FC Halifax Town once again moved into the play-off places after a convincing 2-0 defeat of high-flying Alfreton Town at The Shay on Monday night. A brace from Lee Gregory sealed the three points but it was the manner of the team performance that was so impressive in a match that saw every man put in a good display.
From back to front The Shaymen were solid, Simon Ainge and Marc Roberts were imperious in defence and in front of them the midfield trio of Lois Maynard, Matty Pearson and Paul Marshall were as dynamic as they were composed in dominating the centre of the park. Marshall himself was delighted with the three points and the manner of the victory: “I thought the lads played really well today, I thought we deserved the win. We did really well to keep the clean sheet as well and I thought everyone was excellent, especially the defence. Everybody worked hard today, we all knew what we were up against. Alfreton are having a good season and we just knew we had to be at it from the start and I think we were.”
The visitors lined up with a team full of height and power and from the first whistle were physical in their approach. The team managed to deal with this however and caused problems of their own to Alfreton who struggled to deal with the hosts, especially in the first half: “The lads knew what we were up against, they were always going to be physical Alfreton. The way they play is awkward to play against, it’s not pretty and it is long ball all game so we knew what we were up against and I think we dealt with it well.”
As the BT cameras panned across the home dressing room after the match it made for better viewing for Shaymen fans than it did in their previous televised encounter against Chester. Instead of an apoplectic Neil Aspin we saw a team in high spirits, rightfully delighted with their nights work. After four consecutive wins however it is hardly surprising that confidence is flowing through the team: “The lads are buzzing, we’ve been playing well and we’ve been enjoying it. It’s always good to be winning games so it’s always going to help the mood.”
As for Marshall, the former Manchester City trainee provided the assist for Gregory’s second with a wonderfully measured ball that was whipped across the six yard box and the club’s top scorer couldn’t miss as the ball flew into the roof of the net. The 24-year-old has been near his creative best over the last few weeks and he highlights the connection between himself and his midfield partners as a reason for this: “In the last few games I’ve set ‘Greggers’ up a few times, there were a couple against Hyde as well. I think at the moment in midfield me, Matty and Lois are working well together and it allows me to get forward at times and we do rotate so hopefully I can create more goals.”
There have been periods throughout the campaign where Marshall has struggled to cement a place in Neil Aspin’s eleven but since the January departure of Dan Gardner to Chesterfield more opportunities have afforded themselves to other squad players to stake their claim for a starting berth.
Since the former Walsall man has come into the team The Shaymen have won four matches back to back but this is something he is happy to attribute to the whole team and chalk down as coincidence, although it hasn’t gone unnoticed to himself: “Well you could say it is a coincidence couldn’t you? But not really I think the lads have been playing well all season. Some games we’ve unlucky but I think at home we’ve been class all season. If you’re counting though we beat Salisbury when I came into the team then we lost at Chester so it is actually five in six and I’ll take that.”
Josh Wilson will finally return from his suspension at the weekend but Marshall won’t be prepared to surrender his place in the team as he continues to make himself a big part of Aspin’s plans going into the crucial run of fixtures towards end the season. He admits he is pleased with his form and the spell in the team he has merited as a result: “Definitely, like I say I think I’m playing well at the moment and so are the rest of the lads and we’re getting the results which is the most important thing.”
On the night Lee Gregory displayed a real captain’s performance as he led from the front from the first whistle, scoring twice and performing brilliantly in his lone striker role. This is becoming business as usual though for the Skrill Premier’s joint top scorer who now has 26 league goals for the season: “He’s been class this season, he always pops up with a goal when we’ve needed him and tonight he’s scored two important goals for us.”
Having dispatched of third placed Alfreton, a sterner test awaits The Shaymen on Saturday as they host league leaders Luton Town who sit 14 points clear at the top of the table and haven’t lost on their travels since September. Similarly though Halifax have only been defeated once on home soil and Marshall says the team are relishing the opportunity to face up against the division’s top side: “The mood is good in the camp and everybody is up for it, we’ve got a great squad of players and we’re confident that on our day we can beat anybody.”
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