Out-of-sorts Shaymen beaten

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An out-of-sorts FC Halifax Town slipped to a disappointing 2-0 home defeat to a Maidstone United side securing a fourth straight away victory in the Vanarama National League.

A first half goal from the impressive Joe Pigott and a 61st minute penalty from Jai Reason ensured it is now six games without a win for the Shaymen.

Billy Heath made three changes from the side which could only muster a 1-1 draw at home to Torquay United at the weekend.

One was an enforced adjustment as ever-present goalkeeper Sam Johnson did not even travel to The Shay after suffering a back spasm on the morning of the game, Tom Nicholson deputising.

Josh Macdonald recovered in time from his gluteus problem to face the Stones and Adam Morgan replaced Ben Tomlinson to partner on-loan Tranmere Rovers striker George Waring, who had opened the scoring against the Gulls on his debut.

Waring came close to netting again after only 10 minutes. Matty Kosylo and Scott McManus combined well down the left and the latter crossed for Waring, lurking at the near post, but he could not force the ball goalwards.

Nicholson, who was featuring in his first ever game at this level, was calmness personified in the early stages as he produced a sumptuous bit of skill to deceive Delano Sam-Yorke – who tormented Town for Cambridge United in the 2013-14 play-off semi-final second leg.

Town’s second choice goalkeeper, however, was soon picking the ball out of the net. Nathan Hotte was the unfortunate party as ball ricocheted off him and into the path of Pigott. And although the former Charlton Athletic man was denied by Nicholson, he made no mistake at the second attempt and slotted into an empty net.

Pigott then came inches away from grabbing his sixth goal of a productive campaign but he could not get on the end of a delicious right-wing cross from Sam-Yorke.

Town were being kept at bay at the other end by a well-marshalled defence – a defensive unit which had to wait until their seventh game of the season to keep a clean sheet.

But it was nearly breached just before the half-hour mark after a dazzling Koslyo run ended with a drive which flashed narrowly wide.

Pigott was turning out to be the Stones’ danger-man and his Football League pedigree nearly shone through again when he won a free kick 35 yards out – which Connor Oliver was booked for – but his effort landed on top of Nicholson’s net.

Town, however, finished the half on the front foot, starting when an over-confident Pigott attempted an audacious nutmeg. That allowed the Shaymen to launch a lightning counter-attack as Kosylo found Adam Morgan but his first-time shot looped harmlessly over the bar.

A Kosylo cross from the left then had United goalkeeper Lee Worgan scrambling before Macdonald caused Seth Nan Twumasi problems on the right-hand side.

The game, though, could have been over as a contest just before the break when former England under-21 international Zavon Hines easily beat Josh Wilde and curled a wonderful effort onto the far post.

Hines came close again seconds after the restart but he was denied by a splendid save from Nicholson.

His opposite number then produced a great fingertip save to keep out a stunning Morgan effort from 30 yards.

And it turned out to be a decisive touch as, although Nicholson produced a stunning double save, the Stones soon earned a penalty on the hour-mark after Matty Brown fouled Hines.

Reason expertly converted the spot-kick for his first goal of the season despite Nicholson diving the right way.

Town tried in vain to find a way back into the contest but Morgan was denied by another eye- catching save from Worgan before Macdonald’s cross evaded both Morgan and Kosylo.

The loudest cheer from a Halifax perspective was saved for a refereeing decision which finally went in the home side’s favour on 74 minutes.

An immensely frustrating night for the Shaymen was summed up in injury time when Kosylo’s goal-bound drive was deflected wide by another blue shirt.

FC Halifax Town: Nicholson, Wilde, Garner, Brown (C), McManus, Kosylo, Hotte (Lynch 75), Oliver (King 78), Macdonald (Tomlinson 75), Morgan, Waring. Subs not used: Moyo, Clarke.

Maidstone: Worgan (C), Hare, Finney, Wynter, Nan Twumasi, Lewis, Reason, Wraight (Prestedge 67), Sam-Yorke (Ter Horst 85), Hines (Loza 81), Pigott.

Attendance: 1410

Referee: P Marsden

Town man of the match: Tom Nicholson