WINNER takes all tomorrow as FC Halifax Town look to take a huge step towards an instant return to the National League.
The Shaymen host Salford City in a play-off semi-final that is beautifully poised after last Wednesday’s first leg at Moor Lane finished 1-1.
Billy Heath’s side – who finished a place above the club whose fortunes have been transformed since being bought by a host of former Manchester United players that includes Gary Neville, Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes – are desperate to make home advantage pay in front of what is likely to be a bumper crowd.
“They now have to come to The Shay,” said the Halifax manager. “Let’s get a big crowd in there. The supporters were fantastic (in the first leg). They were noisy, they were behind us and really pushing us. The players said they loved it. Hopefully, we can get a massive crowd at The Shay and that will get us over the line.”
Heath is chasing his second play-off success in National League North in as many seasons.
A year ago, his North Ferriby United side overcame a two-goal first leg deficit against Boston United thanks to a 3-0 triumph on home soil in the return. Fylde, conquerors of Harrogate Town, were then beaten by the Villagers in the final after extra-time.
It is one-off game. It is a chance to see who has the nerve and the physical and mental strengthBilly Heath
Heath’s success in the East Riding persuaded Halifax to make a move for the Ferriby manager after parting ways with Jim Harvey following relegation from the National League.
After being eighth at the turn of the year, the Shaymen gradually found their rhythm as the campaign wore on. The final nine games yielded an impressive 22 points to secure third place and, if Salford can be overcome, possible home advantage in the final if Chorley beat Kidderminster in the other semi-final.
Salford, beaten 4-2 at The Shay earlier this season, had the lion’s share of possession in the first leg but needed an 86th-minute equaliser from James Poole to restore parity in the tie at the halfway stage.
Tomorrow’s return is likely to be very different, as Halifax look to make home advantage pay.
“This is the beauty of the play-offs,” added manager Heath. “Everyone gets a massive buzz from the play-offs. It is one-off game. It is a chance to see who has the nerve, physical strength, mental strength and who is going to get that goal or goals to win you the game.”