05:55PM, Saturday 05 October 2019
Maidenhead United 0, Halifax Town 1
A fantastic first minute strike from Liam McAlinden helped Halifax Town climb top of the National League with a victory over Maidenhead United that was more comfortable than the scoreline suggests.
Goalkeeper Chris Dunn's first action on his return from injury for the Magpies was to pick the ball out of his net, after his defence failed to deal with a simple long throw and McAlinden was allowed space to crash an arrow-like volley into the bottom corner.
It was the perfect start for Pete Wild's side, who went on to control the first 45 minutes and should really have added to their early opener.
Cameron King was the next to test the Magpies’ stopper, whipping in a low, first-time, shot in the 11th minute from a corner. Tobi Sho-Silva, a handful throughout for the home defence, then had Dunn at full stretch a few minutes later after lovely build up play from King.
The Magpies had gone six matches without a win, and their fans had to wait until the half-hour mark for them to create anything of note, Danny Whitehall lifting Ryan Upward’s low cross over the bar from the edge of the D.
Sho-Silva headed Michael Duckworth's 36th minute cross wide of the mark when he might have done better, while Bernard Mensah should probably have given the Magpies an ill-deserved equaliser on the stroke of half-time when his first time effort from Twumasi's low cross bobbled behind after taking a deflection off a Town defender.
Those chances suggested the Magpies had enough about them to get back into the match, but they failed to live up to that promise in the second half.
McAlinden came close to a second in the 47th minute when he swept a free-kick narrowly over the woodwork, while Maidenhead repeatedly wasted the rare opportunities they had to break forward and attack. They were constantly let down by their final ball, with Pete Wild's side seemingly able to control the match both with and without possession.
Dunn distinguished himself with a smart stop in the 87th minute, flinging himself to his right to parry substitute Jeff King’s powerful effort, while it was Maidenhead’s substitute, James Akintunde, who came closest to rescuing a point for the hosts with a shot that Samuel Johnson beat away in the 88th minute – it was the first time he’d had to make a save of note and United’s only attempt on target in the match.The lively Josh Smile teed him up but his performance was one of the few bright spots on another disappointing afternoon.
Victory lifts Halifax Town two points clear of Bromley at the top of the table, while the Magpies slide continues. They're now down to 16th in the table, and just three points above the drop zone, ahead of Tuesday's trip to Eastleigh.
Magpies boss Alan Devonshire said: “At the end of the day we huffed and puffed. We seem to have lost our zip a bit. In open play they were better than us and we lost 1-0.
“They’re decent to be fair. They’re now top of the league. We seem to have been playing all the teams that are in form at the moment and we’re not. All we can do is roll our sleeves up and go again Tuesday.”
Wild reflected: “I thought we controlled the game from start to finish. We controlled the game with the ball and without the ball, which was pleasing. At places like this, if you’re half a yard off it, you’ll come unstuck. So to come away from here, one, with a clean sheet, and two, with a professional performance is really pleasing.”
Maidenhead United (4-4-2): Dunn 8’; Steer 6’, Ellul 7’, Massey 7’, Twumasi 6’; Comley 6’, Mensah 6’ (Akintunde 64’ 6’), Upward 6’, Smile 7’; Cassidy 6’, Whitehall 6’ (Sheckleford 82’ 6’). Unused subs: Davies, Ashby-Hammond, Grant.
Halifax Town: (4-4-2): Johnson 7’; Duckworth 7’, Staunton 7’, Clarke 7’, Binnon-Williams 7; Nolan 7’, C King 9’ (J King 77’ 6’), Williams 7’ (Allen 63’ 6’), Cooper 7’; McAlinden 8’, Sho-Silva 8’ (Southwell 86’ 6’). Subs not used: Appleyard, Maher.
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