A gripping early kick-off in the Revolution Premier Division saw James College maintain their perfect start to this term with a 4-1 victory over struggling Halifax. Matthew Singleton notched his second hat trick in as many games, but apart from in the taking of their four goals James were most unconvincing and Fax dominated for long swathes of the contest. In the end, the Black Swan were rewarded for brief exhibitions of cutting edge and fortune in both boxes.
Halifax grasped the nettle in the opening stages, directing a vast majority of their attacks down their left hand side as Garo Heath subjected James captain Mandeep Sangha to intense scrutiny. Heath, after drawing a foul, dusted himself off and grazed the angle of post and bar with a curling free kick with ten minutes gone. Henry Collins, the spare man in midfield, had licence to roam and begun to make a number of threatening third man runs beyond James’ fledgling centre-back partnership of McCormack and Tuite, formed in the absence of Callum Elliott.
Somewhat against the run of play, James took the lead through Singleton. The target man is in white hot form at present, and this was reflected in his unabated confidence to take on an ambitious long ranged effort, which he curled over Colman into the bottom hand corner. A matter of moments later, only the tenacious defending of Matt Birtles prevented James Edwards from doubling his side’s advantage.
Andrew Jopson, as is his wont, drifted into the channels and lifted a through ball over Halifax’s backline into the path of Singleton. The striker’s long, loping stride allowed him to reach the ball before the onrushing Colman and poke into an unoccupied net for 2-0. The Black Swan were all over their opponents at this stage.
Ralph Gill was adjudged to have fouled Colman while nicking it from his grasp, although it was doubtful that the Halifax goalkeeper had the ball under control at the time. It was a bad tempered affair at times, and another controversial refereeing decision came as Guy Bowden, the last defender at the time, impeded Singleton as he was through on goal.
Gill, so often able to rise above the midfield melee, hooked a measured ball to Singleton, who had dropped off the front line. Singleton grazed a header through to Jopson, who had made a run in behind and drove emphatically into the far corner to make it 3-0.
Halifax, seemingly out of the running after James’ imperious spell, responded just before the break. Bowden launched the ball into the area from the right hand touchline without any specific design, but Heath was lurking at the far post to apply a simple finish with his head.
After the interval, it was clear that the next fifteen minutes would be crucial to the destination of the points. Heath continued to shine, and had yet another free-kick palmed narrowly over by Balzan. The wind took hold of Jopson’s inswinging corner and almost forced Colman to palm it into his own net. From another set piece, Gill fired the ball back into the danger zone and, had McCormack not added his touch on the line from an offside position, the goal would have been allowed to stand.
This proved inconsequential, however, as Gwyn Davies’ acute through ball played in Singleton who gleefully rounded Colman to tap into an empty net for his hat trick. The comprehensive scoreline flattered James significantly, and although they took most of their clear-cut openings, lacked their usually fluidity of passing and suffered a number of moments of defensive uncertainty. Halifax carried an offensive threat throughout but weren’t stable enough at the back to mount an assertive challenge to James’ lead.
Manny Sangha admitted that his team weren’t up to scratch performance-wise: “We knew it was going to be a tough game and that we had to be decent, at least, and that was about as good as we got. The team would agree that it was our worst performance either this term or last term. To win 4-1 against Halifax on a very bad day, we can’t have too many complaints.”
Garo Heath rued their lack of conviction in the final third: “We thought we were the better side, actually, in the first half but a sloppy mistake cost us the first goal and it was downhill from there. Going forward we created a number of chances and committed men forward, but lacked the confidence to put them away.”
James (4-4-1-1): Balzan; Sangha, Tuite (Carr), McCormack, Axford; Jopson, Gill, Jobling, Davies; Edwards; Singleton
Halifax (4-3-3): Colman; Goldthorpe, Buerkle, Chasteneauf, Birtles; Bowden, McAuley (Knifton-Smith), Collins; Dunning (Gillespie) , Waring, Heath
Man of the Match: Matthew Singleton