A SOLITARY strike from Jamie Reid was enough to keep United’s survival hopes alive and positive results elsewhere means the dream of an incredible escape is still alive.
The Gulls fully deserved this victory over a fatigued Halifax and the only mild criticism was that the winning margin could have been more.
After a succession of near-misses, Reid pounced on 57 minutes and the visitors had little hope of a recovery once Ben Tomlinson was dismissed for two bookable offences.
United boss Gary Owers made three changes from the side beaten by AFC Fylde in midweek, with Vincent Dorel restored to goalkeeping duties after Ryan Clarke succumbed to injury. Conrad Balatoni replaced Michee defence and Rhys Healey came back from suspension to start ahead of Tommy O’Sullivan.
It has been a brutal week for Halifax, as they arrived at Plainmoor less than 48 hours after securing a 2-2 draw with Gateshead and an incredible fourth game inside seven days.
United were first to muster on a misty afternoon, with Brett Williams surging through the middle and when a scuffed challenge fell to Healey, his left-foot shot was comfortably gobbled up by Halifax ‘keeper Sam Johnson.
Healey was again involved on seven minutes, winning a free-kick 22 yards from goal. Connor Lemonheigh-Evans took charge and there was a decent shout for handball when the effort was blocked by what appeared to be a slightly raised Halifax hand.
Despite the pressure of United’s situation, there was a concerted effort to keep possession in the opening exchanges and some decent passing football on display. It was, however, a long ball over the top from Sean McGinty that provided Williams to cut inside on his right and force a decent block from Johnson.
The resultant corner fell to the quick feet of Healey and he fired in a low drive that was also repelled by the alert Johnson. The man on loan from Cardiff was having a fine game, earning another free-kick from the right flank but the eventual shot by Lemonheigh-Evans was easy for Johnson.
The Gulls were camped in the Halifax half, as crosses from Liam Davis and Healey were desperately cleared by the visiting defence. Healey then fired in a fizzing low delivery that just needed a touch from Williams or Reid.
The Shaymen finally conjured their first real effort of the day on 34 minutes and it was a cracking strike from stalwart Scott McManus, narrowly missing the top corner with 25-yard belter.
It was the final act of a decent first period for United and the restart quickly had Johnson back in the action, displaying assured handling from a whipped low free-kick by Young that bounced in front of the powerfully-built custodian.
The next Young set-piece was in a far more central position and ripe for a shot from 25 yards. The Southway Beckham duly rifled in a super low strike that had Johnson at full stretch to turn it wide.
United were turning the screw and their reward arrived when a Young cross from the left was deflected to the far post for Reid to steer an excellent volley back across goal. Johnson desperately sought to keep the ball out but the referee’s assistant in front of the Popside furiously waved his flag to indicate a crucial goal.
After a brief regroup for the Gulls, Lemonheigh-Evans conjured the next opening with a weaving run and cross from the right, but Healey’s Ronaldo impression from the overhead kick bounced wide of the near post.
Halifax manager Jamie Fullarton made his first change on 70 minutes, removing Connor Thompson for Raheem Hanley, but the momentum continued in United’s favour. It had reached that edgy stage in proceedings when a second goal would be very welcome.
United’s cause was helped massively on 74 minutes when Tomlinson was shown a second yellow for clipping Young on the edge of the box. While his first indiscretion probably deserved a booking, the second was innocuous challenge and hardly worthy of resulting in dismissal.
After the poor decisions that went against United at Dover last weekend, perhaps this was the Football Gods restoring the balance but still very harsh on Tomlinson.
Owers moved to exploit understandably tired legs in the Halifax team by introducing the fresh legs of George Dowling for Reid and the new man instantly won a free-kick on the right edge of the penalty area.
Ruairi Keating for the excellent Healey was United’s next change and he was immediately presented with a chance from the run and pass of Barnes. Keating’s first touch was tad heavy, however, allowing Johnson enough time to narrow the angle for a super save.
There was one last flurry in United’s box but the save hands of Dorel clinched on to the cross, and we live to fight another day.
United (3-4-3): 30 Vincent Dorel; 26 Conrad Balatoni, 6 Josh Gowling, 5 Sean McGinty (capt); 21 Aaron Barnes, 8 Luke Young, 29 Connor Lemonheigh-Evans, 3 Liam Davis; 19 Jamie Reid (24 George Dowling 77), 39 Brett Williams, 28 Rhys Healey (10 Ruairi Keating 84). Substitutes (not used): 17 Tommy O’Sullivan, 18 Yan Klukowski, 20 Neal Osborn (GK).
Booked: Lemonheigh-Evans 67, Keating 89
Halifax (4-5-1): 1 Sam Johnson; 39 Michael Duckworth, 31 Niall Maher, 21 Sam Graham, 11 Scott McManus; 7 Matthew Kosylo, 14 Ben Tomlinson, 8 Nathan Hotte (20 Jake Hibbs 81), 22 Michael Collins, 23 Connor Thompson (32 Raheem Hanley 70); 33 Mike Fondop. Substitutes (not used): 6 Scott Garner, 10 Connor Oliver, 13 Tom Nicholson.
Booked: Graham 16, Kosylo 31, Tomlinson 39, McManus 73
Sent-Off: Tomlinson 745
Referee: Chris O’Donnell
Attendance: 1,567 (132 away)