West Bromwich Albion. . . . . . . . . . . . . .1
HALIFAX TOWN have discovered that relegation from the Football League is not the end of the world after all. To return as non-League giant killers in the FA Cup is the sweetest of consolations.
Now languishing in the nether regions of the Vauxhall Conference, they dismissed their First Division opponents with a determined and composed performance that made the 4,000 at the Shay wonder how they contrived to lose their League status last season.
After nearly going out of existence altogether this time last year, they bounced back to deliver the biggest shock of the competition's first round. After years of struggling to maintain their League status, the role of underdog is nothing new to the Shaymen and they delivered the coup de grace to the Baggies in classic Cup style.
Albion played most of the good football and applied most of the pressure. Halifax soaked it all up, scored a couple of goals on the break, and gave their long-suffering supporters the sort of night only an FA Cup shock can produce.
'Halifax have probably only had six or seven nights like this in the last 90 years and it is nice to give them something to shout about for once,' Peter Wragg, their manaager, said.
'Albion had more of the ball but we looked like scoring every time we went forward.' Indeed, after only five minutes their strikers Jamie Patterson and Steve Saunders gave early warning of that, combining to set up Saunders for a 20-yard drive which Ian Hamilton headed out from under his own crossbar.
From the ensuing corner the ball eventually fell to Jason Peake, who was allowed to stroll through an advancing back four and pick his spot with a side-foot shot which went in at the near post.
West Brom played the patient passing game that befitted their superior status and with Kevin Donovan causing problems in Halifax's five-man defence, and central defenders Hamilton and Daryl Burgess pushing forward at every opportunity, Darren Heyes was the busier goalkeeper.
But Albion's pressure made them vulnerable to the quick break, at which Halifax showed they were adept. Saunders had already come close to increasing the lead before he did so with a classic counter-punch. Peake's long ball out of defence found Patterson, who laid it off for his striking partner to outpace the sparse cover and tuck the ball calmly beyond Tony Lange.
Halifax could have claimed their place in the second-round draw before half-time had Colin Lambert's far-post header not drifted across the face of goal, or Peake's free-kick been deflected over the bar by the defensive wall.
Instead Albion survived to mount a second-half onslaught, though the reward for their pressure was a long time coming. Kept at bay by tenacious tackling and Heyes' confident handling, there was only 10 minutes left when Andy Hunt outjumped the tiring defenders to meet Kieran O'Regan's cross and head Albion back into contention. Burgess saw a shot dip over the bar in the dying moments but it was too late.
Halifax Town (5-3-2): Heyes; German, Boardman, Edwards, Barr, Craven; Lambert, Ridings, Peake; Patterson (Constable, 85), Saunders. Substitutes not used: Filson, Brown (gk).
West Bromwich Albion (4-3-3): Lange; Coldicott, Hamilton, Burgess, Ampadu (Reid, 75); O'Regan, McNally, Donovan (Mellon, 61); Ashcroft, Taylor, Hunt. Substitute not used: Naylor (gk).
Referee: W Flood (Stockport).Reuse content