Football: Halifax hope to profit from rivals' Cup considerations

Non-league notebook
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Halifax Town will be hoping that both Hednesford and Cheltenham, two of their rivals for the GM Vauxhall Conference title, continue to be distracted by progress in the FA Cup.

After Hednesford had finished celebrating their fine FA Cup win at Hull City last weekend, they learned that they had been replaced at the top of the Conference by Halifax, who had won 1-0 at Stalybridge. The Shaymen have a one-point lead - and two games in hand - over the Pitmen, while third-placed Cheltenham are in close pursuit, four points behind Hednesford with two games in hand as well.

All three championship chasers have home games tomorrow. Cheltenham entertain the bottom club, Gateshead, Hednesford meet Slough while Halifax play host to Hereford.

Off the field, Halifax are continuing their preparations for a possible return to the Football League. Along with Halifax Blue Sox rugby league club, they have signed a new 10-year lease at the Shay Stadium, at which construction of a new terraced stand is due to start next month. On the field, their top scorer, Geoff Horsfield, will return from suspension tomorrow but they will be without their captain, the former Huddersfield midfielder Kieran O'Regan, who begins a ban.

Like Halifax, Cheltenham were not among the pre-season favourites for promotion but, under the managership of the former Wimbledon striker Steve Cotterill, their unbeaten league run stands at 11 games.

Last weekend, in the FA Cup, they inflicted the first defeat in any match this term upon Tiverton, thanks to a late winner from the former Woking Cup hero, Clive Walker. With a home second-round tie against Boreham Wood, Cheltenham have a great chance of reaching the third round.