Alfreton Town’s seasonal debut in front of the TV cameras hardly set the nation on fire as FC Halifax Town joined them in the Skrill Premier play-off zone with a 2-0 win in West Yorkshire.
However there was some comfort to be gleaned by the Reds from a disallowed goal, a late surge of pressure, the intervention of the woodwork and the fact that only one visiting team had previously prevailed at The Shay.
Reds’ boss Nicky Law bravely set out his intentions by playing with three strikers, but the irony was that Alfreton only seemed to push forward in numbers once a more familiar 4-4-2 formation had been adopted for the last quarter of the game.
Lathaniel Rowe-Turner returned on loan and immediately showed his value to the Reds with a solid defensive performance, while new loanee midfielder Elliott Whitehouse had a chance to show his paces for the final 26 minutes.
After a bright start by Alfreton, it was Halifax who started to turn the screw around the 17-minute mark with a series of long, penetrating throws by Marc Roberts that became increasingly difficult to deal with, keeper Jon Worsnop uncharacteristically spilling one at Lee Gregory’s feet before pouncing to smother the loose ball.
Worsnop then blocked a Matty Pearson shot at close range, with Gregory’s follow-up partially cleared by Connor Franklin before Rowe-Turner calmly headed off the line from Adam Smith’s header.
But it was another long Roberts throw that led to the opening Halifax goal in the 22nd minute, the second phase of which saw top scorer Gregory turning neatly just inside the area to beat a diving Worsnop with a shot that clipped the inside of the post.
Nick Fenton’s near post headed clearance from a Smith cross five minutes later prevented a second goal, then at the other end Shaun Harrad handled as he turned Josh Law’s header over the line following a Rowe-Turner cross from the left and an equaliser was ruled out.
This at least spurred Alfreton on and they began to push the hosts on to the back foot as Harrad won a corner from Job Ayo Akinde’s pass and then Akinde turned on the edge of the area to fire inches over.
Right at the end of the first half home keeper Matt Glennon gathered Harrad’s header after Fenton had nodded forward Rowe-Turner’s free-kick, but just five minutes after the break Gregory struck again to send Halifax 2-0 ahead.
Paul Marshall’s cross into the six-yard box evaded both Fenton and Franklin to leave Gregory with a simple chance that he gratefully accepted.
Successive Scott McManus crosses were dealt with by Franklin and Worsnop respectively, but a dangerous central run by Gregory on 71 minutes led to Smith’s deflected shot producing the home side’s only corner of the night.
Alfreton started to respond and Law’s 76th minute cross led to Michael Hoganson’s back post header thumping against the crossbar before Harrad’s free-kick was clawed behind by Glennon.
Ten minutes from time shots from Akinde and Bradley were blocked before Franklin fired wide, then a surging run into the area by Akinde was only halted by Simon Ainge’s timely tackle.
Added time brought further pushes from Alfreton and Harrad’s sharp turn from a Law cross produced a shot that Glennon saved well, then Bradley Wood forced Alfreton’s sixth corner which led to Franklin’s back post header drifting wide.