FC Halifax Town v Morecambe: Money can buy love in romance with FA Cup

Halifax's Matty Kosylo looks for another opening against Dover Athletic having already scored what proved to be the winner on Saturday (Picture: Bruce Fitzgerald).
Halifax's Matty Kosylo looks for another opening against Dover Athletic having already scored what proved to be the winner on Saturday (Picture: Bruce Fitzgerald).
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JAMIE FULLARTON’S abiding FA Cup memory involves being unceremoniously scythed to the ground by Arsenal’s Alex Manninger and then looking in astonishment as the referee wrongly awarded a free-kick rather than point to the penalty spot.

The Scot, with Crystal Palace at the time, had every right to be upset with TV replays showing clearly that the foul had come a good yard or so inside the area.

Martin Bodenham’s mistake meant the Eagles had to settle for a replay at Selhurst Park, which the Gunners won 2-1 in front of the live BBC cameras after Dean Gordon had been sent off inside the opening half hour. Three months later Arsene Wenger’s side lifted the Cup courtesy of a 2-0 victory over Newcastle United.

A little over 20 years on and Fullarton, now in charge of FC Halifax Town, is eyeing another date in front of the live cameras as his side prepare to host Morecambe tonight in a first-round replay.

The prize at stake is a home tie against AFC Wimbledon that will be shown live on Saturday, December 1 by BT Sport, earning tonight’s victor a welcome broadcast fee of £75,000 to go with the £36,000 banked for reaching the second round.

“Winner takes all in the FA Cup,” said the 44-year-old when speaking to The Yorkshire Post. “That is how it has always been and we are under no illusion as to how difficult it will be.

FC Halifax Town boss Jamie Fullarton (Picture: Bruce Fitzgerald)

FC Halifax Town boss Jamie Fullarton (Picture: Bruce Fitzgerald)

“Morecambe are a club who seem to get written off every year, probably because of budgets and their size compared to a lot of others in the Football League.

“But every year they battle away and are successful. They are proof of what continuity can do.

“[Manager] Jim Bentley has been there a long time. The job he does is not as high-profile as some, but he has done a fantastic job.

“He has imposed himself and his ideas on the club over a number of years and the rewards from that are clear

Morecambe have back-to-back wins in the league (against Yeovil and Forest Green) and we are in no doubt as to the size of the challenge facing us.

Jamie Fullarton

“Morecambe have back-to-back wins in the league (against Yeovil and Forest Green) and we are in no doubt as to the size of the challenge facing us.”

FC Halifax go into tonight’s tie buoyed by Saturday’s win at home to Dover Athletic, their first in the National League since August 27.

Seven of those 12 winless games were drawn, which together with a stirring start that put the club in pole position as September dawned explains why even now they sit 13th in the table.

Pushing further up the fifth tier remains a priority, but tonight the focus switches to the FA Cup and that potential six-figure cash windfall if a second-round meeting with the League One Dons can be sealed.

“Any club at our level would welcome that sort of money,” added Fullarton, “but Morecambe will be equally as keen to get through, not just for the finances but also the increased profile the Cup can bring.

“My players want to demonstrate their abilities to a wider audience. That is only natural. Being on TV would be a chance to do that.

“But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We are up against a very good team in the replay. This is going to be a tough game.

“That said we are looking forward to it. I was pleased for the players that we got the win on Saturday. If I am honest we have played better and not won recently, but getting the three points was a lift for the players.”

FC Halifax have had a couple of Cup ties to savour in front of the live cameras since reforming in the summer of 2008.

The first saw a Charlton Athletic side destined to win League One later that season triumph 4-0 in a first-round tie that had been closely fought until the London club struck three times in the final ten minutes.

Bradford City then came to The Shay in November 2014 and trailed at half-time only to score twice in the second half. Two months later Phil Parkinson’s men stunned Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

The only other time the fledgling club have hosted League opposition came in 2015 when Wycombe Wanderers triumphed 4-0. It means tonight could see history made as FC Halifax look to make it fourth time lucky when hosting teams from either Leagues One or Two.

“We treat every game as a big game,” added Fullarton. “It doesn’t matter whether it is Morecambe in the Cup, Braintree away on the first day or Dover at home – they are all big games.

“But there is a romance to be had in the Cup, even if romance is not exactly what springs to mind when I think back to that tie at Highbury with Palace all those years ago.

“We all want to reach the second round, but a lot of hard work will be required to achieve our goal.”

Last six games: Halifax Town WLDLDD Morecambe LDWDLW.

Referee: M Coy (County Durham).

Last time: Halifax Town 1 Morecambe 1; August 28, 2006; Conference.