All I want for Christmas is you is blared out on the big speakers moments before FC Halifax Town and Sutton United walked out in front of an upbeat Shay Stadium. In reality, both teams needed three points more than gifts wrapped under the tree this year.
Halifax were six points clear of the relegation zone and the U’s without a win in the league since October – their worst run since the beginning of the 2012/13 season.
The Shaymen entered the game in 14th place in the National League and started brightly. Matty Kosylo returned from suspension and offered the home-side flair, footwork and flamboyance on the left-hand side early on. His trickery helped force an excellent save from Jamie Butler in the 16th minute which was then followed up by a more tame effort from Dayle Southwell on the edge of the box.
Paul Doswell’s side have struggled to find a reliable source for goals this season with Craig Eastmond contributing the most with just five. They struggled to have any real impotence going forward for the majority of the first half.
Brandon Thomas-Asante scored a screamer last weekend for the Yellows in their 2-1 defeat to Bromley in the FA Trophy but he was unable to replicate it with the same effect when he dragged a shot wide in the 25th minute.
Kosylo was perhaps fortunate to get away with a yellow card moments later when he went in recklessly in the centre of the pitch. This was followed by another dangerous tackle by Sanmi Odelusi which was punished equally – much to the disappointment of the away support.
Doswell was unable to contain his disgruntlement as he was sent to the stands for persistent complaining to the fourth official, Daniel Guest. An ill-disciplined act that mirrored the behaviour on the pitch as they entered the break.
The kafuffle of homemade mince pies and mulled wine being passed round in the east stand during the break was more entertaining than any of the action in the goalless first-half. Maybe it shouldn’t have come as a surprise – only Chesterfield have drawn fewer games than both sides this season.
Kenny Davis’ relentless running for Sutton tried to help them transition up the piece more fluidly in the second-half but it was to little avail as set pieces seemed to be the best opportunity to open the scoring. A stuttering game wasn’t helped by a muscle injury to linesman, Paul Tomes which caused a lengthy delay.
Delays were becoming nearly as frequent as Gatwick airport in the second-half as Sutton began to take their time over every stoppage and referee Marc Edwards insisted on conversing at length over most fouls. A rare flowing Halifax counter-attack ended disappointingly when Southwell dragged wide with his right-foot.
Halifax continued to mount pressure on Butler’s goal as substitute – Ben Tomlinson couldn’t quite get over a header inside the six-yard box.
Yellow cards began to add up for Sutton as their frustration grew – only three sides have better defensive home records than Halifax this season so it’s a familiar feeling for visitors at the Shay Stadium. A foul from Davis led to a free-kick that found Nathan Clarke towering above his fellow defender at the back post but his header went wide.
Sutton were able to muster one of their few impressive attacks of the half when the ball was eventually dragged back to lead-scorer Eastmond inside the box but his effort was gratefully received by Sam Johnson in the Halifax goal.
Just a few minutes later, it was Eastmond again striding into the box with a late-run that was failed to be picked up by any of the Halifax midfield. He met the ball perfectly as nestled it into the bottom left-hand corner. One of the rare moments of quality, even if it took 94 minutes to see it.
Sutton’s search for a win is finally over, whereas Halifax drop down to 16th and will be looking down at the relegation zone with dread over the Christmas period.