Match Report – Halifax Town 1 – 0 Grimsby Town

A second-half penalty sent Grimsby Town to a narrow away defeat at National League leaders FC Halifax Town.

The Mariners battled well throughout an intriguing contest at The Shay which could have gone either way as both sides created chances.

But in the end, it was Matty Warburton’s spot-kick 21 minutes from time which proved to be the difference and ensured the points stayed in West Yorkshire.

John McAtee came straight back into the Town starting line-up after completing his three-match ban.  He replaced Giles Coke in what was the only change to the XI that began the reverse fixture against Halifax at Blundell Park on January 3.

Max Crocombe continued in goal, with Michee Efete, Shaun Pearson, Luke Waterfall and Adam Crookes forming an unchanged defence.  Jordan Maguire-Drew, Ben Fox, Harry Clifton and Erico Sousa were the midfielders, with McAtee operating just behind striker Ryan Taylor.

Alex Hunt and Sam Bell’s returns to Sheffield Wednesday and Bristol City meant there had to be changes on the bench and it was Coke and Joel Grant who were named alongside David Longe-King, Max Wright and Seb Revan.

Halifax’s starting XI also showed one change from last week’s draw in Cleethorpes, although the Shaymen were also in action at the weekend when they recorded a 4-0 home victory over Eastleigh and in the process, moved to the top of the league table.  Jamie Allen came in for the injured Harvey Gilmour.

The Mariners had the first opportunity of the game as McAtee found Maguire-Drew on the edge of the penalty area but his low shot from a narrow-angle was comfortably stopped by home keeper Sam Johnson.

A foul on Taylor brought an early free-kick inside the Halifax half but Maguire-Drew’s delivery to the edge of the box was cleared.

Another free-kick came when Maguire-Drew was brought down midway inside the home half on 11 minutes but again, no problems were caused from it as Waterfall diverted the ball wide at the far post.

After a positive start by Town, Halifax started to see more of the ball and build pressure.  They won the game’s first corner on 18 minutes but it was comfortably dealt with.

Jay Benn flashed a dangerous cross over from the right two minutes later and after the hosts retained possession, Warburton turned in the box and hit a shot that was blocked.

Kieran Green tried his luck from distance soon afterwards as the home side attacked again and this time, the ball went narrowly wide of Crocombe’s target.

Taylor took advantage of a loose pass in midfield and took the ball forward but was unable to pick out a teammate, then Benn won a corner at the other end when his cross from the right was blocked.  The ball from the flag was headed away by Efete as far as Benn, who sent a first-time shot over the bar.

Clifton was shown the first yellow card of the evening after bringing Green down 30 yards from goal and before the resulting free-kick was taken, Town were forced into a substitution as Efete limped off with an injury, to be replaced by Longe-King.  Warburton shot straight at Crocombe from the set-piece.

Sousa cut in from the left and hit a shot that was headed clear before McAtee won Town’s first corner.  Maguire-Drew’s delivery from the flag was headed clear before it could reach Waterfall, then the offside flag went up as the ball was lifted back into the box.

Jordan Slew won a corner for Halifax on 41 minutes, with Crocombe coming off his line to claim the ball from the flag.  He then found Sousa to launch a counter-attack which led to a corner at the other end.  This time, Waterfall got on the end of it, although he could only head over the bar.

Another corner came soon afterwards when McAtee’s shot was blocked after Fox had headed the ball on for him.  This time, it was cleared for a throw-in.

One added minute was played at the end of a half where both sides had enjoyed periods of pressure and created chances, albeit without seriously testing either goalkeeper.

And with no further openings coming before the referee’s half-time whistle, it remained goalless at the interval.

No further changes were made by either side before the restart and Sousa sent an early long-range attempt over the bar from out on the left.

Town had to do some defending soon afterwards as Billy Waters looked to take advantage of a loose ball after Fox had lost possession, but the hosts were kept out.

Slew then ran the ball out of play as Halifax failed to profit from another promising position after Allen’s pass inside the box.

McAtee fired well over the bar from 35 yards, then Slew beat Longe-King down the home left but Waterfall did well to get across and block his low centre.

Town had a chance on 53 minutes as McAtee drove through the middle and let fly from 20 yards.  Johnson pushed the ball out and it was scrambled away for a corner before Sousa could get to the rebound.

Taylor was booked for a push on Johnson, then Longe-King was penalised after a battle with Slew, although the defender escaped a card.

Maguire-Drew curled a shot wide of the far post just after the hour as the Mariners continued to show promising signs but the game was still end-to-end in nature and a Halifax corner came on 63 minutes but failed to cause a problem.

Waters was thwarted by Fox on the edge of the penalty area soon afterwards, before Maguire-Drew won a corner for Town on the right.  From it, Waterfall headed wide.

Crocombe was called into action on 67 minutes as he made a good save to deny Tom Bradbury.

But two minutes later, the home side were given a chance to break the deadlock when Allen went down under a challenge inside the box and the referee pointed to the spot.  WARBURTON stepped up and beat the dive of Crocombe with a superb penalty to put Halifax ahead.

Former Mariners midfielder Luke Summerfield replaced Allen straight after the goal before Wright was sent on for Town in place of Maguire-Drew.

Clifton escaped a second yellow card following a foul which stopped a Halifax break before Grant was sent on in place of Sousa for the last 10 minutes.  Jack Senior replaced Benn for the hosts at the same time.

A header from McAtee was blocked for a corner as the Town fans appealed for handball before a great cross-field ball found Slew on the home left but he failed to pick out a team-mate with his cross.

A free-kick on the right gave the Mariners an opportunity to put pressure on the Halifax goal but McAtee’s cross was headed clear after the ball had been played short to him by Wright.

Time was now running out for the visitors to salvage something from the game, with three added minutes signalled by the fourth official.

Halifax could have wrapped the points up when Waters burst into the box but he was denied by Crocombe, who made a smart save and smothered the follow-up.

A Town free-kick brought a chance to get the ball into the danger zone but they were unable to profit from it as the hosts held firm at the back.

And that proved to be the last opportunity for the Mariners, who could not repeat their added-time heroics of last week as they were forced to return home empty-handed despite a good performance, with Halifax left to celebrate a hard-fought victory.

Town are next in action on Saturday, when Altrincham are the visitors to Blundell Park.

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