Hali-facts? The Shaymen Won. Deservedly…
There was even more of an incentive than usual for both FC Halifax Town and Morecambe to win tonight’s First Round FA Cup replay at the Shay. As well as the £36,000 prize money available to all winners at this stage of the competition, there was the carrot of a televised Second Round tie at home against AFC Wimbledon being dangled by BT Sport: another £75,000 or so apparently. For individual Halifax supporters, there was an added incentive as well: season ticket holders would be given a free pie and peas at the forthcoming Braintree game if they bothered to turn-up tonight.
Jamie Fullarton’s team ended a streak of games where they had failed to win which stretched back to August by beating Dover Athletic (the only non-League team to have previously dumped Morecambe out of the FA Cup since the Shrimps were promoted to the EFL eleven years ago) last Saturday. This was as Jim Bentley’s men were winning at high-flying Forest Green Rovers in League Two. With the suspended Matty Kosylo returning for the Shaymen and Rhys Oates back from injury for the Shrimps, the Yorkshire team had a golden opportunity to get one over on their Red Rose opponents – as well as bagging lots of cash into the bargain.
The home team tried to get onto the front foot during the opening ten minutes. They had the first half-chance of the game when, following a mix-up in the visitors’ penalty area following a free kick for a foul on Kosylo, Dayle Southwell took a shot which missed the target. Morecambe won a corner after six minutes which came to nothing after a shot on target from Jordan Cranston before Southwell had another shot after nine minutes which also missed the Shrimps’ net. But Cameron King showed that he hadn’t read the opposition’s script after just eleven minutes. He weaved his way in and out of the visiting defence before unleashing a shot from the edge of the box which went across Mark Halstead and beat the goalkeeper to his left to put the Shaymen into the lead. The non-League team continued to have the best of the play before away supporters’ hearts stood still after 24 minutes when King seemed to have chalked-up a second from Southwell’s free kick but they were able to breathe again as Referee Martin Coy ruled it off for off-side. Eventually…
At the other end, Sam Johnson made his second save of the evening from Rhys Oates’ long-range header after 26 minutes. The dominance that Halifax were showing was underlined after half an hour, when – from on opposition corner – they worked the ball right up the pitch to Kosylo again but his effort was finally blocked. Kosylo then turned provider when, having made good progress down the flank, he fed Niall Maher who forced Halstead into a two-handed save at the expense of a corner. King struck the ball over the bar from this as the home team continued to create most of the chances and hit the bar from another corner with Halstead a spectator. As the rain stated to fall to make this an even more miserable evening for the visitors, Steven Old tried his luck from a corner kick just before the break but only managed to hit the ball against his own Captain, Aaron Wildig.
So the men in the blue strip came in at half time one-nil up and good value for it. Liam Mandeville looked dangerous at times for the visitors and Vadaine Oliver made his presence felt occasionally but generally, this was a below-par and very disappointing display by the supposedly superior team. They played with no passion and seemed content to allow Halifax to control the game, presumably hoping to hit them on the break. With pride as well as money and a live game on the telly on the line, they needed to improve right across the pitch during the second half.
The Shrimps came out and had the first effort of the second period within a minute when a powerful Oates effort went just over the bar. But Halifax won the first corner of the period from which Matty Brown only just missed with a header. Town custodian Sam Johnson was first to the ball as a dangerous cross seemed destined to reach Oliver after 58 minutes as the visitors were probably beginning to shade the play. Wildig cleverly allowed the ball to go between his legs after 74 minutes, surprising Town defenders and Vadaine alike: his delayed shot went harmlessly over the bar. Maher then tried his luck for the Shaymen after 77 minutes but his shot went into the home fans in the South Stand who – with time running out – were reluctant to return the ball. Oates then came close again at the other end, narrowly missing with another powerful shot which only just cleared the bar with only about ten minutes still scheduled to play. Right at the death, late substitute Kevin Ellison came close with an overhead kick. But the sad fact of the matter is that home goalkeeper Johnson was never seriously tested during the second half: in all truth, he didn’t have a difficult evening at any time.
So Morecambe’s appalling recent record in the FA Cup continues. They lost this contest when they failed to take their chances in the original tie but their anaemic display tonight wouldn’t win them many football matches at any level. The most disappointing thing – particularly for the over two hundred Shrimps’ supporters who would have to find their way back over the Pennines in the cold, wet darkness after the game – was the attitude of the team. Only one side wanted to win this match tonight – and they duly did so. So good luck to the Shaymen. And goodbye to about £110,000 from the Shrimps, who truly lived down to this tag this evening: little Shrimps indeed. So Morecambe must ponder on what might have been – yet again as far as this competition is concerned.
FC Halifax Town: 1 Sam Johnson; 3 Ryan Sellers; 7 Matty Kosylo (Y); 4 Nathan Clarke (Y); 5 Matty Brown (C); 6 Josh Staunton; 8 Cameron King; 9 Dayle Southwell (10 Jonathan Edwards 86 mins); 19 Jordan Preston (11 Sanmi Odelusi 88 mins); 31 Niall Maher; 40 Jacob Hanson.
Subs not used: 21 Shaun Rowley; 2 Michael Duckworth; 16 Simon Lenighan; 22 Mekhi McLeod.
Morecambe: 21 Mark Halstead; 2 Zak Mills; 16 Sam Lavelle; 3 Luke Conlan; 5 Steven Old; 27 Jordan Cranston (Y); 18 Rhys Oates (11 Kevin Ellison; 87 mins); 15 Aaron Wildig (C) (12 Jason Oswell 75mins); 9 Vadaine Oliver; 14 Liam Mandeville; 28 6 Andrew Tutte; A-Jay Leitch-Smith (Y). Subs not used: 13 Dawid Szczepaniak; 14 Josef Yarney; 19 Carlos Mendes-Gomez; 4 Alex Kenyon.
Ref: Martin Coy.
1218 (282 from Morecambe)