FC Halifax Town were denied a third straight win as leaders Macclesfield Town came from behind to beat the Shaymen in an engaging Boxing Day contest at the Moss Rose.
Tom Denton, for the second game running, gave Town an early lead but late goals at the end of each half from Danny Whitehead and Tyrone Marsh highlighted the home sides’ genuine promotion credentials as they turned the encounter on its head.
Despite being the second of four games in ten days over this busy Christmas and New Year period, Billy Heath named an unchanged starting eleven from the side that superbly trounced Chester on Saturday.
But Denton’s eleventh minute opener came against the run of play after a bright start from the home side. John Askey had also named the same side that drew 1-1 with Bromley at the weekend as the leaders looked to extend their unbeaten run to eight games.
And their intent was evident as Scott Wilson skipped past Cliff Moyo inside three minutes only to produce a deep cross which evaded everyone in a blue shirt.
Town’s right-back then had to be alert to make an inch-perfect block on Marsh after the striker was played in courtesy of a sublime pass by Scott Burgess. Scott Garner also had to be at his best seconds later to deny Wilson firing a shot at goal.
But for all their early dominance inside the opening ten minutes, the Silkmen found themselves behind as the Shaymen broke the deadlock thanks to Denton’s ninth of the season.
And it all stemmed, initially, from a trademark Josh Macdonald run. The former Marske United winger was in scintillating form against Chester at the weekend and he easily sprinted past left-back David Fitzpatrick to win Town’s first corner of the game. Shwan Jalal could only flap at the resulting set-piece, allowing Danny Clarke to win a free kick on the by-line. Jake Hibbs, starting his fifth consecutive game after being frozen out for the majority of the campaign, took control and his delicious delivery was simply headed in by Denton.
The goal appeared to spring the Shaymen into life and Denton, buoyed by a second goal in as many games, tried to ambitiously flick Macdonald’s low cross past Jalal but he failed to get a significant connection.
Town’s top goalscorer did have the ball in the back of the net again on 17 minutes after a great cross from Moyo but the whistle had already been blown by referee Peter Gibbons for a perceived foul by Denton.
Halifax had, arguably, produced their finest football of the season in that opening first half against strugglers Chester, and another eye-catching move nearly extended their lead at Moss Rose. Hibbs linked up well with Denton, who found Macdonald on the right who then teed up Hibbs but his scuffed effort was easy for Jalal.
Jalal was then in the right place at the right time to save a fierce Clarke drive before Denton, with the goal at his mercy, fluffed the chance to make it 2-0 following a Macdonald cross, missing the ball altogether from merely eight yards out.
Town, seemingly, were in the ascendancy but they could not grab what probably would have been a decisive second. And they were made to pay in injury-time at the end of the first half when the Silkmen equalised.
To be fair, although ultimately immensely fortunate, Macclesfield’s goal came after they fired several warning shots at the Town defence.
Wilson had a looping header correctly ruled out for offside after good work by Marsh and Danny Whitaker before Matty Brown, who had just received a booking, nearly sent a diving header into his own net.
Marsh then blazed over after a sumptuous through-ball from Burgess. And although Macdonald came quite close at the other end, Macclesfield got back on level terms with virtually the last kick of the half after Whitehead’s long-range effort was agonisingly deflected past a helpless Sam Johnson.
Any other side may have been left despondent from the nature – and timing – of Macc’s leveller but Heath’s men are in high spirits this festive season. And, just 26 seconds into the second half, they nearly regained their lead. Macdonald, not for the first time during the afternoon’s proceedings, scampered clear down the right and his cross was neatly headed into the path of Denton but his attempt was hacked off the line after Jalal was beaten.
Johnson’s only action of the first half was to pick Whitehead’s fortuitous effort out of the net but he had to fling himself to his left on 48 minutes to keep the score at 1-1. Whitaker’s free kick was laid off to Whitehead but, instead of shooting himself, he allowed Burgess to have a go from 25 yards, but Johnson, spectacularly, was equal to it. Ryan Lloyd, who scored in the Silkmen’s 1-1 draw at Bromley on Saturday, then forced a smart save out of Johnson from the resulting corner.
The home fans demanded Garner to be shown a red card for a handball with Macclesfield on the attack with twenty minutes remaining, before McManus, with three goals in his previous three outings, was replaced by Ben Tomlinson.
The changed seemed to give the visitors more vigour and purpose and a cross from the left was glanced narrowly wide by the head of Garner.
Moyo then tussled with Wilson when the former Eastleigh man, who netted a hat-trick in Macclesfield’s last match at Moss Rose in the 4-1 win against Wrexham, was through on goal but, again with the home supporters insisting on a free kick, referee Mr Gibbons waved play on.
The game had a real ebb-and-flow to it and Hibbs did fantastically well to set up Clarke on the edge of the box but he was denied a second goal of the campaign after a brave block.
The winning goal arrived with twelve minutes left as Marsh’s brilliant header from a left-wing cross found the bottom corner.
Unsurprisingly, Town rallied as they tried to force what would have been a deserved equaliser. A fizzing Moyo cross missed everyone before substitute Tomlinson and Moyo both had efforts blocked by a battling home defence.
And the Shaymen thought they had nicked a point right at the death but Denton’s header – which got a touch from Tomlinson – was ruled out, much to the frustration of the Town players, bench and supporters who return to West Yorkshire empty handed.
Macclesfield: Jalal, Hodgkiss, Kennedy, Whitaker, Lowe, Fitzpatrick, Lloyd, Whitehead, Burgess (Durrell 65), Marsh, Wilson (Hancox 84)
Subs not used: Ramsbottom, Pilkington, Arthur
Goalscorers: Whitehead (45), Marsh (78)
FC Halifax Town: Johnson, Moyo, Garner, Brown (C), Wilde, Collins, Macdonald, Hibbs, Clarke (Waring 88), McManus (Tomlinson 69), Denton
Subs not used: Nicholson, Duckworth, Oliver
Goalscorer: Denton (11)
Referee: Peter Gibbons
Town Man of the Match: Jake Hibbs
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