By Gerry PrewettHaving lost their 20 match unbeaten run last weekend Bristol Rovers travel up to Yorkshire to take on a Halifax Town team who also have an eye on the promotions spots.
Back on 30th August when Rovers took on the Shaymen, the Northern team has won all their opening 5 games, but left Bristol with a 2-1 loss.
Adam Cunnington scored his first goal for Rovers just before the half hour mark to break the deadlock. Jamie White latched onto a loose ball and powered into the Halifax area before floating a ball high towards the penalty spot. Cunnington out jumped Roberts and headed past an outstretched Glennon into the Town goal.
The visitors eventually turned their second half dominance into a goal just past the hour mark as Scott Boden scored his third goal of the season. Boden wriggled through three Rovers defenders in the penalty area before pushing the ball across the six-yard box and past Mildenhall into the far corner.
Rovers snatched all three points in the final few minutes as Ellis Harrison bundled home from close range ending FC Halifax Town’s unbeaten start to the season. Harrison headed Sinclair’s ball in from the right but Glennon could only parry it into the six-yard area and Harrison poked the ball over the line.
Looking at the history of the Shaymen, Halifax played in the Football League from 1921-1993 and 1998-2002. The club was dissolved in 2008, but reformed that July under the name of F.C. Halifax Town.
Halifax Town was founded in 1911 and played in the Yorkshire Combination and the Midland league until they became founder members of the Third Division North in 1921-22 season (a year after Rovers joined the League). The Shaymen never rose to the heights and during the 1933-34 season suffered their record defeat, 13-0 at Stockport. It wasn’t until 1958-59 season, when they were founder members of the Third Division that they moved out of the basement.
Five years of struggle were experienced before Town were relegated to the Fourth Division after they finished bottom in 1962-63 season, which was when the two clubs met for the first time. After six years in the bottom division The Shaymen eventually finished second in 1968-69 and won their Third Division spot back. Just two seasons later they had a titanic season and only missed promotion to the Second Division by four points. They never came anywhere as close again and once more suffered relegation at the end of the 1975-78 season.
At the end of the 1992-93 season Halifax suffered the ignominy of losing their League place, but to the surprise of many the club did not fold and they managed to regain their Third Division spot at the end of the 1997-98 season after finishing Champions of the GM Vauxhall Conference.
There have been 15 meetings between the two clubs, mostly in the mid 1970’s; here is the complete record;
Played Won Drew Lost For Against
Home 8 8 0 0 19 4
Away 7 1 4 2 5 8
Total 14 7 4 2 24 2
The very first game was at Eastville on 8th September 1962. Rovers had been relegated the previous season after losing their first seven games and failing to win in the last five games. They were struggling at the start of the next season too, after five games they had won just one game but a 3-1 home win over Peterborough gave them some self-belief. They certainly displayed that self-belief as they overran Halifax in the next game, 5-2 with a rare double by Terry Oldfield, and further goals by Harold Jarman, Ian Hamilton and an own goal by Alex South.
That win didn’t inspire Rovers in a season of struggle, it later transpired that Esmond Million and Keith Williams had accepted bribes to lose an April game at Bradford Park Avenue (although the game finished 2-2!). By the time Rovers were due to play their first ever match at the Shay on 18th May, they needed to win to ensure their survival.
Bobby Jones gave Rovers a two minute lead with a shot in off the post and after just 12 minutes they were cruising as Ian Hamilton headed a Geoff Bradford cross past a hapless Peter Downsborough in the Halifax goal. Just 11 minutes into the second half and Rovers keeper Bernard Hall failed to clear a corner and Paddy Stanley struck home a fierce shot. Halifax equalised when Dennis Fidler beat Bernard Hall from a narrow angle. Then with just 14 minutes left Ian Hamilton again beat Peter Downsborough in the air, this time to a Bobby Jones cross to give the Eastville team a 3-2 victory and survival.
It was more than six years later when the teams next met after Halifax’s 1968-69 promotion. The Eastville game on 31st August featured Harold Jarman goals in each half. The first after 18 minutes was squeezed past Alex Smith in goal from a Robin Stubbs pass. The second, to put Rovers in third spot, was a penalty after Wayne Jones was brought down in the area.
Those wins set the trend for Eastville games, Rovers won every game played there between the two teams. At the Shay the story has been a little different. Rovers have only scored twice there since that first win. Once was during that 1969-70 season when a Stuart Taylor goal secured a 1-1 draw and the second was by Bruce Bannister in his native Yorkshire as Rovers went down 2-1 on 5th February 1972. Rovers last two visits have resulted in a 0-0 draws the first during their 1973-74 promotion season and then in 2001-02.
Prior to this season the last meeting had been on 9th February 2002; when goals by Sergio Ommel and Nathan Ellington gave the Gas a 2-0 win.
In mid-week the Yorkshire team earned a well deserved point from a 1-1 draw at Aldershot. On 27 minutes Antonio German’s scrappy gave the home team the lead as he scored a goal at the near-post from a corner. It was a blow to The Shaymen, who seemed to have weathered the storm.
Just before the hour mark, Adam Smith sent in a delightful cross to allow Richard Peniket to direct a bullet header into the near post for the Town’s first goal in over 5 hours of football..
Speaking after the game, Town’s Paul Marshall said, “I think the lads can take a lot of confidence from the Aldershot game, especially that second half. I think that’s the best we’ve played in the last few games. We played at a good tempo and we kept to it right until the death, and we were unlucky not to win the game in the end. So we can take a lot of confidence going into Saturday.”
Looking ahead to this weekend’s game he went on to say, “It could come to the end of the season where these results matter and we want to get in the play-offs. We know we need to play well, we know we need to win games.”
“I think we always play better when we are the underdogs and there’s no pressure on us. It obviously gives us opportunities where we can play without pressure on us, which is a change especially where we are in the league. So when we play against teams that are around the top the pressure is on them.”
Marshall went on to praise 36 year old keeper Matt Glennon, “No doubt about it. He pulled off a great save on Tuesday where they could have scored to go 2-0 up and I think that would have been a mountain to climb for us. Glenno has been playing really well lately and I’m sure he’ll carry that form into the weekend.”
Talking about the game at the Mem he said, “We played well in that game and we were unlucky in that game not to get a result. Their fluke goal at the end was hard to take, but we’ll go into Saturday’s game without fear and hopefully we’ll come away with the win.”