THURSDAY POLL: Halifax hoping Shay fans can cheer them towards play-offs

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BUOYED by back-to-back victories over teams sitting in the top five of the Conference, FC Halifax Town are tonight eyeing a notable hat-trick.

Braintree Town, one point and one place above Neil Aspin’s men in the table, are the visitors to The Shay for a fixture that could go a long way towards deciding whether either club can force their way into the play-offs.

And with the memory of last Saturday, when a season’s best crowd of 3,586 roared Halifax to victory against runaway leaders Luton Town amid a wonderfully raucous atmosphere, still fresh in the mind, director Bobby Ham has called on the town to roar the Yorkshire outfit “over the line” in the quest for a place in the top five.

“The atmosphere was fantastic,” said Ham to the Yorkshire Post, as Halifax look to make it six wins in a row tonight. “Absolutely fantastic. Everyone was talking about it afterwards, and in particular the players.

“We had 200 in the Banqueting Suite enjoying a meal and that caused a real buzz beforehand. But once the game got going, that was when everyone really got into it.

“It was the first time all four sides had been open at The Shay for a football game and it really made a difference. There were 1,100 from Luton and the rest from Halifax, and the fans definitely played their part in a wonderful victory.”

The return of Conference football to Halifax has been a remarkable story.

Promoted via the play-offs last May, the re-formed Shaymen – the original club went under in 2008 – have belied having to remain part-time to make a concerted push for a return to the Football League.

In the wake of beating Luton, Town were occupying that final play-off place. Victories for Grimsby Town and Braintree on Tuesday night, however, mean they will host the Essex side sitting seventh in the table on 63 points with seven games to play.

Alfreton, beaten 2-0 at The Shay 11 days ago, are fifth on 65 points but have played a game more than Aspin’s side. Victory tonight, therefore, would take Halifax up to third, albeit with Grimsby having games in hand.

Ham, who along with chairman David Bosomworth has led the revival of football in the West Yorkshire town, added: “To be in the position we are in is out of this world. And way above anyone’s expectations.

“The performance against Luton was superb and, coming on the back of Alfreton, we couldn’t have been any happier. We seem to have really hit a rich vein of form at the right time.

“Obviously, we need to keep that going. And an atmosphere like last Saturday against Braintree would certainly help. That extra support could get us over the line. This is a big opportunity for the club. And the fans make such a difference.”

Before the season began, Ham revealed to the Yorkshire Post that the club was budgeting for an average 1,600 crowd to break even.

With three home games to go, the average stands about 150 short – meaning the only feasible way to make the switch to full-time is to win promotion.

“If we got back into the Football League, the first thing we would do is go full-time,” said Ham. “The difference in sponsorship is £1m a year and that would make it possible.

“At the moment, it isn’t and, as a club, we have to be careful, We can’t, and won’t, put this club in jeopardy again. Our fans have been brilliant, and so have our sponsors but now we all need to make the final push and seize this opportunity.”