National League Premier: FC Halifax Town battle back to win, but Harrogate Town frustrated in stalemate

FC Halifax Town fought back from a 1-0 half-time deficit to beat Barrow 2-1 thanks to goals from Liam Nolan and Liam McAlinden.
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National League

Lewis Hardcastle had given the hosts the lead, but after a dreadful first-half, Town came out fighting after half-time and turned the game on its head.

A Halifax win at half-time here looked fanciful, but The Shaymen showed resilience and character to get their noses in-front and then defend their lead.

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For the second away game in a row, Town conceded inside the first minute when Hardcastle took advantage of being given too much space on the edge of the box to sweep a terrific shot across goal into the far corner.

There was a lucky escape for Town when a shot by Dior Angus was parried by Sam Johnson and somehow skipped away from the onrushing Barrow player at the back post.

Oliver Dyson latched onto a lofted pass moments before half-time in-behind the Halifax defence, but fired over under pressure from Michael Duckworth.

Town created their best chance of the contest so far two minutes after the restart when Staunton’s dinked cross found Sho-Silva, but the striker nodded it wastefully wide.

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That was a warning Barrow didn’t heed though, as Brad Barry’s awful clearance fell straight to Sho-Silva, and when his shot was blocked, Nolan buried the ball calmly into the top corner from 15 yards.

A controversial decision by referee Gareth Rhodes handed Town a penalty for a foul on Jeff King as he tried to shield the ball, and McAlinden buried the spot-kick into the left corner.

Barrow must have been wondering how they were trailing.

Both Town’s goalscorers came close to getting another, Nolan with a header from a corner and McAlinden with an underhit low shot, before Dyson rolled a shot just wide at the other end.

Staunton’s side-foot shot flashed inches wide, before the last 10 minutes of increasingly tense football in which Town were mostly protecting their lead.

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Elsewhere, Harrogate Town saw two ‘goals’ ruled out by the match officials and hit the woodwork twice in their 0-0 Bank Holiday Monday clash at AFC Fylde.

Simon Weaver’s men followed up Saturday’s success over Stockport County with another impressive display, but couldn’t quite find a finishing touch to seal the victory that their performance warranted.

Substitute Jon Stead appeared to have scored a perfectly good goal in the 73rd minute - one that would have decided the contest - only for the match officials to disallow it, much to Weaver’s disappointment.

“The standard [of the officiating] wasn’t up to it, the decisions out there cost you. We should be celebrating three points,” the Harrogate boss said.

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“I think it was the linesman in the end who spoke through his earpiece to the referee saying he thinks there may have been a handball.

“To be fair to the officials they can’t see it in slow motion, but you don’t have to manufacture a decision and force it. If you’re not sure about it you don’t just use guesswork and think it may have been an advantage.

“The lad’s passed it back and made an error and it’s led to us scoring a goal and he must be thanking his lucky stars that the referee and linesman have together concocted something - and it’s cost us.

“It’s hard to fathom and we’re two points worse off.

“But, that’s gone and we can’t do anything about it. I’m very proud of the performance today, I thought we were on the front foot for large parts of the game and deserved to win.”

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Brendan Kiernan had the ball in the back of the Fylde net with just 11 minutes on the clock, heading home a Ryan Fallowfield cross, though the Town right-back was adjudged to have been in an offside position when he picked out his team-mate.

Jack Muldoon then saw a strike bounce back off the inside of an upright before Alex Bradley’s follow-up was superbly kept out by Coasters keeper James Montgomery.

At the other end, Harrogate stopper James Belshaw was off his line smartly to deny Matty Kosylo, while Kyle Jameson glanced a header wide of the mark.

The second period saw Town once again looking the more likely to break the deadlock.

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Six minutes after the resumption, a Bradley strike that appeared destined for the bottom corner was pushed away by a stretching Montgomery, and the home custodian needed two bites of the cherry to keep out another shot from the boot of the same player.

Then, with 73 minutes gone it seemed as if Weaver’s side finally had their breakthrough.

Substitute Stead intercepted a dreadful attempted back-pass by Kyle Jameson, running through on the Fylde goal and slotting home, only for the effort to be controversially ruled out.

It was a case of close but no cigar once again just eight minutes later, Warren Burrell’s overhead kick following a corner bouncing down off the underside of the cross-bar and away.

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The closing stages saw Town continuing to pile on the pressure, Muldoon forcing Montgomery into another decent stop in added-time before Connor Hall headed past the post from a last-gasp corner.

The result sees Harrogate drop to 15th in the National League standings ahead of this weekend’s home meeting with Dover Athletic.