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Posted by Adam Cheshire
Posted on Tue 8 Aug 2017
Posted in Match Report

FC Halifax Town held on for their first point of the season following a gritty contest with Barrow AFC, who will feel that they did enough to claim all three points.

That was largely due to the heroics of Sam Johnson who produced a number of fine saves to keep the home side at bay, who completely dominated the first half.

The Shaymen improved in the second period and had chances of their own to steal a victory but Johnson still had to be at his best for Town to keep a hard-earned clean sheet.

Both managers, after opening day defeats, admitted that their sides needed to learn quickly from their mistakes, and it seemed, for large parts in the first 45 minutes, that it was Barrow who had applied that message.

Billy Heath, who promised that every single player would get their chance during the course of the campaign after the defeat against Aldershot, made three changes from that side with Martin Riley and Bohan Dixon both being handed their debuts, along with Dion Charles playing alongside Tom Denton in a 3-5-2 formation.

The first real chance of note fell to Barrow’s right-wing-back Jack Barthram – who proved to be a constant thorn in Town’s side throughout the entire half – but his sliced 20-yard volley comfortably flew over the bar after a couple of towering defensive headers by Matty Brown.

Home side captain Asa Hall then tried his luck from even further out, but his fizzing drive missed the top corner by inches with Johnson beaten.

Another chance quickly followed for AFC after Bedsente Gomis turned smartly on the edge of the box but his shot was deflected wide.

Gomis then had a half-shout for a penalty after a tussle with Riley before the pair had a more dramatic collision moments later. Gomis played an excellent one-two with Dan Jones before he was hacked down by Riley who was not only shown a yellow card but hobbled off the pitch to be replaced by former Barrow striker Ben Tomlinson – who scored for Barrow in the last visit Town made to Cumbria in 2016.

Jordan White’s resulting free-kick, however, sailed way over the bar. But still the chances came for the home side.

The next guilt-edged chance, however, was created by Town’s own-doing. Connor Oliver’s attempted back-pass was left by Brown but Adi Yussuf was lurking dangerously and was only denied by Johnson’s quick-thinking and reflexes.

Barthram then headed wide from within the six yard box when it appeared easier to score before Town, who had offered no threat at the other end, suddenly sprang into action. Brown intercepted a Barrow attack and confidently found Tom Denton who cleverly flicked the ball out to the left for Dion Charles. The Fleetwood loanee then spread the ball to the other side allowing Connor Oliver to drive forward before the former North Ferriby man saw a vicious angled-shot crash back off the crossbar.

That was as good as it got for Town in the first half as normal service resumed shortly afterwards as Jimmy Dunne’s header from a corner fell kindly into the arms of a relieved Johnson.

Alex-Ray Harvey then skilfully found the marauding Barthram but he could only lash the loose ball into the side-netting as Barrow searched for the opening goal which their first half performance deserved.

And they were nearly rewarded in the half’s final moments but Johnson was at his expert best to deny Yussuf’s low effort.

Heath sent his players out for the second half a couple of minutes before the home side and it seemed his half-time team-talk was ringing in their ears as they recommenced with more vigour and a sense of purpose.

The resurgence commenced with Tomlinson quickly escaping down the right before he cut the ball back to the edge of the area where Oliver was waiting but his shot was always rising over the bar.

Charles then beat the offside trap and, like Shamir Fenelon for Aldershot on Saturday, rounded the goalkeeper but there wasn’t a happy ending on this occasion from an attacking perspective as Barthram proved his worth defensively to stop the ball from going over the line.

The visitors were suddenly in the ascendancy and another chance followed from a free kick in a central position but Oliver, for the third time on the evening’s proceedings, was off target.

The home side, evidently shocked after their supreme dominance in the opening period, made a change in the 68th minute and it nearly proved instantly decisive.

Dan Cockerline came on to replace White for his home debut and it was nearly a home debut to remember as, with his first touch, he connected with a right-wing cross but Johnson was in the right place to superbly deny the substitute.

Another substitution soon followed as Liam Hughes came on for the effective Barthram and, when Duckworth made a rash tackle on Cockerline, Hughes’ fierce free kick, not for the first time, produced a fine response, tipping the ball over the bar.

The chances for both sides dried up in the tense, latter stages until deep into injury time when Town almost produced the ultimate sucker punch but Matty Kosylo  and Michael Duckworth couldn’t produce the final effective product, as both sides had to settle for a point.

Barrow AFC: Moore, Dunne, Diarra, Nieskens, Barthram (Hughes 73), Jones, Harvey (Bauress 85), Hall (C), Gomis, White (Cockerline 68), Yussuf

Subs not used: Audel, Panayiotou

Town: Johnson, Riley (Tomlinson 17 (Kosylo 82)), Garner, Brown (C), Duckworth, Wilde, Hotte, Dixon, Oliver, Charles, Denton,

Subs not used: Nicholson, McManus, Morgan

Attendance: 1410 (76 from Halifax)

Referee: S Lucas

Town Man of the Match: Sam Johnson

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