Home league match played on 07 January 2017.
Kicked off at 10:30 AM

It's a classic tale.

An early start and a long journey to an away game to play a team you beat well on the first day of the season.  Spirits are high.  The game starts. Your opponents are poor and play like animals, viewing every tackle as an opportunity to deprive one of your players of the ability to walk.  In contrast your own team is the epitome of fair play, exemplary attitude and footballing class.  You are by far the better team throughout.  Their keeper is their best player.  Had it not for the blatantly biased referee, you would never have lost the game.  It's a disgrace.

This might be how the match report would read if it were written by the Coventry number 9 - their captain and serial whinger.  The truth however is quite different.

The game did have its fair share of poor challenges, feistiness and moments of flared temper.  But neither team had the moral high ground.  At heart however this was a game played with the best intentions - full of commitment between two evenly matched teams, with some good football on show.

In the end AFC Halifax prevailed thanks to their superior attitude and no shortage of ability, finally banishing the ghost of that 8-1 opening day defeat in the Midlands.

AFC Halifax started in an unfamiliar 4-3-3 formation with a front three of Ramsden, Adam Probets and Ashton in front of Addy, Wright and manager's favourite Noble in midfield.  Barker, Higgins, Barrett and Casalino made up the defence, with Latte Luke “2 Sugars” Coffey between the posts.  The teams traded blows in the opening exchanges with neither establishing a foothold, as they got to grips both with each other and the 4G pitch.

It didn't take long for AFC Halifax to work out that Coventry striker Colorado, fresh from Jamaica and sporting a snood, was the main threat whilst it would surely not have taken Coventry any longer to realise that they were in a far more competitive game than the last time the two teams met.  It was Halifax who took the lead after 10 minutes following a well worked move which saw Probets latch onto Ramsden’s lofted pass into the Coventry penalty area, finishing with composure into the far corner.  Coventry were a threat going forward and were beginning to find their rhythm with some excellent football around the edge of the Halifax area.  Halifax defended well and limited their opponents to long range efforts, but on 20 minutes Coventry inevitably found a way through.  Colorado latched onto a loose ball and outpaced the Halifax defence, before squaring the ball to his fellow striker (the aforementioned number 9) who couldn't miss.

The game was beginning to heat up with both teams guilty of some niggly challenges and late tackles which, combined with the Coventry number 9's relentless mouth, gave some extra spice to the contest.  The relationship and understanding between the Halifax front three grew as the half wore on and with it so too did the danger level for the Coventry defence, but Halifax were unable to capitalise on a number of opportunities.  At the other end Coventry gave as good as they got, forcing Halifax into some resolute defending.  Coventry’s best spell of the game came in the final 15 minutes of the half when Halifax’s work rate seemed to drop.  With more time on the ball, Coventry launched a stream of attacks and only a combination of last ditch defending and sheer luck prevented Halifax from falling behind. It was no surprise then when Coventry took the lead on 40 minutes in an unfortunate moment for Coffey.  Having just pulled off an excellent save from a stinging Colorado drive a few minutes earlier, he was unable to hold onto a tamer effort from a Coventry midfielder as the ball spilled over the line.   

Halifax would only have had themselves to blame had they gone in at half time a goal down, such was the Coventry dominance in that 15 minute spell.  However on the stroke of half time, they were level.  Ramsden’s reverse pass found Addy in the Coventry area, and the midfielder was brought down as he turned his defender.  Noble stepped up to convert the resulting spot-kick into the left-hand corner, despite the keeper getting a hand to the ball.

Gaffer Barker made three changes at half time with Fawkes replacing Wright in midfield, Peacock replacing Barrett at left back and Scott-Peters taking over goalkeeping duties.  Barker also sent the players back onto the pitch with a simple message – pick the work rate back up and try to be smarter in possession.

Barker was not impressed then when the Kick Off resulted in immediately giving the ball away, but he would have little else to complain about in the second half.  Halifax were simply excellent.  The warning signs were there for Coventry as Probets was twice denied; firstly by both posts following a superb Fawkes through ball and then by the off-side flag, But Probets made no mistake with his next opportunity on the hour mark. A reverse header from Ramsden allowed Probets to get behind the defence, giving him all the time in the world to bear down on the goalkeeper before slotting home from close range. 

Halifax could have extended their lead when a superb long range drive from Fawkes flew just over.  Coventry were visibly rattled and began spending even more time remonstrating with the referee, each other or anyone else who would listen about the perceived injustice of the refereeing decisions.  Even the manager got involved, walking onto the pitch to have a chat with referee Lou Casalino who didn't get a single big decision wrong all game.  The edginess to the game grew and some strong challenges from both teams ensued, whilst Colorado was heard muttering that he would 'just have to do it all himself'.

Despite these issues, Coventry are undoubtedly a team of quality and they remained dangerous.  As the half wore on they pressed Halifax back, but were unable to fashion a real opportunity as they struggled to break down the solid Halifax wall ably supported by a hard-working midfield.  On the odd occasion when they thought they had found a breakthrough, they discovered substitute keeper Scott-Peters in fine form.

Halifax were frustrating Coventry in defence end whilst causing them no end of problems on the counter attack.  Halifax could have had a fourth when second half substitute Jackson hit a dipping effort from the right hand side of the penalty area which just cleared the bar.  Heaton, another Halifax second half substitute, challenged the Coventry number 9 to a boxing match before Halifax wrapped up the game with 10 minutes to go.  Ramsden latched onto a poor back-pass following excellent pressing from the front three, and the Halifax Captain finished from six yards past the helpless keeper.

After the game Coventry declared that their vote for the Man of the Match was a toss-up between Scott-Peters and Probets, ultimately opting for the second half goalkeeper.  As good a game as the young keeper certainly had, there was an air of sour grapes about the award.

Along with Altrincham away, this was undoubtedly Halifax's finest performance of the season and a great way to start 2017.  They were solid, disciplined, hard-working, dangerous in attack with an excellent attitude, and ultimately fully deserving of the 4-2 victory.  

They now travel to Burton knowing that the standard for the rest of the year has been set.

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