SINCE reforming eight years ago from the ruins of the old financially-stricken club, FC Halifax Town have had more than their fair share of big days.
Title-deciders, play-off finals, an FA Cup tie against neighbours Bradford City and, just six weeks ago, a two-legged FA Trophy semi-final with the prize of a trip to Wembley at stake, the Shaymen have had them all.
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Today, though, is comfortably the biggest of the lot as Jim Harvey and his players look to pull off a survival mission that appeared not so much unlikely back in November as nigh on impossible.
Who says so? Chairman David Bosomworth, who, along with Bobby Ham, saved football in the Calderdale town following the financial collapse of the club that had spent 76 years in the Football League.
“For all the memorable times we have had as a club, this has to be considered the biggest game of the lot,” insisted the Shaymen’s chief to The Yorkshire Post ahead of a final day that sees four clubs battling it out to avoid filling the final two relegation places.
Halifax’s task is, on paper, a simple one. Beat Macclesfield Town at home and safety is assured. Anything less, however, and the door towards survival will be opened for not just fourth-bottom Guiseley but also possibly Altrincham.
“FC Halifax Town have been on an upward curve since reforming and relegation would be a massive blot on that copybook,” added chairman Bosomworth. “Worse than that, it would set us back after working so hard to get back to this level.
“My firm belief is we have to win. I expect Guiseley to beat Torquay United, who face a long journey and may not even be staying overnight due to already being safe.
“Yes, they will have professional pride but Guiseley will be desperate for the points and they are a good side. We have to do our job against Macclesfield.”
That Halifax, who will lose around £30,000 in central funding if relegated along with a likely fall in attendances, are even contemplating survival heading into the final day is an achievement in itself.
In mid-November, the club was rock bottom of the division and 10 points adrift of safety. The goals against column was a vivid illustration of what had gone so horrendously wrong, Halifax’s defence having been breached a barely believable 53 times in just 20 outings.
Darren Kelly, who had only replaced Neil Aspin as manager six or so weeks earlier, was removed and assistant Jim Harvey handed the reins. What followed was remarkable, as a 10-game unbeaten run under the Irishman lifted the Shaymen out of the bottom four.
A wobble in league form then saw eight of the next 14 games lost but, crucially, victories were also earned during that period against relegation rivals Boreham Wood and Altrincham.
It meant that when Harvey’s men stunned second-placed Forest Green Rovers last weekend with a 1-0 win, the fate of the Trophy finalists was back in their own hands heading into the final day.
“Last Saturday was an incredible effort by the team,” said Bosomworth. “Forest Green have had a great season and still needed a point to confirm second place.
“I kept a check on the other results and, at 0-0, I knew Altrincham were winning and that Boreham Wood were ahead against Guiseley. Under normal circumstances, a point would have been a good result at a club like Forest Green but we needed the win.”
Shaquille McDonald’s 70th-minute winner duly delivered those precious three points and allowed Halifax to nudge Guiseley into the relegation zone for the first time all season.
There is a scenario that can see both West Yorkshire clubs survive but, in reality, it looks like at least one of them will go. “Of course, we have got to look after ourselves,” added Bosomworth. “But we are definitely sorry that it is Guiseley who we are up against.
“It is always nice to have local rivals in the same division, both for the derbies and the friendliness that exists between the two clubs.”
As for how the final day will pan out once the games get under way at 5.30pm, Bosomworth added: “It is, to coin a famous phrase, squeaky-bum time for everyone.
“Everyone is realistic enough to know that all the hard work of the season is on the line. The main thing, though, is we are in control of our own destiny.”