FC Halifax Town hold an advantage heading into the second leg of the play-off semi-final, as they face Cambridge United at the R Costing Abbey Stadium on Sunday.
Lee Gregory scored the only goal in the first leg at The Shay on Wednesday night, converting from the penalty spot after Matty Pearson had been pulled to the ground by Josh Coulson.
Neil Aspin’s side are 90 minutes away from a possible trip to Wembley, but Halifax winger, Adam Smith, insists that the club are still yet to make the final, with the job only half done.
He said: “Having the goal advantage, it is now in our hands, but we are only at half time really. It’s like going into the second half 1-0 up. In the second half things can change, and we will remember that. We need to be focused and tuned in to the job at hand.”
The players and fans alike were ecstatic after the final whistle in the first leg, but that enjoyment did not last long, as the focus was immediately moved onto Sunday’s fixture down at East Anglia.
“Everyone was pleased; everyone was happy. We were calm after we had a shower and what have you. We enjoyed it for half hour or so, but at the same time, it is only half of the job done.
“It will be a nervous game. It will be tense because no one will want to make a mistake. Although the nerves will be high, hopefully they will settle down during the game.”
He added: “It will be tough. With our 1-0 lead, they will be looking to come out and try and do something to try and get into the final. They will come out looking for a couple of goals to try and go through. They will really come at us.”
Cambridge have lost their last five consecutive games on the bounce and have failed to have scored in every one of them. Smith does not see this as a problem for the hosts, as they will be aware that whatever they do, they need to score. For himself and his team-mates, they need to try and stop that from happening.
“It is different when it comes to the semi-finals and the final. Within the performances, people do not want to make mistakes. The games are usually tighter and less mistakes. So the way the game panned out, was exactly what I expected. I’ve played in semi-finals before and in games like this, and they normally are very tight.
“They are lacking a bit of confidence at the minute. I’ve been there before when you’re about to play a team that is doing well and you’re confidence is low. It is not a nice place to be. It is a crucial time as well, to take that confidence into the game to try and stretch our season even more. It is fortunate for us that they have been losing games, and it is fortunate for us with our current form, and have a nice run of results.”
Halifax have the lead to protect going into the second leg, but Smith wants the players to play their usual game, the same that earned the victory on Wednesday.
“I think that we should go there and play our normal game. Hopefully we can get the win, but even a draw can still take us into the final. On a personal level, I just want to go through. I’m hoping that we can get at least a draw. My personal goal is to get through.”
Last time round at Abbey Road, Halifax were crippled by The U’s with the score finishing 5-1. Both Danny Lowe and Matty Glennon were sent off within the first 22 minutes, but Smith insists that the players are focused on the present, ignoring the defeats from the past.
“We forgot about that, like a lifetime ago. It was the manner as well of the way that it came, I mean we were actually 1-0 up before we had Danny Lowe sent off. You then had the penalty, and then we went down to nine men. Away from home, with only nine men, it may have been the biggest defeat of the season, but at one point we were 1-0 up.”
Sunday will see Halifax play their third game in just over a week, meaning that fatigue could be due to set in during the 90 minutes. However, as revealed by Smith, it is not the fitness levels that help the players; it’s adrenaline.
“I think that it is adrenaline that gets you through it. With the game on Wednesday night, I weren’t tired until the morning after. I also felt bruises and knocks that I didn’t know that I had picked up. It is not until the adrenaline settles down until you feel it. I don’t think that fatigue will affect the game, no.”
The Shaymen have one game standing in their way of making Wembley. 90 minutes will be set to define the season, one that has had many shocks but many unbelievable moments all the same. For Smith, only one game is on his mind, and in one place – Cambridge. However, if Halifax do make the final, he admitted that he would like to face The Mariners.
“Even though I do believe that we can make the final, Wembley has not crossed my mind yet. It is Cambridge that are on my mind at the minute, Sunday is the game for me,” he said.
“I think that I would prefer to play against Grimsby. They would take a few more fans and I think I would prefer to play against a few more fans. They will have a packed-out fan base, they would take a lot more and it would be a better atmosphere. Also, the fact that we have beaten them twice already just gives that extra bit of confidence. They have not scored passed us either, so we’ve played against them twice and have not conceded.”
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