TT MATCH PREVIEW
Steve Harris – @SteveHarris84
Match details: Torquay United versus FC Halifax Town
Venue: Plainmoor, Torquay
Date: Saturday 20th February 2021
Kick-off: 5.20pm (live on BT Sport)
Current form (last six all competitions):
Torquay United: D, D, W, L, W, D
FC Halifax: D, L, W, D, L, L
Torquay: Danny Wright 8
FC Halifax: Jack Earing, Jamie Allen, Luke Summerfield, Jake Hyde 4 each
Head to Head (Halifax Town & FC Halifax Town):
FC Halifax: 22
Last time the two teams met: FC Halifax Town 1 – 2 Torquay United, Saturday 21st November 2020
Torquay United made it seven wins out of nine league encounters – despite seeing leading scorer Danny Wright miss a second half penalty – to remain top of the National League table.
Skipper Asa Hall gave the Gulls a first half lead with his fifth goal of the campaign, but they were pegged back when Jamie Allen levelled matters for the Shaymen early in the second half, with his second goal in as many games. Wright then missed from the spot before Connor Lemonheigh-Evans struck with seven minutes to go, which ultimately proved to be decisive.
Halifax enjoyed the better of the early chances as Allen fired across the face of goal on eight minutes and Kieran Green had a shot from the edge of the area tipped behind by United keeper Shaun MacDonald. However, it was the Gulls edged in front in the 17th minute when Ben Whitfield’s low cross from the left was turned home by Hall.
On 37 minutes, the Shaymen looked to hit United on the counter attack as Allen aimed to pick out Jake Hyde with a cross, but Torquay centre back Sam Sherring snuffed out the danger. Halifax equalised seven minutes into the second half when Hyde flicked a goal kick from Johnson into the path of Allen, who slotted home into the bottom corner.
United squandered a golden opportunity to restore the lead five minutes later when Aaron Nemane teed up Billy Waters, but the former Cheltenham and Northampton striker blasted over. In the 62nd minute, a cross from Nemane picked out Lemonheigh-Evans who saw his headed effort blocked behind for a corner by Martin Woods.
Ten minutes later, the Gulls were awarded a penalty after Nemane was felled by Tom Bradbury. Wright stepped up to take the spot kick – but he blasted over the bar. With nine minutes to go, Allen set up Niall Maher for a long range shot which MacDonald turned behind for a corner, from which Bradbury headed over. United regained their lead in the 83rd minute when Lemonheigh-Evans powered home with a shot on the turn, after the Shaymen defence failed to clear their lines following a ball into the box from Ben Wynter.
Despite forcing a succession of late corners, Halifax were unable to level matters as the Gulls held on to remain top of the National League table.
Manager: Peter Wild
Former Oldham Athletic manager Peter Wild took charge of the Shaymen during the summer of 2019, following the resignation of Jamie Fullarton three weeks before the 2019-20 National League campaign got underway. Under his guidance, Halifax emerged as one of the surprise packages of the season and reached the play-offs, where they were beaten at the quarter final stage by Boreham Wood. A life-long Oldham fan, Wild had two caretaker spells in charge of the Latics; firstly in succession to Frankie Bunn and then Paul Scholes. Following Scholes’ departure, he took over on a permanent basis until the end of the 2018-19 season before resigning citing ‘personal reasons’.
One to watch: Sam Johnson
After first joining the Shaymen on loan from Port Vale in November 2015, Sam Johnson has established himself as one of the leading goalkeepers outside the EFL.
Johnson’s initial loan spell was the first of two spells that he spent with the club – during which time he lifted the FA Trophy in 2016; He returned for a second loan spell in the 2016-17 season, in which he helped the Shaymen win promotion from National League North. After he was released by the Valiants in the summer of 2017, he joined Halifax on a permanent basis and has remained a fan’s favourite ever since, winning the club’s player of the year award for the 2018-19 season.