FOOTBALL, like all sports, is so often a game centred around ‘what if’ moments.
Halifax Town’s Matty Kosylo found himself pondering one such instance following Saturday’s FA Cup loss to AFC Wimbledon.
If the midfielder had finished off his brilliant 70m run it would have been one of the greatest goals of his career.
Granted, it would not have been replayed as much as Lawrie Sanchez’s famous winner for Wimbledon – the opposition’s original incarnation – in the shock 1988 FA Cup final victory over Liverpool.
However, being in front of the live television cameras at The Shay, it would certainly have been one of the competition’s more memorable efforts and a fine way to send Halifax into the third round for the first time since their own reformation in 2008.
Unfortunately, for the Shaymen at least, with the intriguing tie still goalless, Kosylo’s breakaway surge, after picking up a loose ball from a Wimbledon corner, did not have the requisite finish in the 20th minute.
The 26-year-old almost did everything right; he initially left Anthony Hartington in his wake in the middle of the field, then isolated the back-tracking last defender, feigned to pass to Dayle Southwell at just the right moment before coolly slotting it past the advancing goalkeeper.
The ball, though, cruelly struck a post and rebounded out, allowing League One Wimbledon to breathe yet another sigh of relief, having been utterly outplayed by their National League opponents.
Halifax had ample more chances but, crucially, none were taken; instead, their visitors went ahead via Ben Purrington’s deflected shot in the 42nd minute against the run of play. It settled them sufficiently to emerge in the second period and exert more authority of their own, two goals in three minutes midway through the half ending any hopes of a Cup shock as they went 3-0 ahead.
“I don’t want to talk about it,” conceded Kosylo, when quizzed about that chance against opponents who, let us not forget, are 40 places above them in the football pyramid.
That has decided the game; us not scoring in the first half. I thought we could have got into the third round. It was a good opportunity.FC Halifax Town’s Matty Kosylo
“I was in two minds; I wanted to go through on my own but, at the same time, if I’d have got tackled Dayle would have gone mad.
“I thought about taking the keeper on as well but he stood up and that’s what made me go early. To be fair, it’s unlucky.
“It’s hit a post and even then, as it’s rebounded out, if Dayle’s one yard to the left rather than the right it’s a goal. It’s just unlucky.
“We’re really disappointed. If that chance had gone in and Cam (King) had scored with a couple of chances... We dominated it.
“We need to start taking our chances as it’s going to come back and bite us.
“That has decided the game; us not scoring in the first half. I thought we could have got into the third round. It was a good opportunity.”
Instead, then, of going into tonight’s draw with the likes of Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea, Jamie Fullarton’s side must contemplate Saturday’s return to National League action at Dagenham & Redbridge.
In all fairness, even if they had prospered in the Cup, this would still be their priority; they sit 16th in the table, just a place and two points behind their opponents but too close to the relegation zone for comfort as well.
Halifax will take plenty of positives from Saturday’s game back into that league campaign; they played with a real conviction and assuredness in that first half against the Dons, creating the vast majority of the chances.
King, in particular, produced some delightful football playing just in behind Southwell although he will be a doubt for their next outing, having come off with an injury in the second period.
Southwell thought he should have had a penalty in the final moments of the first half after challenging for Kosylo’s cross under the crossbar, so much so he was booked for protesting.
Wimbledon made the most of the let-off; Anthony Wordsworth’s princely goal from the edge of the area in the 72nd minute was followed by Joe Pigott’s scrambled effort just three minutes later. Still, Halifax did get some rewards for their effort when Niall Maher worked his way down the left cleverly, former Bradford City striker James Hanson only managing to direct his header past his own goalkeeper in the 85th minute.
Jonathan Edwards went close soon after as the hosts finished with a flourish.
Fullarton said: “We’re disappointed but it’s the reality of football isn’t it? When you’re on top and play like we did, getting those chances, it’s vital you score.
“Wimbledon then showed their quality – whichever way you look at it, they are two divisions above us – and we were punished.
“We can’t ask any more from the players; they were immense in their approach, attitude to work and some of the passages of play in the first half were excellent.
“I’m disappointed for them – not with them – and that’s a subtlety in the use of the word but it’s true. The second goal was the killer, not so much the first one. But there was a lot of positives to take. For an hour, you couldn’t tell which was the League One side and which was the National League.”
FC Halifax Town: Johnson, Hanson, Clarke, Brown, Sellers, Staunton, Maher, Preston, King (McLeod 62), Kosylo, Southwell (Edwards 76). Unused substitutes: Rowley, Duckworth, Skarz, Odelusi.
AFC Wimbledon: McDonnell, Durrington, Oshilaja, Nightingale, McDonald, Hartigan, Soares (Trotter 63), Wordsworth (Wagstaff 74), Jervis (Hanson 74), Pinnock, Piggott. Unused substitutes: King, Watson, Thomas, Burey.
Referee: B Toner.