FC Halifax Town returned to the scene of their first competitive away victory of the season to dramatically break Nuneaton’s hearts once again.
Liberty Way hosted Town’s FA Cup Fourth Qualifying Round success in October, as outstanding goals from Lee Gregory and Scott McManus set up an eye-catching First Round tie at League One outfit MK Dons.
But it is the race for the Skrill Premier play-off places that is taking centre stage at the moment and Chris Smith’s goal, on his full debut for the Club, five minutes from time on Saturday gave the Shaymen a priceless win to propel them back into the top five and leave them five points ahead of Nuneaton.
A delighted Neil Aspin pointed to the response and “togetherness” of his players, particularly as this slender victory came just two days after the difficult stalemate with Braintree. After the 1-0 triumph he told Shaymen Player:
“All games are vital and today was bigger than the Cup game because we want to stay in the play-off hunt. I felt that we had to win today.
“I thought that the players were absolutely tremendous; they had to absorb a couple of changes in personnel and everybody responded really well. It was a fantastic result today.
“I couldn’t stand here and say that tiredness was an excuse after the way Braintree went to Southport and then came to us on Thursday where they showed plenty of energy levels.
“I knew that it was going to be a tough game today regardless of whether we played on Thursday or not but such is the spirit in the camp – the togetherness amongst the players – you don’t need to doubt them as you know they will do their best and try to get the result.
“And I think we deserved the win. After ten minutes we settled down and I felt that we were the better team. We were pushing and we were the more likely team to get a goal.
“They put us under pressure from set pieces; particularly they had a fifteen minute spell in the second half and it was important that we weathered it.
“But to bring two centre-halves in who haven’t played any football, in a difficult game for them, for them both to play like that, I just thought they were both outstanding.”
Club Captain Danny Lowe returned to starting eleven alongside Smith, as Marc Roberts and Simon Ainge watched from the sidelines due to injury and suspension respectively. And they both produced assured performances – culminating in the late match-winning goal from Smith – leaving Aspin to admit he has some serious thinking to do ahead of the trip to fellow promotion-hopefuls Barnet next week. Praising Smith and Lowe, Aspin said:
“It was a fantastic moment (for Chris Smith). It’s alright to speak now, after the game, but I’ve known him throughout his career and he is capable of scoring from set pieces.
“He has got quite a good record and he does chip in with goals. And what a time to get it on his full debut! It was a perfect day for him – a clean sheet and a winning goal. It was fantastic.
“They both dealt with everything. I wouldn’t say Nuneaton have got dynamic pace up front but they are certainly strong and they put themselves about.
“We were going to get tested with balls in the air and balls into the box but they stood up to that challenge well.
“I want to have a selection headache. As a manager, that is what you want. You don’t want to be – which happened earlier in the season – in a position where you can’t pick you’re strongest team. I’m quite happy to have the headaches when it comes to competition for places.”
With the Shaymen now unbeaten in seven league games – a sequence which has included the mean Town defence keeping an impressive six clean sheets – a once-perceived daunting trip to Barnet next weekend now isn’t quite apparent. Referring to the belief and current spirit within the squad after this splendid run of form, Aspin revealed:
“It is a complete turnaround. You know that you can’t concede goals on a regular basis but defensively we have been excellent over the last month and I knew that we would have to be good today to get a result.
“What counts at the moment is the togetherness in the dressing room. When you get that as a manager, then that is all that counts.
“It is a pleasure being the manager as they are a fantastic group of players to work with.”
For the full interview with Neil Aspin, log on to Shaymen Player
Read more posts by Kelly Gilchrist