FC Halifax Town head into Sunday’s play-off encounter at the R Costings Abbey Stadium with a slender lead to protect thanks to a Lee Gregory’s late penalty which sealed a 1-0 victory over Cambridge United.
The Shaymen are now 90 minutes away from a trip to Wembley to contest the Skrill Conference Premier Play-off Final against either Grimsby Town or Gateshead on Sunday 18th May. However after another clean sheet and a man of the match winning display, defender Marc Roberts reminds us that at this point the job is only half done: “Yeah we’re over the moon. We knew they’d come with a game plan to be solid and they wouldn’t have wanted to concede, so they’ll be disappointed. It is only half-time so we still have a long time to go but hopefully we can finish the job on Sunday.”
The match was a tense affair for long periods, and with opportunities to break the deadlock at a premium, both sides remained tight defensively throughout and as a result Town secured a vital clean sheet to give them the advantage going into Sunday: “We didn’t want to concede today that was the main thing, we knew we’d score as we’ve scored in every game at home bar one, so we knew we’d score if we could keep a solid base and thankfully we’ve got Greggs to go and score us a goal. I think Sunday will be a completely different game but I think we’ll be confident going into it and we just want to keep clean sheets and give Greggs the base to score goals and hopefully we can win the game again.”
As Roberts alludes to, only Braintree Town have prevented The Shaymen from scoring on home turf this season and a lot of that is down to talisman and top scorer Lee Gregory who scored his 32nd goal in all competitions on Wednesday night. When he stepped up to take the spot-kick in the 83rd minute, Roberts admits that he had no doubt Gregory would score: “I don’t think it was ever in doubt he’d score, I think everybody in the stadium will have been confident of Lee Gregory scoring and you wouldn’t have wanted anyone else taking it.”
As a result of the formidable partnership Roberts has formed with Chris Smith in the heart of Neil Aspin’s defence, Simon Ainge has had to wait patiently on the sidelines despite a thoroughly impressive season for the defender. Roberts sympathises with his former partner in crime but believes the quality of options on the bench is an indication of how strong the squad is despite its size: “He’s been very unlucky, I don’t really know what to say about it because he’s a great lad and it’s a shame for him to miss out. We’ve only got a small squad but it shows the strength we do have in the squad that he has to miss out. Everyone is together still and he will be there if needed.”
Over 3,500 supporters packed into The Shay on Wednesday night to witness the final home match of the season, and the atmosphere reflected that as the both sets of supporters created an electricity that surrounded the pitch from start to finish. The former Buxton man believes this contributed to the team as they kept plugging away to find the winner: “It was the best atmosphere so far. The Luton game was good but the fans took the roof off tonight so credit to them, they’ve been the 12th man when we’ve needed them. Even when it was tight I think they pushed us over the line.”
The Shaymen faithful are sure to be on the road to Cambridge ready to provide another brilliant atmosphere for their team on Sunday, knowing what the reward will be if Town avoid defeat on the day. However the 23-year-old states that Wembley dreams must be put on hold as the match Sunday has to be the focus: “We can’t start thinking about it yet, there’s still one game to go so we’ve just got to concentrate on that. Hopefully we can win that we can play at Wembley, I think all the lads dream of playing there and you don’t get many chances at playing there.”
The match will kick-off at 13:30 at the Abbey Stadium on Sunday afternoon and will televised live on BT Sport.
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