Guttridge 16, Benson 33, Gray 39, Wall 83
FC Halifax 3
Marshall 3, Ainge 19, Gardner 23
A thunderous late goal from substitute Alex Wall sealed a remarkable turnaround for the Hatters as they came from 1-0 and 3-1 down to beat FC Halifax in a seven-goal thriller at Kenilworth Road.
It was 3-3 at half-time following a breathless first 45 minutes in which the Town trailed twice only to comeback twice to level the score.
Halifax, without an away win and with just one point on their travels from five games, took the lead on three minutes through Paul Marshall’s strike before Luke Guttridge levelled on 16 minutes with a heavily deflected shot.
However, the Hatters were suddenly 2-1 and then 3-1 down, as the Shaymen shocked the majority inside Kenilworth Road. Former Town defender Simon Ainge nodded the visitors ahead again on 19 minutes, rising to head unchallenged in the box following a right-wing free-kick; before Dan Gardner’s fine low shot made it 3-1 four minutes later.
The Town were living dangerously and the visitors came inches from going 4-1 up on 31 minutes when Gardner swivelled in the box and mis-hit a volley that looped over Mark Tyler and kissed the face of the crossbar. Puffed cheeks all round.
And it proved to be a massive turning point in the game, as two minutes later, the Hatters cut the deficit. Scott Griffiths scampered up the left to hook a cross back into the box. It eluded everyone but found fellow full-back Ronnie Henry, and his cross from the right was met first-time by Benson who sent an assured finish beyond Matt Glennon in the visitors’ goal.
The Hatters sensed blood, and buoyed by their second goal, an equaliser appeared on 39 minutes. Alex Lawless was the provider – poking an accurate pass through the Shaymen’s defence, and Gray was on to it in a flash and belted a low finish into the corner of the net.
You always sensed after a first half containing six goals the game would become more constrained in the second period – and so it proved.
The Town were the more dominant as they pushed for an early goal after the restart but failed to test Glennon.
But, mid-way through the second half, the visitors slowly crept back into the game and only a fantastic save by the legs of Tyler prevented Neil Aspin’s side from going 4-3 up when the Town goalkeeper blocked Garnder’s low shot on the turn on 66 minutes.
Then they came even closer on 71 minutes when substitute Kevin Holsgrove’s deflected shot bounced onto the foot of the post and away to safety, much to the Town’s relief.
That near miss was the catalyst for John Still to bring on Wall on 72 minutes and it was the burly striker’s effort, after a series of half-chances, that won it for the Hatters with seven minutes left on the clock.
He took a pass from Benson to drive forward, Gray’s movement drew an opening in the Halifax defence, and the former Maidenhead man unleashed a superb 25-yard effort that flew into the top corner past the outstretched hands of Glennon.
“A goal worthy to win any game,” was Still’s verdict come the final whistle.
That knocked the stuffing out of the visitors and, as time ticked down, and Gray almost added a fifth in stoppage time but the Town held onto secure three points in dramatic fashion.
Town: Tyler; Henry (sub Wall 74), Griffiths, McNulty, Lacey; Smith, Parry; Guttridge; Gray, Lawless (sub Robinson 90), Benson.
Subs not used: Whalley, Howells, Jusham.
Attendance: 6,519 (including 260 from Halifax)