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Match report: Halifax Town 1, York City 1
SKIPPER Chris Smith’s 90th-minute equaliser ensured York City escaped with a 1-1 draw at FC Halifax Town.
Danny Lowe’s fierce first-half drive, thumped past Michael Ingham from the left of the penalty area, had looked like it would give the Minstermen’s Blue Square Bet North opponents victory at The Shay – and leave manager Gary Mills a frustrated man on the touchline.
But Smith’s bullet header across Simon Eastwood, following a sustained period of pressure from the away team, means only Premier League Sunderland have bested the Minstermen in pre-season, with just Bolton to come at Bootham Crescent on Saturday.
In a match which looked, on paper at least, to replicate the sort of test City can expect when the season starts, Mills made several changes from the side which beat Hartlepool 2-1 at the weekend – Adriano Moké, on as a second half substitute at Bootham Crescent, started, as did Jamal Fyfield, while Liam Henderson was in ahead of Jason Walker up front.
That meant Ashley Chambers and Patrick McLaughlin joined the former Luton man among the substitutes.
With opportunities to impress the City boss running out ahead of the August 13 Blue Square Bet Premier opener at Ebbsfleet, the Minstermen seemed set to play an up-tempo style early on – Scott Kerr’s crunching challenge on Anton Foster in the third minute an indication no quarter was going to be given.
But it was Halifax who had the first real chance in the sixth minute. Daniel Parslow’s clearing header, under pressure, only reached James Dean and he took it across the box and struck it from 16 yards.
Ingham was equal to the task, making a smart save to his right to beat the ball away from danger.
City hit back and Moké’s tenth-minute shot was weak and straight at Eastwood, while Jamie Reed could only clear the crossbar from the right edge of the box a minute later.
They were finding plenty of space but passes were going astray and an increasingly dangerous looking Halifax fashioned an even better opportunity in the 20th minute.
Lanre Oyebanjo couldn’t deal with a high cross and the ball fell to Lowe, who pulled it back for Liam Needham eight yards out.
It was a great opportunity but the midfielder could only hit it low and straight at Ingham. City wouldn’t be as fortunate two minutes later, however.
Again, a ball from the right, swept across the box by trialist Andy Fowler, caught Oyebanjo off-guard.
The cross fell behind him and a waiting Lowe composed himself and drove it powerfully into the net.
City put together a move of real quality in the 35th minute when quick passing involving Moké, Blair and Fyfield eventually saw the latter weave his way to the byline, into the box, and poke the ball across goal.
But, with Reed waiting to pounce, Halifax scrambled away.
Still the home side pressed.
Ingham did well to get to Lowe’s blistering free-kick from 30 yards, a stinging shot destined for the top corner until the City ’keeper got a glove on it, and the visitors were somewhat fortunate just to trail by a goal at the break.
Fyfield slotted into left-back at the start of the second period, as Michael Potts came on for Meredith and McLaughlin replaced Kerr.
Halifax remained lively, though, Tom Baker causing a nuisance while Dean continued to keep Parslow and Smith occupied with his aerial prowess.
Walker and Chambers entered the fray around the hour mark, replacing the largely ineffectual Henderson and Reed, and City immediately looked more of a threat.
Chambers had a shot deflected wide after a lovely lay-off from Blair and the same fate befell a Moké effort after more good work from Chambers close to the edge of the box.
Blair shot wide from an acute angle with 20 minutes remaining after Walker teed him up with a nice touch and Eastwood almost spilled McLaughlin’s 20-yard effort as time began to tick away.
Ingham needed to be a full stretch to deny the Shaymen a second when turning substitute Scott Spencer’s curling shot round a post.
And City’s night looked complete, three minutes from time, when Aaron Hardy somehow managed to deflect Walker’s goalbound shot round a post after the striker had found himself in yards of space unmarked in the area.
But Mills men did not give up, and Smith struck right on full time with a superb header from a deep Moké cross to salvage a share of the spoils.
FC Halifax: Eastwood, Hardy, Hogan, Haggerty, McManus, Lowe, Foster (Garner, 46), Baker, Needham (Winter, 76), Dean (Holland, 74), Fowler (Spencer, 46).
Subs not used: Senior, Anderson, Gray, Toulson, Hogan.
York City: Ingham, Oyebanjo, Parslow, Smith, Meredith (Potts, 46), Kerr (McLaughlin, 46), Moké, Fyfield, Blair, Henderson (Walker, 58), Reed (Chambers, 58).
Subs not used: Allen, Binns, Musselwhite.
Referee: Chris Kavanagh (Lancashire).