Away league match played on 06 August 2016.
Kicked off at 11:00 AM

AFC Halifax headed to face Coventry in the opening fixture of their 2016/17 IFA league campagin hopeful of making a positive start to the new season after what had been a traumatic summer for the side, a poor Worldnet campaign was only the tip of the iceberg compared to the individual summers of several of the playing squad leading to several of the squad missing the opening game, Adam Robinson was in Spain searching for the ball he blazed over from 12 yards at Worldnet, Andrew Hemblys was recovering from the hamstring injury that ruled him out of Turkey’s Euro 2016 campaign whilst Matty Greenwood and Lee Casalino were not involved having found themselves married over the summer. The club refused to make a comment on Jason Wade’s absence but it is speculated to be down to a heavy night in liquid the night before.

Manager John Barker did however have an 18 man squad to select from for the game, having decided to pretend himself to be retired again (news on a sweepstake of when he will pull the boots on for the first time this season to follow) Barker handed debuts to Tom Ashton and Luke Lanson, starting with a 4-5-1 formation Dave Sutton got the nod to start in goals with a back four of Ethan Meadows, Adam Ramsden, Andy Bowe and Stewart Heaton, Ashton debuted on the right hand side of midfield with Mo Aali on the opposite flank and the central areas consisting of Ben Fawkes, Simon Noble and John Luders with Nathan Wright starting a loan striker.

AFC started the game well and in the opening minutes looked to threaten with Luders getting denied with a good save by the keeper before getting on the end of a couple of decent corners from Fawkes with his second header clipping the bar on its way for a goal kick, those early minutes however were about as good as it got for AFC in the first half with Coventry then beginning to assert themselves on the game. AFC struggled to keep possession all over the pitch despite looking threatening the few teams the ball did find its way to wingers Aali and Ashton in advanced positions but the inability to string a good run of passes together led to waive after waive of Coventry attack, the defence were managing to keep these at bay for a period and the times they were breached Sutton was on hand to pull off some decent saves to keep the scores level, he couldn’t however do anything with what was supposed to be a chip back to the goalkeeper from the Coventry attacker in an act of sportsmanship mischievously ended up a chip at goal, fortunately the referee saw sense and decided to pretend it never happened.

The Coventry pressure continued with Ramsden making a good recovery tackle after the Coventry attacker appeared to be through on goal following a defensive mix up and Coventry also missed a good chance when their number 10 got through one on one having appeared to be offside, they did however make the breakthrough in the 20th minute, a through ball onto an overlapping runner down the right hand side sliced through the AFC backline and the Coventry player drove inside with the ball and scored with a well placed finish however with the ball bouncing back off the stanchion it seemed for a moment that the goal wasn’t to be awarded before eventually being so.

AFC did look to hit back immediately and Ashton’s run down the right hand side caused problems for the Coventry defence and from the resultant corner Luders again managed to get in a header but couldn’t find the target, the fightback seemed to end here and the action reverted back to the other end of the pitch and Sutton was forced into a save with his feet in a 1 on 1 with the Coventry number 9 and at the half hour mark AFC were forced into a defensive reshuffle with Meadows going off injured and being replaced by Gavin Higgins, Heaton switched to right back, Bowe to left back and Higgins joined Ramsden in the centre and it appeared they were still getting accustomed to the reshuffle when Coventry soon hit a second with possession again given away resulting in the Coventry attacker being put and scoring a well taken goal.

Again the Coventry goal seemed to push AFC on to have another go at attacking themselves and when AFC were awarded a free kick wide on the right around 35 yards from goal, Ramsden stepped up to deliver an in swinging cross to the back post where Ashton was able to loop a header over the Coventry goal keeper into the far corner for a debut goal and to pull one back for AFC.

The one goal deficit was to last only minutes however, again possession was given away and Coventry knocked one over the top for their number 11 down the left to cut inside and cross in for the Coventry attacker to head home. At half time it was clear that the inability to keep possession throughout the teamwas proving the downfall with it inviting numerous Coventry attacks, the defence had been holding out well with, Heaton, Bowe, Ramsden, Meadows and Higgins all making numerous vital blocks and clearance to prevent further goals but Coventry were playing to the percentages and the chances to get in behind coupled with superior pace in their attack meant they could play the percentage game and were always likely to capitilise eventually. One Coventry player had clearly noticed and decided to shout out that they could get in behind on pace, had an unimpressed Heaton not been subbed at half time there was a strong possibility that a strangulation incident may have ensued.

Barker having encouraged his team to be more confident in possession and show for the ball more made 6 substitutions at half time with Luke Coffey coming on in goal, Luders moved to right back and was joined in defence by Higgins, Alex Barrett who having made his loan move from Ipswich supporters permanent had stipulated as part of the transfer he wouldn’t have to travel on the AFC team bus and Bowe, Ashton and Fawkes remained on in midfield and were joined by Martin Probets whilst young attacking trio Marcus Stapley, Brandon Jackson and debutant Luke Lanson.

AFC looked to have taken heed of Barker’s instructions and were confidently passing the ball around in the opening minutes of the second period and created the first opening of the half when Fawkes spread the ball wide onto the left hand side to Jackson and the young man known for his pork pies and nutmegs crossed the ball to the far post to Ashton who volleyed narrowly wide, AFC’s good possession continued however the side were struggling to find the final ball to create any real openings of note despite some good link up play by Probets and Ashton down the right hand side.

There were some suggestions that AFC’s struggles were down to being overwhelmed by the pressures of bringing a sizeable away following, a member of the crowd, Suzanne, WAG of Andy Bowe had also pointed out that since his move to AFC his disciplinary record had been greatly improved, this coming moments before he earnt himself a yellow card with a late tackle, in fairness to the man himself he was bound to be frustrated having endured the pain of a grazed elbow moments earlier.

Coventry then began to build up some additional pressure and it was only an open goal miss and a couple of excellent saves from Coffey, one of which earned him a credit in the post match fines that prevented them from extending the lead. Luders was then spotted sitting on the floor, this shouldn’t have been all too surprising as it thought it was only around 2 weeks ago he woke up on the floor in the marquee at Butlins in Skegness dressed as a snowman having fallen asleep there in May, and as a result was promptly dragged off with Ramsden re-entering the field of play.

Coventry then hit their fourth after a mix up with AFC trying to play an offside trap on their attacker and an onside player instead charging through and beating Coffey. At this moment AFC heads seemed to really drop and from there on in it was all too easy for Coventry who got a 5th with a solo run from the half way line going unchallenged before finishing and then a really disappointing 6th when a Coventry goal kick went straight to their number 11 unchallenged who then ran in on goal and finished.

AFC then made some substitutions to try and restore some pride with some fresh(er) legs on the pitch and looked to have done so when Stapley found Aali to tap home, despite Stapley’s pass appearing to go behind him to where Aali was placed this was given as offside and from the resultant free kick a defensive mix up ensued and Coventry were able to round the keeper for a seventh and with AFC heads now really gone they managed to add an 8th after finding far too much space in the penalty area.

A disappointing morning for AFC who know they are capable of much more but with a much bigger squad than recent yeaars and lessons being learnt all the time the rest of the season promises to be much better and there were bright signs in promising debuts from Lanson and Ashton who earnt man of the match for AFC and other relatively new faces fitting in well, well done and thank you to our hosts Coventry and Bedworth United who provided excellently facilities and the afternoon got better from there as the Shaymen came out victorious winning 3-2 at Nuneaton.

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