Football: Halifax ready to go Nationwide

Halifax 2 Wooding og 71, Paterson 85 Rushden & Diamonds 0 Attend ance: 3,951
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The Independent Online
HALIFAX can start planning for League football again. Five years after they dropped out of sight, Town will now surely return to Nationwide status this year after a victory that took them 13 points clear of their nearest rivals.

Although it was a messy own goal that set them on their way, Halifax dominated to such a degree that it would have been the great Diamond heist if Rushden, who brought on a substitute named Julian Capone, had escaped with any of the loot.

The remodelled Shay might only be half-built and at less than half its projected 12,000 capacity, but it generated the sort of atmosphere yesterday that would have been the stuff of fantasy when gates were down to 700 and less as Halifax narrowly avoided relegation from the Vauxhall Conference last season.

Throughout the first half, it seemed only a matter of time before Halifax scored as they bombarded the visitors' goal. With Mark Bradshaw and the diminutive Jamie Paterson finding an abundance of space to provide the service, Geoff Horsfield looked certain to add to his 30 goals this season, particularly when he ran on to Kevin Hulme's knock-down and homed in on goal, only to shoot wide.

Halifax were then twice denied by Mark Smith in the space of a minute, first from a header by Horsfield and then from the subsequent corner from an even more obviously goal-bound effort by Brian Kilcline.

The old General Custer look now abandoned, the defender who lifted the FA Cup for Coventry 11 years ago now favours the same style consultant as Alexei Lalas, and the Shay was already ringing to the refrain of "Killer" as Smith rose again to tip his header away.

It was an even more remarkable effort from the Rushden goalkeeper, who was playing despite torn stomach muscles. His discomfort after his double save was outdone by the simultaneous calf injury that forced a change of referee. Unlike Mr Hall of Whitley Bay, Rushden survived until half-time.

They lived even more dangerously after the break when Hulme hit the bar and Bradshaw had what looked a clear case for a penalty denied when he was pushed as he tried to follow up.

Horsfield fluffed another good opportunity before Halifax finally got their due, Kilcline touching on Paterson's free-kick and Tim Wooding only being able to steer the ball past Smith.

Five minutes from time, the excellent Paterson latched on to a long ball, took it round Smith and tucked it away neatly. Suddenly, the threat of the Unibond League seemed like a distant and unpleasant memory.

Halifax Town: Morgan, Thackeray, M Bradshaw, Murphy, Kilcline, Stoneman, Paterson, Hulme, O'Regan, Horsfield, Brown. Substitutes not used: Kiwomya, Lyons, Horner.

Rushden and Diamonds: Smith, Wooding, D Bradshaw, Mison (Capone, 72), Cramman, Whyte, Hamsher, Butterworth, West (Mehew, 48; Rawle, 75), Foster, Underwood.

Referee: M Hall (Whitley Bay; replaced by T J Kelly, Billingham).