FC Halifax Town waved goodbye to 2017 by securing a point on the white cliffs of Dover in the Vanarama National League.
Sam Johnson came to the rescue for Billy Heath’s men, who finished the match with 10 men when Danny Clarke was sent off, with a string of essential save which kept the game goalless.
There were no goals to reward those Shaymen fans who followed their side down the length of the country, but in the grand schemes of things, they will be content with an important point against the promotion chasing club.
With a 3rd clean sheet in 4 games, following those collected against Aldershot Town and Chester, Heath will be praying 2018 sees his team regain the defensive solidity they exhibited earlier on in the campaign, and the vital points that come along with that.
It took over half an hour for the first clear cut chance of the game, and if you blinked, you would have missed the second one not long afterwards.
Dover captain Mitch Brundle attempted to test Johnson with a long-range effort, but the Town shot stopper was able to palm it away momentarily.
The league’s joint top goal scorer, Ryan Bird, tried his best to turn in the rebound but the number 1 was again on hand to throw himself in front of the ball, robbing Bird of his 14th strike of the campaign.
Jake Hibbs’ could have punished the hosts for their lack of clinical finishing at the other end just before the break, when he appeared to be clean through. However, a last-ditch block by Connor Essam ensured the teams would be level at half time.
The second 45 minutes remained essentially the same as first, with the home side enjoying the best of the football on offer. Despite this, they struggled to create chances just as much as their visitor’s due to the organisation on show by Town.
The biggest cheer of the game came for Ben Tomlinson, when he fixed the goal when the net somehow disconnected from the stanchion, pushing aside the multiple Dover players who struggled with the task.
Hibbs was involved again, this time at the other end, as his poor headed clearance rolled into the path of Bird, who let fly a rasping strike just outside the area that looked almost certain of beating Johnson. Fortunately, it also beat the post, going just wide.
The referee was heavily involved in this encounter, which was threatening to reach boiling point at times, with hard tackles flying in by players on either side.
Some pushing and shoving involving Danny Clarke and Femi Ilesanmi, saw the two players receive a yellow card despite Clarke initially being fouled by the Dover left back.
If there were any arguments with the Town midfielder’s first booking, there was no disagreeing with the referee’s decision to give the number 18 his matching orders following a late challenge.
Some of the players in white felt Hibbs should have also seen a red card, after his heavy tackle on Giancarlo Gallifuoco midway through the second half. But, only a yellow card was waved in the direction of the midfielder, much to the annoyance of the Dover players surrounding the official.
That was it for chances bar one at the death. A Dover corner nearly curled towards the goal, but Johnson was able to get back and crawl the ball away before it crossed the line, despite shouts from around the Crabble indicating that they felt it was a goal.
Halifax hung onto a point, enough to guarantee a long but happy trip home back to West Yorkshire.
Dover Athletic: 1 Mitch Walker, 2 Josh Passley, 3 Femi Ilesanmi, 4 Giancarlo Gallifuoco, 5 Manny Parry, 6 Connor Essam, 8 Mitch Brundle ©, 11 Mitch Pinnock (19 James Alabi, 75′), 17 Ryan Bird, 18 Nortei Nortey (28 Liam Bellamy, 81′), 25 Anthony Jeffrey (23 Kadell Daniel, 11′).
Unused Subs: 12 Loui Fazakerley, 23 Kadell Daniel, 27 Aziz Deen-Conteh.
FC Halifax Town: 1 Sam Johnson, 2 Cliff Moyo, 3 Josh Wilde, 6 Scott Garner, 9 Tom Denton, 11 Scott
McManus (14 Ben Tomlinson, 55′), 15 Josh MacDonald, 18 Danny Clarke, 20 Jake Hibbs, 22 Michael Collins,
39 Michael Duckworth
Unused Subs: 10 Connor Oliver, 13 Tom Nicholson, 16 Adam Morgan, 38 George Waring
Yellow Cards: Clarke (2), Ilesanmi, Parry, Denton, Hibbs
Red Cards: Clarke
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