“Pete Wild came in with a positive attitude, a can-do spirit and galvanised the players and the fans”
The match preview series continues, as Tom Scargill discusses FC Halifax Town:
Hi Tom thanks for talking to us again, tell us a bit about yourself and your work covering FC Halifax Town?
I started at the Halifax Courier at the beginning of 2013 and have been lucky enough to report on two promotions and an FA Trophy win at Wembley in that time. I also cover news for the paper as well as sport so there’s never a dull moment! I’m from Halifax so am very proud to work for my local paper. It’s a real privilege being able to write about football for a living and there’s been plenty of ups and downs following The Shaymen in the last (nearly) seven years. Hopefully more ups than downs to come.
The team have started very well, what’s been the main factors for this?
I would say the manager Pete Wild. He came in a few days before the start of the season with around a third of the squad still to assemble. But he’s done a remarkable job so far. Most if not all Halifax fans would have thought you were looking at the table upside down if they’d seen it at this stage of the season. Pete came in with a positive attitude, a can-do spirit and galvanised the players and the fans. Yes it’s tailed off a bit in the last few games but that should in no way detract from the overall start they have made.
What’s been the highlights of the season so far?
Probably the 3-2 win at Chesterfield, on a Tuesday night in September. It was the fourth win in a row, their seventh in their first nine, and they sat top of the table after it. They went 3-0 up playing really fearlessly and with real panache. To do that at a big club like Chesterfield, and with a string away following cheering them on, it was a great night. Since then their form has been inconsistent and they’ve probably not quite hit that height again, certainly consistently, of playing so confidently.
How’s the recent form been heading into Saturday’s game?
Disappointing. The team probably set standards in the early weeks of the season that were too high to carry on reaching, but last Saturday’s 5-0 hammering at Bromley was painful to watch in the second half. Once Bromley scored their first, Town collapsed. They looked like a completely different team to the one that started the campaign so convincingly. They were really poor in the game before that against Harrogate, especially in the first-half, and before that, against Boreham Wood and Chorley, were also underwhelming. Hopefully this is just a blip and they will come out the other side of it soon.
FA CUP V HARROGATE
Who are the key players and why?
I would say two players who have been out of the side in recent weeks, which may go some way to explain why their form has tailed off, centre-back Matty Brown and playmaker Cameron King. Brown is a commanding leader on and off the pitch, repeatedly putting his body on the line, consistently in the right place at the right time, sniffing out danger and marshalling the back line. King has excellent touch, vision and movement, and can create and score goals. Wild put him in the number 10 role at the start of the season and he was a big part of why they attacked with such style. His absence has been felt in Town’s dip in form.
Who is the gaffer and how does he like to set the team up?
Pete Wild. Came to prominence as Oldham manager in two spells last season, the highlight of which saw them knock Premier League Fulham out of the FA Cup at Craven Cottage. He left his boyhood club despite them wanting him to stay and replaced Jamie Fullarton at Halifax just before the start of the season. Has taken the reins off the team compared to how they played last season, but with that has come fewer clean sheets. Likes the team to attack but in a controlled way, trying to play the right way and pass the ball through the thirds. I would say the team have generally been better when they have scored first, which has given them confidence for the rest of the game. When they have conceded first, they have often struggled to recover.
What’s the current ownership situation at the club?
The club is currently owned by David Bosomworth, but they issued a statement on Tuesday night inviting anyone potentially interested in investing into the club to enter into confidential discussions with them. Since he took over 11 years ago Bosomworth has repeatedly stated his ultimate aim is to get the club back into the Football League, but there is perhaps a realisation that, for them to do that, they may need extra investment. There is no suggestion anything concrete is in the pipeline but if some extra funds could be found then, added to the start the club has made on the pitch, that could be a recipe for getting the club into real promotion contention.
Do you think the team can stay in contention for promotion as the season unwinds?
That’s the big question. I think that may depend on how much the team can evolve over the season in terms of players developing and strengthening the squad. I think Pete Wild and his assistant Chris Millington can help the players to improve as the campaign goes on, and there are players in the squad who can get better. But I think there would probably have to be additions to the squad if they are to compete, certainly at the very top of the division, if not for the play-offs.
The squad did prove over the first third of the season that they have the quality to compete in the division, but the season so far has also shown that, at times, they have missed that little extra bit of quality in certain areas that would make the difference in certain games. Whether the budget is there at the club to dip into the transfer market is debatable, but if one or two additions could be made then that could ensure they stay in contention for promotion rather than drift down the table, like they have in the last two seasons after strong starts.
FA CUP V HARROGATE
What’s the Shay like for visiting fans and what’s the atmosphere like at games?
It’s a brilliant ground at this level. All four sides can be used if need be. The two sides of the ground are seated, and the two ends are terraced. The away fans tend to be placed at one end of the East Stand, where the dug outs are, but if there are a high number of fans expected, for teams such as Wrexham, they tend to go into the opposite stand. The atmosphere seems to have coincided with results this season. It was bouncing for the first couple of months, you could really sense a connection between the team and the fans. But for the last three or four home games, it’s been flat, like the team’s performances.
Where’s best for pre-match food and drinks near the ground?
The home fans like to go to The Three Pigeons for a pre-match pint, so you could go there if you want a friendly chat with some Shaymen supporters! The town centre is only a five minute walk from the ground so you have plenty of choice for food and drink there. The local Wetherspoons is called The Percy Shaw (after the man who invented cat’s eyes) at the Broad Street Plaza complex, and if it’s a sunny day, I would recommend going to The Piece Hall, where there are some nice cafes and bars.
Which opposition teams and players have impressed you most so far?
I think Yeovil are probably the best team I’ve seen so far. They came to The Shay and won 2-0. They were well-organised, worked hard and played with a lot of confidence. Their two players up front, Courtney Duffus and Gold Omotayo (who scored twice), offered good movement and looked a real threat. Harrogate have beaten Halifax twice so far this season and they are another good side, also well organised and play the right way, with good movement and fluidity.
And finally, give us a match prediction for Saturday afternoon?
I’m impressed by Torquay’s form going into the game. Halifax picked up a crucial win on Tuesday but will that be enough to help them to victory on Saturday? I’m not too sure. I would maybe plump for a 1-1 draw.
LAST MEETING AT THE SHAY