James continue title charge

James firsts produced a clinical display under the floodlights of the 3G to go top of the Premier Division with three games to play

James firsts
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Halifax firsts
Image: Fiona Hill

Image: Fiona Hill

Two goals from Matt Singleton and a spectacular strike from Joe Fox set James ensured Halifax would lament their missed opportunities, and ended ‘Fax’s unbeaten start to the Premier Division season.

A fast start to the match was inevitable, as both teams identified this as a key game to their title hopes this term. Halifax made the better start of the two – Ollie Marsh’s headed effort dropped just wide of the post and Fox’s crucial interception denied Omar Chadli a tap in from six yards.

Two minutes after denying a certain goal at one end, Fox drove into space and struck a sublime effort from 25 yards which left ‘Fax keeper, Rob Basu, a spectator and put the Black Swan ahead. ‘Fax barely had time to react before they were two behind when Singleton brought down a free-kick from deep and slotted past Basu at the second attempt.

Despite their lapse, ‘Fax remained firmly in the game threatening largely due to the pace and creativity of Elliot Tester and Garo Heath yet neither were able to create a clear chance for themselves or their teammates.

Halifax’s main goal threat looked to be through the physical presence of Marsh, and this came to the fore when Marsh’s strength earned him space to plant a firm header past Andy Balzan and halve the deficit.

The momentum was very much with Halifax, whose chance to equalise came when Heath was tripped just inside the area and the referee pointed to the spot. However, the usually dependable Heath struck a vicious effort against the post, typifying ‘Fax’s wastefulness throughout the game.

James themselves were nearly punished for missed chances shortly after half time. Tom Jobling could only put his free header wide and Singleton found the side netting from close range before ‘Fax’s stand-in midfield Ewan Gillespie forced a smart save from Balzan.

The telling blow came, once again, from the boot of Singleton. Dom McCormick’s crunching tackle won him the ball deep inside his own half and his 40 yard diagonal ball put Singleton one-on-one with Emile Chastaneuf, whose attempts to for Singleton wide proved fruitless and the James striker fired across Basu and into the bottom corner.

Gillespie and Chadli both saw half-chances come agonisingly close to restoring some hope for Halifax, before Paddy Cox worked himself an opening on the left and curled his shot past an unsighted Basu.

With ‘Fax forced to push forward in search of a goal, James’ threat on the counter attack grew, culminated in a goal for Max Houghton who found the roof of the net after collecting Singleton’s slide rule pass.

James captain, Dec Tuite, spoke to Nouse after the match, commenting, “They created a fair few chances and didn’t convert but we’ve got the talent up top to take the chances when they come along.”

On his team’s chances of winning their first title for 18 months, Tuite said, “That was one of our toughest matches, the next biggest one will be Derwent so I can’t say until then.”

Halifax skipper, Elliot Tester, was candid in his assessment, “They kept the ball a lot better, created more and scored some top quality goals. They probably deserved to win but it wasn’t a 5-1 game. We made a few sloppy mistakes which we’re doing every week but that will get better.”

James: Balzan; Sangha, Tuite (C), McCormick, Clarkson; Fox, Jobling, Cox; Houghton, Singleton, Thorp

Substitutes: McGuinness

Halifax: Basu; Birtles, Marsh, Chastaneuf, Girzadas; Gillespie, Bore, Tester; Chadli, Waring, Heath

Substitues: White, Goldthorpe

Player of the Match: Joe Fox

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