Away league match played on 10 September 2016.
Kicked off at 10:00 AM

FRESH on the heels of the previous week’s superb performance and victory against Telford, AFC Halifax travelled to neighbours Guiseley in a bid to record back-to-back victories and erase the memory of defeats in their opening two games of the season. Spirits were high before the game, although the pre-match warm up caused more worry for those who had parked their car next to the pitch than it did for the Guiseley keeper.

AFC did find the target with their first attempt of the game just 2 minutes in following excellent work from John Luders down the left. He laid the ball off for Ben Fawkes, who had time to compose himself before placing the beyond the keeper. AFC doubled their lead 5 minutes later when an Adam Ramsden long throw caused a scramble in the Guiseley penalty area, before the ball gifted itself to Marcus Stapley who couldn’t miss from 6 yards out.

Despite AFC’s early dominance the game was very open, with both teams showing willingness to attack. However AFC were creating the better chances and should have been 3-0 up after 20 minutes when they found themselves 2 on 1, but Stapley’s shot was straight at the keeper.

It would only take a further 5 minutes for the third goal to come though, and it was a goal of real drama. Guiseley could have halved the deficit except for superb tracking back from Danny Murgatroyd preventing a one-on-one situation. Murgatroyd then found Luders who played a superb pass through to Nathan Wright just inside the area, the lethal striker needing no second invitation to convert with a low shot driven across the keeper.

AFC appeared to take the foot off the gas following the third goal and would have paid the price had it not been for keeper Dave Sutton, who twice saved from close range. So it was somewhat against the run of play when AFC scored their fourth, with Stapley again capitalising on confusion in the Guiseley area. The attempted clearance was straight at his feet, who showed great strength to hold off a challenge and score into the bottom corner.

4-0 would become 5-0 just minutes later when Ramsden, who had been a thorn in Guiseley’s defence with his strength and aerial ability, was pulled down in the area. Manager’s Player of the Season Simon Noble stepped up and converted the spot kick. Ramsden then almost bagged a goal for himself, his backwards header hitting the cross-bar.

John Barker rang the changes at half time, with Andy Bowe, Lee Casalino, Tom Ashton and Andrew Hemblys replacing Stewart Heaton, Danny Murgatroyd, Marcus Stapley and Nathan Wright respectively.

Casalino’s first contribution was to throw away a mystery object which had fallen from under his shorts. Casalino insisted it was his hamstring support, but others speculated that it was the bum bag he had recently been seen sporting whilst on holiday.

It was a substitute who scored AFC’s sixth goal just two minutes into the second half, Ashton racing onto a Guiseley attempted back-pass and tucked the ball beyond the keeper at the far post. AFC continued to pile on the pressure and a Fawkes shot from 18 yards was well saved by the Guiseley keeper. Guiseley responded with a quick free-kick following a Bowe foul, but the resulting header was wide of the target.

An injury to centre-back Gavin Higgins meant that John Barker would return to action for his 200th AFC appearance, having not played since c.2014.

With the game won AFC could have been forgiven for displaying some complacency, but they continued to show the initiative. They scored their seventh on 65 minutes when a Ramsden effort was tipped onto the crossbar by the keeper, the ball then sitting up nicely to be headed home from close range by Murgatroyd who had recently replaced Noble in centre midfield.

AFC’s lead was extended further just a minute later following a pull back from Hemblys; Luders turning and firing home from 18 yards. Luders then nearly scored his second when Casalino carried the ball through the middle. His pass found its way through to Luders whose shot was well saved by the Guiseley keeper, but Casalino was on hand to fire home the loose ball cueing celebrations for his first goal since 2010.

Guiseley were well beaten as AFC launched attack after attack. The crossbar denied Ramsden a deserved goal for the third time, before Luders completed the scoring with the goal of the game on 74 minutes. A corner was cleared by Guiseley to Luders on the edge of the area, who beat two men before driving his shot from 18 yards into the bottom corner. However his celebration would later be branded “too celebratory” by gaffer Barker after the game.

Surprisingly there were no goals in the final 15 minutes, but AFC nearly relinquished their clean sheet. Guiseley found themselves 2 on 1, but a poor pass allowed Casalino to clear.

Barker twice attempted to cap his landmark appearance with a goal; a shot from distance being tipped over by the Guiseley keeper and a header which failed to hit the target.

Man of the Match Luders almost completed a deserved hat-trick in the final minute when he shot just wide, although a frustrated Ramsden was arguably better placed.

This wasn’t the most difficult game AFC will ever be involved in, but the benefit of two wins on the bounce and a rare clean sheet cannot be underestimated. There were excellent performances all over the park and we move onto Ipswich with confidence surely at a high. Credit also has to be given to Guiseley who kept playing until the final whistle.

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