2011/12: FA Cup 2nd Qualifying Round – FC Halifax Town v Tadcaster Albion
Back in August I started my FA Cup adventure at Hemsworth Miners Welfare and their Preliminary Qualifying tie against Tadcaster Albion. Whilst in the next two rounds I was watching Garforth Town beat Sheffield FC and then lose to Frickley Athletic, Tadcaster progressed with victories over Pontefract Collieries and Scarborough Athletic. The draw for the 2nd Qualifying Round had Albion make the trip to The Shay Stadium to take on FC Halifax Town, so I decided to take up my Cup trail with The Brewers once more.
Along with Staveley Miners Welfare, Tadcaster Albion were the last of the (Baris) Northern Counties East League (NCEL) representatives in the Cup. In terms of League form, Albion lost their opening two fixtures, but have been unbeaten in their other five games to date. Their last League game saw three points snatched away in the dying minutes of the game as Parkgate scored to grab a 3-3 draw.
For The Shaymen, it has been a bit of a bumpy ride since their promotion to the (Blue Square) Conference North Division. On the opening day of the season Town suffered a 3-1 home loss to Corby Town and their last home fixture was an even more emphatic home defeat as they lost 5-1 to ten-man Vauxhall FC. However, in their last couple of fixtures Halifax have shown what they are capable of when coming back from 3-1 at half-time to beat Guiseley 4-3 at Nethermoor and then securing a 0-0 draw at Harrogate Town.
It was hard to believe as I entered the ground that it was the first day of October. With blue skies and high temperatures, the unseasonal weather gave the stadium a feel of a venue about to host a preseason friendly rather than a Cup tie. Indeed, despite a crowd of 1,002, there was very little atmosphere. This may have been due to the apprehension of the home crowd at the prospect of a giant-killing act by the visitors, combined with memories of the mauling by Vauxhall in the last fixture here.
Tadcaster were certainly not over-awed in the opening exchanges and as early as the third minute forced a good save from Town keeper Simon Eastwood. Halifax began to settle into the game as they dominated possession, however, this was not really turned into chances that worked Albion custodian Arran Reid apart from one excellent double-save from the young keeper. With frustration evident in the crowd as The Shaymen failed to break down the visitors, the home fans were stunned on the half hour mark when from an Albion corner was headed home by Carl Stewart to put Tadcaster ahead. The remainder of the half saw Halifax continue their domination of possession without really stretching The Brewers defence. Half-time came and Town returned to the dressing room with a real air of discontent amongst the Shay faithful.
Home manager Neil Aspin responded by replacing Anton Foster with Scott Hogan at the start of the second half as Town continued to toil away in the Yorkshire sun. Further substitutions came on the hour as James Dean replaced Danny Holland up front. However, the visitors looked relatively untroubled and with seventy five minutes gone, Aspin threw on recent signing Jason St Juste. His introduction gave Halifax a real threat of pace, but with ten minutes remaining it looked like the visitors would still hang on to their lead. Then on 81 minutes St Juste got down the wing and his cross was headed home by fellow substitute James Dean, which at last brought some noise from the home crowd. This changed the whole complexion of the game and suddenly the home players and fans could sense that perhaps a winner was still possible. However, as the ninety minutes ticked away the visitors had a good shout for a penalty turned down and it seemed that Albion had done enough to earn a replay. Four minutes of added time were indicated and these were all but up when Town were awarded a corner. From it Scott McManus headed home and cue celebrations from relieved home fans and bench. As the Albion plays slumped in exhaustion and disbelief, keeper Reid remonstrated with the Assistant referee, claiming that the corner award was incorrect, but merely earned a booking for his troubles. The Brewers kicked-off and launched one final ball into the Halifax penalty area, but it was game over and their brave Cup adventure was over.
It was a fantastic effort by Tadcaster and certainly Halifax knew that they had been in a game. Tadcaster have the FA Vase to look forward to in November and will relish it after their FA Cup campaign. For Halifax, they go into the draw for the FA Cup 3rd Qualifying Round on Monday (3rd October), knowing that it was a last gasp victory, but hoping that this might be the start of something special.
Postscript: At the Tech5 Stadium, Frickley Athletic were up against Harrogate Town. Visitors Town started brightly and took the lead through Will Turl. Frickley worked their way back into the game and just before half-time equalised through Grant Darley. The replay takes place at the CNG Stadium in Harrogate on Tuesday 4th October (kick-off 7.45pm).