Scott McManus’ first-half strike fired FC Halifax Town to a memorable 1-0 victory against promotion-chasing Aldershot Town at EBB Stadium.
Shots keeper Lewis Ward’s crucial error allowed McManus to convert heading into half-time, before a tenacious second-half defensive stand saw Billy Heath’s Shaymen earn a priceless victory to end their winless run in the National League.
The Shaymen impressed in the opening exchanges, pinning Aldershot into their own half as Halifax looked to hand The Shots a first home defeat in three months.
Despite the West Yorkshire side’s immediate pressure, Aldershot fought their way into the contest – Bobby-Joe Taylor curling a speculative long-range effort inches wide of the rooted Sam Johnson’s right-side post to give Town an early scare.
Taylor continued to cause problems for the away defence, bursting into space down the left flank before seeing his far-post cross headed behind from close-range by the stretching Bernard Mensah.
Halifax answered back with a pair of chances themselves, firstly seeing Danny Clarke’s fierce strike from the edge of the box sting the hands of Shots keeper Ward. Seconds later, Connor Oliver’s one-two combination with Tranmere loanee George Waring nearly picked apart Aldershot’s defence before the home side expertly cleared under heavy pressure.
Jake Hibbs’ soaring header nearly caught out a dozing Aldershot defence as Halifax peppered their opponents’ goalmouth with a sea of early opportunities.
Rallied on by a capacity crowd at the EBB Stadium, Aldershot battled back with a number of searching balls over the top of the Town defence, nearly unleashing the onrushing Jim Kellerman through on goal in an evenly-contested opening 20 minutes.
Oliver’s 25-yard free-kick forced Ward into a smart save as both teams exchanged attacks – neither side settling for a dreary draw in a back-and-forth battle between two outfits at contrasting ends of the table.
A relentless attacking duel eventually gave way to a period of indecisiveness from both teams – slowing the tempo as each side looked to protect their clean sheet as half-time ticked closer.
The ever-involved Oliver nearly fired Town ahead in spectacular style, volleying a first-time strike narrowly above the crossbar from Hibbs’ corner to cap a strong first-half showing from the tenacious Town.
Shots top-scorer Shamir Fenelon – a late replacement for attacker Matt McClure – drilled in a pin-point cross that somehow evaded a crucial touch as the momentum gradually shifted in favour of the playoff-battling side.
Just as Halifax began to find themselves on the back foot, a slice of luck earned The Shaymen a priceless advantage with minutes remaining in the first-half. Waring’s marvellous lofted through ball looked to have been too long for the chasing McManus, before a disastrous miss-kick from Ward allowed the Town midfielder to tap into the empty net as Halifax snatched a pivotal lead that a strong performance deserved.
The shell-shocked Aldershot looked to answer back, but the frustrated Kellerman couldn’t convert with a far-post header as The Shaymen retired to the half-time dressing room with a crucial one-goal advantage.
Halifax weathered the Aldershot storm to begin the second-half, hoping to soak up the home side’s fervent pressure and pounce on the counter attack as The Shots piled players forward.
Having supplied the delivery for Town’s first goal, Waring nearly engineered The Shaymen’s second – wriggling away from pressure but being unable to find space to shoot as Aldershot survived another defensive scare.
Spear-headed by lethal forward threat Kellerman, the home side charged back as the Shots frontman laced a by-line strike into the arms of the stretching Johnson as Town faced further pressure at the back.
A revitalised Halifax continued to show their prowess on the afternoon, bombing forward through Waring before the advancing striker was denied a near-post header by a last-gasp clearance from the Aldershot back-line.
Refusing to give-in, Kellerman furthered his search for an Aldershot equaliser – rifling a powerful salvo just wide as The Shots pushed and probed in their quest for a leveller.
Leading by example, a brilliant clearing header from the diving Scott Garner blocked a menacing near-post cross as Halifax looked to muster up every ounce of strength needed to keep hold of their slender lead.
A heart-in-mouth moment saw Mensah clipped by the trailing leg of Town’s Danny Clarke in the area, seeing the former tumble to the ground in search of a spot-kick – only for the referee to wave away loud appeals for a penalty as Halifax escaped again at the back.
The determined Shaymen stood resolute defensively once again, throwing bodies in front of James Rowe’s goalbound effort to keep Aldershot at bay heading into the final 10 minutes.
Relentless waves of attacking pressure saw Aldershot laying siege to the Halifax 18-yard box, firing in cross after cross without success as The Shaymen ushered away every dangerous ball with relative ease. Three straight clearances from the towering Town skipper Matty Brown cemented Halifax’s hopes of clinging on to a vital victory.
Despite Aldershot’s immense late efforts to steal a point, a heroic defensive stand saw Halifax hold on to earn a sensational victory as The Shaymen headed home with all three points.
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