All Square And On To The Shay...
James Poole's late equaliser sets up winner-takes-all second leg at The Shay
WEDNESDAY 3rd MAY 2017
VANARAMA NATIONAL LEAGUE NORTH PLAYOFF SEMI-FINAL FIRST LEG
SALFORD CITY 1 FC HALIFAX TOWN 1
0-1 Richard PENIKET (37th min)
1-1 James Poole (86th min)
It’s a case of “winner takes all” on Sunday after James Poole’s late goal cancelled out Richard Peniket’s first half strike for FC Halifax Town. The Ammies deserved their equaliser and the stage is now set for a cracking second leg at The Shay.
There was a single change to the squad that beat Darlington so convincingly on Saturday, with James Poole returning from suspension to reclaim a place amongst the substitutes from Craig King.
A crowd of over two thousand – including a vociferous six hundred from Yorkshire – had gathered at Moor Lane and it was The Ammies who made most of the early running. Within half a minute of the kick-off Jordan Hulme’s shot from the edge of the box forced a save out of Town keeper Sam Johnson.
The home side pressed after that, having the majority of possession during the first ten minutes without really managing to threaten Johnson’s goal too seriously again. Already the visiting defence was looking solid and strong although Sam Walker’s corner from the right got a touch off Michael Nottingham’s head only for the ball to drop well wide of Johnson’s right-hand upright.
Gradually The Shaymen were beginning to show their own attacking teeth with a front three of Tom Denton, flanked by Richard Peniket and former Ammie Matty Kosylo looking lively. In the thirteenth minute left-back Josh Wilde’s intelligent ball from deep on the left dropped onto the edge of the penalty area only for home keeper Jay Lynch to sprint out and punt clear before Denton could get there.
A very tight game, as you might expect with so much at stake and the midpoint of the first half came and went with no clear cut chances to report.
So far Town’s danger-man Kosylo had been well marshalled by Steve O’Halloran but in the twenty-sixth minute he popped up on the right, in space and inside the box. It took a combination of O’Halloran and Grand to stop him, with the former getting in a foot and the latter muscling his way to the ball and completing a clearance.
Salford striker Mike Phenix had worked hard so far with little reward but two minutes later he latched onto a pass up the right and escaped the attentions of Matty Brown. This was a real opening but from an angle Salford’s top-scorer hit a 12 yard volleyed effort wide of the far post. Another chance followed quickly as Walker dispossessed Kosylo on Salford’s left before clipping a ball up the flank for Hulme to chase and he managed to shrug off the attentions of Kevin Roberts. A low cross was aimed towards Hine on the far side of the box but Johnson had anticipated the danger, advancing to smother the ball before it could reach its intended target.
This was encouraging for The Ammies and on thirty-three minutes Hulme darted to the right to meet Hine’s long-throw but his header dropped harmlessly over the crossbar. Hine created the next opportunity too, lifting a pass to the left into the path of Phenix who could only blast high and wide from eight yards out.
Chances for Salford to edge ahead, but none had been taken and eight minutes before half-time they fell behind. Kosylo worked the ball inside from the right and Denton managed to control before sliding a pass to the left and into the path of Peniket. There was plenty of work to do but the Halifax man made light of it, crashing in a low twenty-yarder that beat Lynch at his right-hand post.
It was against the run on play but first blood had been drawn by The Shaymen and they looked to press home their advantage during what was left of the first half. Four minutes before the interval Kosylo chased a long ball forward with Grand almost caught out following a heavy touch just outside his own penalty area. Under considerable pressure from the Town number seven Salford’s skipper recovered sufficiently to play a pass back to Lynch who took no chances with a lofted clearance.
The action switched to the other end as Salford applied late pressure in an effort to find a leveller before the break but Halifax’s defensive unit held firm. In the very last minute of the half a clearance fell for Walker nearly twenty-five yards out but he failed to punish his old club, volleying high and wide of the target.
HALF TIME: SALFORD CITY 0 FC HALIFAX TOWN 1
Advantage Shaymen, but Salford set about the task of getting back on level terms with a fair amount of determination. Walker took a free-kick himself after being fouled by Jordan Sinnott and his delivery into the penalty area found Fraser Horsfall. The young defender got in a shot that was well saved by Johnson but the assistant had already raised his flag for offside.
Soon afterwards John Johnston whipped in a decent cross from the left but Johnston did well to take the ball cleanly despite the close attention of Phenix.
The Ammies were knocking at the door and came agonisingly close to an equaliser in the fifty-third minute. A burst of pace took Hine past Wilde on Salford’s right and his lofted cross dropped just beyond the far post. Phenix did well to bring the ball down but with no sight of goal he slid a ball left for Johnston. A pass inside made its way through to Nottingham but the defender’s usually trusty eye for goal was out just a smidgeon on this occasion as his low shot came back of the base of Johnson’s left-hand upright.
No luck in front of goal for Salford but it was their opponents who went equally close just three minutes later. A cross from the left eventually fell for Nathan Hotte and the midfielder hit a rising effort from right-of-centre that crashed against Salford’s crossbar before the loose ball was hastily cleared. Hotte had another sight of goal soon afterwards but this one deflected off a defender into the path of Scott Garner whose effort was saved by Lynch.
