Having lost the last two meetings against Rochdale 11-0 and 11-1 (ish) AFC certainly went in as underdogs into the North-West semi-final but Bobbins told the squad not to ‘Lose Yourself’ before kick-off. Fortunately, Ratty gave permission for his juniors to leave the house and the squad was looking a lot stronger than the previous week (not hard when you finished the game with 10 men). With Adam Probets unavailable (as he was collecting his Oscar from last week’s performance) there was a reshuffle with Josh and Wrighty as wingbacks and Adie and Cal alongside Cass in the middle. Marcus declared himself too unfit to play as wing-back and was put in the much easier position of centre-midfield allowing Fawkesy and Luders to do all his running for him.
The early stages passed with Rochdale having most of the possession but thanks to hard-work, good shape and testing pitch conditions they struggled to create much with it. Halifax’s hard-work did pay off when Fawkesy played the ball wide to Marcus who definitely didn’t mean to cross but; definitely did look up to spot the keeper off his line; definitely did notice the substitute keeper was shorter than his predecessor; definitely decided to ignore the men in the box and definitely did mean to float the ball in to the top corner past the fast back-pedalling goalkeeper. His second in as many games and Halifax had the lead thanks to Marcus’s cross.
Rochdale almost equalised from a corner but Josh was able to clear off the line and Wiggy was able to claw another shot away. Wiggy was having an excellent game- commanding his box well and with assured handling and even being brave enough to take his own goal-kicks.
After 30 minutes, Rochdale did equalise when their midfielder was able to pick up the ball on halfway and turn between the Halifax midfield and defenders ‘Like Toy Soldiers’ before being hacked down by Adie. A decision Adie didn’t take well and shouted at Lou with some real ‘Venom’ and probably did lose himself in the moment. Wiggy was sent the wrong way and it was 1-1 heading to half-time.
Bobbins was full of encouragement at half-time and made 3 changes due to the strong nature of the squad including bringing ‘Marshall Mathers’ on for his second game and what followed was ‘Criminal’.
Halifax continued to battle away although slowly beginning to tire and lose shape. Wiggy perhaps the most tired after repeatedly having to fetch another of Rochdale’s errant strikes. Meanwhile, a sideshow was going on with Graeme becoming increasingly frustrated with a game that he was far too good for as he strolled round midfield like Jan Molby in his pomp (despite being asked to play up-front). After squaring up to Luders, sending Cas ‘Stir Crazy’ and not being a ‘Role Model’ to the juniors- Bobbins told him to ‘Calm Down’ or be subbed back off. He didn’t calm down. He was subbed off. He didn’t calm down. He argued. He was asked to leave. He didn’t. He was told to leave. He didn’t. He argued. He left. Shame. ‘The Real Slim Shady’ most certainly didn’t stand up.
Rochdale had their chances and struck the post before the ball fell back into the grateful arms of Wiggy but for the most part Halifax’s back 5 played expertly with Cas and Cal making a number of crucial blocks and Adie more than making up for his ‘Guilty conscience’ from the first half. AFC almost retook the lead when Pecky curled one just wide from the edge of the box.
With increasingly tired bodies and the clock in the red, AFC were able to force a final corner. Fawkesy sent it to the back-post where Bealesy, despite being the height of a ‘Mockingbird’, rose like ‘Superman’ and headed it in off the far post. Cue bedlam and Bealesy spending the rest of the day walking round like Conor McGregor.
Rochdale did find time to find the net when a ball across the box was turned in at the back post only for the sight of Wrighty with his flag in the air to send Rochdale ‘Berzerk’. There was almost time for Nathan to claim a third, but his shot was well-saved, and AFC were able to see out the remaining seconds and advance to the final. A great win and an unforgettable game. A brilliant performance by all but especially the defence and Wiggy all who put their bodies on the line, including Josh who gets better with every game and ran himself into the ground. Onto the final!
AFC are also in action this coming Saturday where they play a Chorley team that represent diversity in the community at the Lancashire FA HQ before heading to the Town game.
Read more posts by AFC Halifax