In the first of two games against the Quakers (the reverse fixture at the Shay on New Year’s Day), goals in the opening exchanges of both halves were enough for Darlington to seal the points, despite debutant Adam Morgan netting twice for the Shaymen in bizarre circumstances.
With both teams looking for their first win in seven games ( the last being a 2-0 victory at home to Kidderminster) this was always going to be a close encounter.
With severe weather conditions disrupting many parts of the country on a cold Boxing Day, the wind was a major talking point pre-match amongst supporters and media alike, with the corner flags remaining at a 60-degree angle for the majority of the game.
Many diagonal balls attempted from both sides either sailed past their intended target or took a lifetime to come back down.
Drench’s clearances in the early stages of the second half (shooting into the wind) epitomised this, so keeping the ball low or on the floor was a primary objective.
On top of the difficult conditions, Town were forced into last minute alterations to the line-up, with Liam King and Danny Clarke out with a virus and Jake Hibbs pulling up in a fitness test prior to kick-off meaning Cliff Moyo occupied midfield alongside David Lynch.
Darlington supporters crammed 3,000 into their new stadium Blackwell Meadows and the crowd got an early cheer in the clubs first game in their hometown for 4 1/2 years – breaking the deadlock inside 9 minutes.
Tom Denton was caught out from a Terry Galbraith cross as his defensive header was mistimed and landed to Mark Beck at the back who was unmarked to tap home his 10th goal of the season.
Halifax picked themselves up and created the best of the chances in the first half.
Matty Kosylo was one of the most influential players for Town in the opening 45 and almost produced a goal of the season contender, when he spotted Jameson off his line. The winger fooled everyone with his 40 yard free-kick that was rifled towards the top corner rather than a standard floating delivery to intended teammates – but the Darlington keeper was quick to react and caught well.
Jameson was called into action against Kosylo 10 minutes from the break. Another set-piece, this time 25 yards out, took an aggressive dip over the wall but the keeper did well to deny Kosylo finding the bottom left corner.
Despite a number of good saves- in particular from Josh Wilde’s 35 yard effort in the build-up to Town’s equaliser, Jameson left the field at half-time sparing his blushes after gifting Adam Morgan his first goal for the club.
Morgan’s effort from the edge of the box was struck well but straight at Jameson, however the keeper spilled and could only watch the ball drop into the goal.
The new signing’s goal means it’s the 4th player to score for Town on their debut this season (Denton, Sinnott and Simmons prior).
The second half brought a similar scenario to the first. This time however it resulted in two goals conceded by Town inside 10 minutes. Beck struck his 2nd of the afternoon on 50 minutes, pouncing onto Galbraith’s low delivery before controlling and slotting it past Drench into the far right corner from close-range.
Darlington piled on the pressure and added a third five minutes later. Town failed to clear their lines from a free-kick on the right and Josh Gillies made sure to punish them with an emphatic finish from just outside the box that found the bottom corner.
The chances were limited in the second half until the final 20 minutes – Morgan and Peniket had shots in quick succession blocked in their path on the hour mark after a great lay off by Denton.
Peniket, who returned to the side following concussion he suffered in the Eastleigh replay, forced Jameson to tip his strike over the bar.
Beck and Gillies both had chances to add to their goals – the latter seeing his curled effort swerve marginally wide of the right post.
The final seconds of the game saw another bizarre lapse in concentration from Jameson. Morgan attempted to chip the keeper from just outside the box- the keeper scrambled to collect the ball, fell into the goal and in turn brought the ball with him. The keeper threw the ball out of the goal before he hit the ground but the linesman was aware it had crossed the line.
Unfortunately, there was no time to create an opportunity to snatch a point, meaning the result puts Halifax Town six points adrift of the play-off positions with two games in hand.
The Shaymen round off 2016 in disappointing form, and will go into the New Year’s day’s reverse fixture with Darlington hoping to end this disappointing run of results.
Read more posts by Kelly Gilchrist