Kosylo chased a long ball only to denied by Lynch then hit an eighteen yarder as the visitors looked to double their lead.
This had developed into an enthralling evening at Moor Lane, with both sets of supporters in fine voice and both sides looking to get forward whenever the opportunity presented itself. With just over twenty-five minutes left Salford replaced Johnston with James Poole and the striker’s first chance came along within sixty second of his introduction. The former Hartlepool man picked up possession on the edge of the box, just left-of-centre but his effort was always rising and in the end cleared the crossbar by two or three yards.
The Ammies won a few more free-kicks and corners, with Hine throwing long but Halifax’s defence was proving a tough nut to crack. Salford also had to keep an eye on counter-attacks and midway through the second half Halifax won a corner on the left. Denton got up highest to meet that one but could only glance in a header that dropped well wide of the far stick.
The next goal could prove vital to the outcome of this tie and it very nearly went the way of The Shaymen with thirteen minutes left to play. Denton’s incisive pass played Sinnott into space on the left and he eased away from Grand before having a go from eighteen yards out and left-of-centre. It was a great chance to establish a two goal lead but Sinnott’s sights were slightly out and the low effort flashed just wide of Lynch’s left-hand upright.
That could have been serious for Salford but they were still very much in this game and with a dozen minutes to play talismanic striker Richie Allen came on for Phenix. The Ammies were piling forward now and Walker’s inswinging corner from the right dropped just outside the far post with no Salford player able to get what surely would have been a goalscoring touch.
Allen’s first contribution was almost a telling one as his left-of-centre cross from deep dropped over the Halifax defence to pick out Nottingham’s run from the right. The full-back was unopposed as he met the ball with his head but from an angle and ten yards out failed to trouble Johnston.
Salford kept going – they had little choice – but it was beginning to look as if The Shaymen would be taking one goal lead into the second leg. That unhappy situation changed with just four minutes left on the clock after Grand won possession for Salford on the left. A forward pass picked out Allen who turned the ball into the path of O'Halloran, rapidly making ground on the left. The full-back's cross to the near post was headed clear but only to the edge of the box and Grand was there again, getting up to win an aerial duel and direct a header towards the edge of the six yard box. Poole's reputation as a player who can change games is well founded and he took the deftest of touches of his chest before defying the close presence of Brown to hook in a left-footer that beat Johnston before spinning of the inside of his right-hand upright and into the net.
A nicely taken goal of real consequence and it was the turn of Salford's supporters to celebrate. They did so with enthusiasm but on the pitch Halifax had responded to being pegged back by going all out for a second goal for themselves. The visitors won a free-kick on the left, tight to the line and Denton met Sinnott’s cross with a header that was deflected for a corner. From that possession fell for David Lynch inside the box but he couldn’t keep his shot down and Salford had a pressure relieving goal-kick.
The Ammies had more defending to do after that as Garner’s crafty back-heel almost found Lynch but Horsfall was there to clear for a throw-in.
The last action of note came during time added on as Allen bundled his way past a couple of challenges on the left but ran out of space and the ball went out of play.
FULL TIME: SALFORD CITY 1 FC HALIFAX TOWN 1
Half-time in this play-off semi-final tie and all square following an entertaining evening’s football at Moor Lane. Salford probably edged it on chances but Halifax defended well and always looked capable of nicking something at the other end.
The Ammies may well think they deserve to be travelling to The Shay on Sunday with a lead but managers Anthony Johnson and Bernard Morley will be pleased with their side's general performance and response to going behind. James Poole's equaliser was very much deserved when it eventually arrived against a strong, big side who were organised and determined not to lose this game.
A little bit more luck at crucial times could have put a whole different complexion on this tie but the scores are even and despite Halifax's home advantage Salford still have a very real chance of progressing to the playoff final once again.
The character is there, the belief is there and the ability is certainly there - make sure you're there to cheer The Ammies on to what could well be another very memorable afternoon...
1) Jay Lynch
2) Michael Nottingham
3) Steve O'HALLORAN
4) Sam Walker
5) Simon Grand (c)
6) Fraser Horsfall
7) Jordan Hulme
8) John Johnston
9) Mike Phenix
10) David Norris
11) Josh Hine
12) Billy Priestley
14) Brad BARNES
15) James Poole (for JOHNSTON, 64th min)
16) Nick Haughton
17) Richie Allen (for PHENIX, 78th min)
FC HALIFAX TOWN:
1) Sam JOHNSON
2) Kevin ROBERTS (c)
3) Josh WILDE
4) Richard PENIKET
5) Nathan HOTTE
6) Matty BROWN
7) Matty KOSYLO
8) David LYNCH
9) Tom DENTON
10) Jordan SINNOTT
11) Scott GARNER
12) Steven DRENCH
14) Dion CHARLES
15) Danny HONE
16) Cliff MOYO
17) Adam MORGAN
Booked: Kosylo, Wilde
Referee: Mr. Peter GIBBONS
Assistants: Mr. Paul TOMES & Mr. Kenwyn JONES
Fourth Official: Mr. Declan BOURNE