Photos by Daniel Golton
A stunner from Chris Forrest helped a gritty Halifax 3rds to a confident victory against a lethargic Alcuin 2nds side on a chilly Monday afternoon at the new JLD.
Halifax made a dream start when the ball was deftly lofted over the Alcuin defence by Steffan Griffiths for Johnny Stansfield to latch onto, who raced clear and volleyed past a stranded Harry Smith in the Alcuin goal. The early goal signalled ‘Fax’s foothold in the game, which they never looked like losing for the remainder of the match.
The leaders began stringing passes together in the middle of the park, with Stansfield linking up brilliantly with the likes of Adam Percy and Will Garrett. Alcuin’s poor start proved all too much for Matt Twin, who needlessly lunged into a challenge near the halfway line. Twin’s recklessness sparked a furious reaction from Halifax’s Chris Forrest, who appeared to shove Twin in the face before the latter theatrically fell to the ground. Both players left the melee with a booking to their name.
A flurry of Alcuin chances followed the fracas, with Sean Perera heading wide from a Ben Carver free-kick and Jack McConnell clipping the outside of the post with a 20 yard volley. Some great work by George Brough down the right then led to a wonderful opportunity for Carver, who couldn’t quite reach the former’s low cross on the slide.
But, out of absolutely nowhere, it was Halifax who grabbed the second goal of the game to extend their lead. Having received the ball around 35 yards out, Chris Forrest looked up, dipped his shoulders, and launched a rocket which swerved into the top right corner of the Alcuin goal. As well as the quality of the goal, its timing proved just as brilliant given it came just before half-time and knocked the stuffing out of any possible Alcuin comeback.
As a result, the second half was a dull affair, with Halifax happy to hold a more rigid and defensive formation in their 4-5-1 set-up. Nevertheless, they continued posing problems, with Stansfield volleying an effort wide and Percy stinging the palms of Smith with a drilled effort.
Despite Halifax’s defensive capabilities, Brough had a great chance to knick one back for Alcuin when he found himself clean through on goal, only for his effort to be held by the grateful hands of Maalouf.
Halifax then had another late scare when ‘keeper Maalouf was sent off for handling outside his area. The resulting free-kick however, flew harmlessly into the wall, before the referee blew for full-time.
Though ‘Fax often found themselves digging deep in defence, the win is testament to their ability to pick their moments to go forward and launch rapid counter-attacks. Such discipline will surely serve them well in the final.
After the game, Halifax captain Johnny Stansfield stressed to Vision the winning mentality which has become inherent throughout the team: “we haven’t lost a game yet, and we’ve just shown every game we’ve wanted [the victory]”. Having lost the Plate final to Wentworth last year, he stated that “we really want to win it this time”.
When questioned about whether Chris Forrest should have been on the pitch for his goal following his confrontation with Alcuin’s Twin, Stansfield claimed that “more was made of it than there actually was” and that “the tackle was horrendous”.
Vision Man of the Match: Johnny Stansfield (Halifax).
Alcuin 2nds Starting XI (4-4-1-1): Smith; Toumazou, Kennick (c), Perera, Taube; Twin, Simpson, McConnell, Pearce; Carver; Brough.
Halifac 3rds Starting XI (4-5-1): Maalouf; Elliott, Nolan, Goldthorpe, McTaggart; Percy, Forrest, Griffiths, Kershaw, Garrett; Stansfield (c).
Goal Scorers: Stansfield, Forrest.