A penalty, dreadful errors, goal mouth scrambles, tasty challenges, yellow cards, a red card and a half-time lesson in defending from John Barker. This match had it all.
Fresh off the heels of “A Kind of Magic” away performance and victory over Hull, AFC Halifax made the relatively short trip to Salford on Saturday 8thDecember to play Manchester United Supporters. Spirits were high before the game, although the pre-match warm up may have been slightly more fruitful had just one of the AFC Halifax players remembered to bring a football.
AFC started with just 10 regulars, with the numbers being made up by juniors Lewis, Nathan and Cass who continued with their impressive transition into the open age team. Also joining the squad was Dave Banks, making his second appearance having managed just two injury free minutes against Preston early in the season.
Marcus was making his 100th appearance for AFC Halifax and was rewarded as honorary captain for the day. ‘Being captain means you don’t criticise your team mates’ he was helpfully told by Barker before the game. Words Marcus managed to hold well until about 5 minutes into the first half when he forgot them in a “Flash”.
United got into their stride straight from the kick off and had the better of the possession in the early stages without really threatening the Halifax goal. The Halifax defence would go on to find themselves “Under Pressure” for much of the first half but held firm with Cassius displaying his future potential with a resolute performance alongside seasoned veterans Barker, Casalino, Blackburn and Adam Probets in the Halifax backline. They were helped by a man of the match display from Harry in the Halifax goal, and on one occasion the woodwork came to Halifax’s aid following an excellent driven 20-yard effort from United’s target man.
United though did not have it all their own way and were made to pay for failing to capitalise on their possession when Halifax made the “Breakthru” around the half hour mark. United failed to clear their lines and the ball fell to Marcus, who elected to pass the ball to the United keeper rather than have a shot. Unfortunately for United the keeper was “Going Slightly Mad” and the slow-moving ball somehow went through his body and ended up in the back of the net.
United were visibly frustrated and came back strong, but Halifax stayed organised and looked good to go into half-time with their lead intact. But just before the interval, the tricky United right winger weaved his way into the Halifax penalty area. “Don’t Stop Me Now” he must have been thinking before being scythed down by Marcus, who insisted he got the ball. The referee was having none of it however and didn’t hesitate to award a penalty.
Matty Blackburn picked up the first booking of the game for unsporting behaviour for repetitively telling goalkeeper Harry that the United player was going to place his penalty to Harry’s right. This didn’t deter the penalty taker however, who dispatched the penalty and the re-take awarded by the referee. Which way did he go? On neither occasion did he go the way Blackburn had suggested.
The massage from Barker at half time was that with a bit more positivity, we could really give United something to think about. He changed formation to 4-4-2, with youngsters Lewis and Nathan taking it in turns to partner Rambo up front.
Halifax had “One Vision” when the game re-started and almost immediately launched a dangerous attack which very nearly resulted in them re-taking the lead. The second half was shaping up to be much more open than the first, with both teams creating opportunities. Nathan and Lewis (who would later be labelled an ‘angry young man’ after outmuscling the United centre back) impressed in attack and Banks added composure in the middle of the park.
It was United who took the lead with a well worked move across the Halifax penalty area and a good finish, but it wasn’t long before Halifax restored parity. Two successive corners resulted in goal mouth scrambles, with Rambo eventually managing to find the net with a header at the far post. It was no more than Halifax deserved for the way they had started the second half. Halifax almost got their noses in front following great work from Andy down the right-hand side, but he saw his effort go just wide of the post.
Unfortunately, it was after this that things started going a little bit “Radio Ga Ga”. The referee, who by and large had controlled the game very well up until this point, began making some very odd decisions all of which benefitted United. Whilst there had been some mistimed challenges throughout the game which resulted in deserved free-kicks, Rambo went into the referee’s book for winning the ball with a very good, if strong, challenge. Yet shortly afterwards Halifax’s penalty appeals were waved after an exact replica of the tackle by a United player in their own penalty area.
The inconsistency caused John Barker to go “Stone Cold Crazy” on the sidelines, causing the Halifax manager to be shown a red card. This didn’t seem to really matter however, as he could stay pitch-side rather than being sent to watch the game from behind the mesh fence surrounding the pitch.
Worse still for Halifax, United took full advantage of the referee’s decision not to use his linesmen for off-side decisions. It would have been handy if he had, as he seemingly forgot the off-side rule himself mid-way through the second half. Having tested the water on two occasions and affirming the referee’s amnesia, United’s striker nipped in behind the Halifax back-line before receiving a pass and slotting the ball home. The resulting protests saw two more Halifax players given a yellow card.
In truth after this Halifax completely lost their shape as they searched in vain for an equaliser which they never really threatened to find, whilst United caused problems time and time again on the counter-attack.
Somehow however Halifax would only concede one more goal and it came as a result of an awful error from sleep-deprived new dad Casalino. Having declared prior to the game that he had managed no more than 2 hours sleep, he took the opportunity to have a nap around the 80-minute mark and as a result failed to control a simple pass, resulting in the United striker having a clear run on goal and firing past the helpless Harry to score the final goal of the game.
In truth few could argue that United didn’t deserve to win the game, but Halifax could not help feeling that they can come away with a creditable draw with a little bit more luck and perhaps a more consistent performance from the referee in the second half. “The Show Must Go On” however, as we now look ahead to a welcome home game against Manchester City Supporters in January.
Final score: Man United Supporters 4 – 2 AFC Halifax
Man of the Match: Harry Scott-Peters
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