Macclesfield 0 FC Halifax Town 1: Tuton lifts Shaymen out of drop zone

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Shaun Tuton’s 77th minute goal lifted FC Halifax Town out of the relegation zone with a 1-0 win at Macclesfield.

The Shaymen are still unbeaten under Jim Harvey and produced another impressive display against a team who would have gone third in the table had they won.

Macclesfield had won eight of their last 11 games but could do nothing to stop themselves becoming the latest team to be swept aside by Harvey’s rejuvenated Shaymen.

The transformation of the side since his appointment is bordering on remarkable now as Macclesfield became the fourth team in the top 10 to be beaten by Harvey’s Halifax.

Harvey seems in no rush to add any new faces to his squad, naming an unchanged team for the third successive game, and on this evidence, who can blame him?

The game started in a manner befitting two teams in good form, with both creating chances and looking dangerous in attack.

Danny Whitaker and Kristian Dennis both fired over for the hosts, while Kingsley James and Nicky Wroe had decent attempts for Halifax in a busy first 20 minutes.

Only a very timely clearance by the busy George Pilkington prevented a clear chance for Sam Walker from Jordan Burrow’s knock-down, while good defending from Matty Brown was needed to halt the progress of Dennis after a superb through ball by Whitaker; Dennis hardly got a kick the rest of the half and may as well have taken a seat in the home end at that point.

Just like their other recent games against high-flying opponents, Town weren’t overawed and backed up some hard graft with some incisive attacking play; belying Macclesfield’s third-best win ratio and home defensive record in the league.

There’s been plenty of needle between the clubs in recent meetings, with a mass brawl at the end of last season’s draw at The Shay and some heated exchanges near the dugouts during the draw at Moss Rose, and the Maclesfield fans seemed determined to continue the enmity with a chant of ‘You’re just a small town in Guiseley’ towards the away supporters.

Those travelling fans so nearly had a goal to celebrate when Wroe’s low shot rebounded off the post moments after a vital clearance by Neill Byrne to deny Tuton what would have been a tap-in from Walker’s low cross.

Walker’s shot from inside the box was then deflected over before Tuton did get the ball in the net but was ruled to be offside from James Bolton’s cross.

There were shades of Lincoln a week ago as Halifax repeatedly knocked on their opponents’ door, only for it to remain stubbornly closed.

Bolton and Burrow also went close just before half-time, by which point the noisier sections of the home crowd had been silenced such was Town’s dominance prior to the interval.

Macclesfield gradually asserted themselves after the restart though, bringing a good save from Sam Johnson through Danny Rowe’s low curling shot before the keeper then dropped a high cross, causing a scramble in the penalty area that Town were fortunate to survive.

Those ill feelings between the teams rose to the surface again after a strong tackle by Andy Halls on James resulted in a booking and a ferocious reaction from both dugouts.

Town weren’t exerting the same pressure since half-time, although Dennis was still largely a spectator as the visitors exuded an authority in defence that has become synonymous with Harvey’s time in charge.

Tuton has also enjoyed himself since Harvey’s appointment, and extended his run of form with his third goal in three games when he slipped the ball under Ritchie Branagan from James’ measured pass into his path.

Such is Town’s confidence nowadays that they nearly added a second late on when Kevin Roberts’ Marco Van Basten-esque volley was tipped behind after Burrow’s excellent cross-field pass.