FC Halifax Town claimed their first back-to-back away triumphs in almost 12 months to climb into the play-off places by prevailing over 10 man Welling United.
Having scored his first-ever career Hat-Trick against Welling in the reverse fixture earlier this season. Gregory earned and dispatched the deciding penalty kick as the Calderdale outfit collected just a third clean sheet on their travels this term.
But it was far from plain-sailing as last season’s Conference South Champions almost grabbed an opener inside the opening 60 seconds of play after Marc Roberts’ tepid header back to Matt Glennon was latched onto by Oluwatobi Sho-Silva. But his improvised header looped agonisingly over.
Sho-Silva relished the physical duels with Simon Ainge and Roberts as he gleefully jostled with them aerially. Soon after his neat footwork and slide-rule ball released Toby Ajala but his near-post drive was expertly tipped around the near-post by Glennon.
Welling continued to swarm forward as Harry Beautyman’s left-wing cross was scuffed towards goal by Captain Lee Clarke when more poise was required. Despite the hosts having the bit between their teeth Town almost grabbed a goal against the run of play as Roberts towered over Joe Healy only for his header to flash wide.
Moments later and Lee Gregory was sent bearing down on goal due to a magnificent run and diagonal ball by Ryan Crowther. But Gregory’s touch was loose as Louis Fazakerley upended him once and for all at the expense of a caution. Yet Paul Marshall’s resulting free-kick was tame when so much more was expected.
Nevertheless, FC Halifax began to establish their dominance by smothering the Wings when in possession to great effect. Hunting in packs the first of two excellent opportunities fell Gregory’s way as he showed phenomenal upper body strength to shield the ball from Blaine Hudson, before dragging his attempt wide when teeing up Crowther appeared the more prudent option.
Yet the Halifax onslaught continued as Roberts towered above Joe Healy as his firm header rattled the cross-bar.
At the turn of the interval, Sho-Silva proceeded to be a nuisance as his gangly frame rounded Ainge and sent a swirling cross towards Ajala but James Bolton was on hand to kick into touch. Yet Ajala went from poacher to provider as his swashbuckling run to the by-line conjured up a cross. Only for Sho-Silva to mistime his jump when the goal was at his mercy.
Nevertheless, Welling’s frenetic start to the second-half was undone by the tenacity of Gregory who wriggled past Hudson and around Turner in goal only for the former to cynically haul Halifax’s top scorer to the turf.
The outcomes were inevitable as Hudson received his marching orders. Gregory nonchalantly sent Turner the wrong way to bag his 24th Skrill Premier goal of the campaign.
However no sooner had the Shaymen roar died down from the away following. Ten-man Welling almost notched an instant reprieve. Sharing the same wavelength Ajala spun and collected a Sho-Silva flick as Luke Wakefield strode forward to stab towards goal. Glennon partially saved the effort as Bolton crucially intervened with Sho-Silva lurking at the far-post but his clearance fell only as far as Healy, who unleashed a blistering drive that was blocked on the line by Matty Pearson.
Despite Halifax’s numerical advantage, it didn’t show as United galloped forward looking to claim an equaliser. But their assaults were met with a steely resistance as Glennon superbly clawed Alfie Mawson’s disguised free-kick to safety.
Crowther almost relieved the pressure as his jinxing run ended with a poke towards the far-post that trickled wide of goal.
Jamie Day’s troops threw caution to the wind by laying siege on Glennon’s goal as Roberts particularly excelled batting off direct crosses and timing his tackles impeccably.
Once the visitors had weathered the storm the Yorkshire outfit almost doubled their lead to consolidate a precious three points. Firstly Scott McManus saw his marauding dribble and rasping drive fly just over the upright.
On the opposite flank Marlon Jackson who had replaced Adam Smith mid-way through the second half, wheeled away from Fazakerly to strike venomously across Turner who pushed the ball out to the feet of Gregory who could only slide the rebound wide inside the goalmouth.
But as proceedings continued to meander to full-time one final jitter was in store as Bolton, who had played valiantly all afternoon, petulantly shoved Beautyman to the floor. A yellow card was given but no penalty kick followed to the angst of the Welling United supporters.
Nevertheless, FC Halifax Town continues to dream as they sit inside the play-off places.
Welling United starting XI:
13 Jamie Turner (GK)
2 Louis Fazakerley
8 Lee Clarke (c)
14 Blaine Hudson
16 Conor McLaren (Harry Cornick 13 minutes)
21 Harry Beautyman
32 Josh Wakefield
33 Joe Healy
35 Oluwatobi Sho-Silva
36 Alfie Mawson
37 Toby Ajala
5 Basile Karagiannis
18 Lee Butcher (GK)
27 Jamie Day
34 Harry Cornick
FC Halifax Town
1 Matt Glennon
3 Scott McManus
5 Matty Pearson (Chris Smith 90 minutes)
7 Adam Smith (Jackson 66 minutes)
11 Lee Gregory (c)
15 Marc Roberts
18 Paul Marshall
20 Lois Maynard
22 Simon Ainge
28 Ryan Crowther
29 James Bolton
6 Danny Lowe
12 Phil Senior (GK)
17 John McReady
23 Chris Smith
31 Marlon Jackson
Louis Fazakerley (23)
James Bolton (90)
Blaine Hudson (49)
Gregory 50 (pen)
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