 (Bunney 68)
Subs not used: Carney, Gregson, Hall
FC HALIFAX TOWN: Senior, Toulson, Lowe, Hardy, Renshaw (Haggerty 73), Hogan, Winter (Hogan 85), Baker, Garner, Gregory, St.Juste
Subs not used: Gibson, Holland, McManus, Needham
Referee Paul Graham
STARMAN Ryan Elderton Another consummate performance from City’s best player this season