FC Halifax v Altrincham: Wembley finalists ready to take survival fight to the wire

Jim Harvey has overseen a remarkable change in the fortunes of FC Halifax this season.
Jim Harvey has overseen a remarkable change in the fortunes of FC Halifax this season.
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AMID the euphoria of FC Halifax Town booking a first trip to Wembley a week ago was a return to the relegation zone in the National League that, if not quite capable of pooping the club’s party, was, nevertheless, a blow.

Victories for Altrincham and Torquay United plus a battling draw for Boreham Wood meant the Shaymen slipped back into the bottom four.

If the club is still there in 10 games’ times then the FA Trophy final on May 22 will be contested as a club now residing in the sixth tier.

It is a fate everyone at The Shay is desperate to avoid and the hard work starts this lunchtime when Altrincham are the visitors for a game that will be shown live by BT Sport.

“Getting to Wembley is wonderful,” said chairman David Bosomworth ahead of an Easter programme that also features a trip to Barrow. “But the reality is we are fighting for our lives in the league and that means we have 10 Cup ties between now and the end of the season.”

That Halifax head into the holiday programme hopeful of escaping the drop owes everything to an incredible turnaround in form since Jim Harvey took charge of the team in mid-November.

At the time, Halifax were rock bottom of the Conference and 10 points adrift of safety. The club’s goals against column was a vivid illustration of what had gone wrong, their defence having been breached a catastrophic 53 times in just 20 outings.

“Jim has done a great job,” said Bosomworth of Harvey, whose 23-game reign has brought just three defeats and the booking of that historic first trip to Wembley. “We had a difficult start. But Jim has changed everything round, with what is effectively the same squad with just a couple of loanees having joined.

“Of course, we are back in the relegation zone. Communication these days meant that as we were playing Nantwich (in last Saturday’s semi-final second leg), we knew Altrincham were winning convincingly. Same with Torquay having scored.

“Results definitely did not go for us last Saturday but they did the previous weekend. What matters, though, is how we do. Our results will determine whether we can stay up or not.”

The Easter double-header will be followed by a run-in that includes crunch games with fellow strugglers such as Boreham Wood and Kidderminster Harriers plus daunting trips to Cheltenham Town and Forest Green Rovers, the duo that have left the rest of the National League trailing this season.

“It is going to go to the wire,” added Bosomworth. “There are some tough games along the way, including those trips to Cheltenham and Forest Green.

“But teams like Guiseley and Southport are within range, all of a sudden. Everyone is desperate to stay in this league, with Altrincham having changed managers and teams like ourselves and Torquay having gone on decent runs.

“There is a lot of hard work that lays ahead. But momentum is very important and, hopefully, getting through to Wembley has given us that.”