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Brian Caffarey - 3rd January 2008

3pm on Saturday 5 January 2008

After our three holiday reverses, the Cards will be looking to get back to winning ways against Halifax Town, who are having a difficult season, not helped by financial troubles that at one stage threatened to force the winding-up of the club. Halifax sit just above us in the table and are one of the sides from whom we need to take points if we?re not to risk slipping into relegation trouble. But the Shaymen, who have Frank Gray?s nephew, Nick Gray, in their ranks, are always tough opponents, so we need the Cards to put on a convincing display on Saturday.


?Frustrating? is the word Frank Gray has used to sum up the Cards? three holiday defeats against Aldershot Town twice and Torquay United, and it?s hard to disagree. As so often this season, there were signs that we?re not far off having a decent side ? if only we can put the ball in the net more frequently! That is not to dismiss our current forwards, all of whom in their differing ways show potential, but somehow the ?mix? isn?t right at present and things have to change if the Cards are going to prosper in the second half of the season or, taking a more pessimistic view, if we?re to keep out of a relegation fight. The gap between us and Altrincham, who are fourth from bottom, is 10 points but we?ve played more games than all the clubs below us.

Barring any last-minute signings (or departures!), Frank has indicated that he expects to have the same players available as on New Year?s Day plus Jerome Maledon, who has recovered from injury (see the update from Frank in the news item for 2 January).


Chris Wilder, like Frank Gray, has to live within a tight budget and has similarly got a small first team squad, although there is a regular flow of loan and non-contract players coming in the Shay door.

Among the players released in the summer were strikers Chris Senior (now with Altrincham); former AFC Wimbledon favourite, Shane Smeltz; Gus Uhlenbeek; and Craig Strong. Wilder subsequently released former Carlisle midfielder Chris Billy. Coming through the door at the Shay were Daryl Taylor, a 22 year-old winger who was with Tamworth last season; former captain Steve Bushell, returning to the club after a spell at Altrincham but recently released; and Rob Scott, a 34 year-old full back with extensive League experience. Anthony Griffith, a 20 year-old midfielder also joined the club on loan from Doncaster. (He was sent off on New Year?s Day for the third time this season and now faces a five-match ban.) A potentially significant transfer-deadline day signing was that of striker Jon Shaw from Burton Albion. Subsequently, Wilder brought in Birmingham City keeper Adam Legzdins, who has been keeping out the experienced Craig Mawson; 20 year-old Simon Heslop, who has previously had loan spells at Telford, Kidderminster and Northwich; and ex-Chesterfield defender Alex Bailey.

Among some familiar names re-signing were strikers Darryn Stamp, Andy Campbell, Steve Torpey and Lewis Killeen and defenders Adam Quinn and Matt Doughty. Also in the squad is Frank Gray?s nephew, 22 year-old defender Nicky Gray, son of Eddie, who has recently returned from a long injury lay-off. A blow for the Shaymen has been the long absence of Andy Campbell, victim of an Achilles heel injury. However, he came on as a substitute on New Year?s Day.

The transfer window has seen two new arrivals already at the Shay. Nathan Joynes, a striker who scored against us last year while on loan at the Shay, has signed from Barnsley, as has his team mate, Thomas Harban, a full back. Both players have recently been on six months? loan at Bradford City. Out of the door have gone Ryan Toulson along with Steve Bushell.


Halifax had a poor-ish start to the season and have been struggling ever since to haul themselves away from the lower reaches of the table. They did not register a win until the fifth game of the season, at home to Droylsden. September was brighter, with wins over Stafford, ourselves and Northwich before they endured a seven game sequence without a league win. The spell was broken by a 3-0 home win over Halifax and a superb 3-2 away defeat of Stevenage Borough but these two wins were interspersed with a 4-0 defeat at home in the FA Cup by Burton Albion. They then drew 1-1 at home to Salisbury and lost, also at home, 3-0 to Exeter City. In the Setanta Shield on 22 December the Shaymen had a good 2-1 win at Histon. Halifax had an unhappy Boxing Day, crashing 3-0 at Farsley Celtic. On 29 December they lost 1-0 away at Salisbury. New Year?s Day brought some joy as they got their revenge over Farsley, winning 2-0 in spite of being reduced to ten men.

As usual, the Shaymen are proving very hard to beat at the Shay but their away record is nothing to boast about: two wins (Stafford and Stevenage), two draws (Oxford and Cambridge) and eight defeats (Weymouth, Ebbsfleet, Torquay, York, Kidderminster, Aldershot, Salisbury and Farsley Celtic), with 13 goals scored and 22 conceded. Halifax sit in 17th place, one spot ahead of the Cards, with one point more from one fewer games.


We?ve met Halifax in ten previous Conference campaigns. Our record against them at home reads: won 3, drawn 5, lost 2. Last season we lost 3-0 away to goals by Gus Uhlenbeek, Nathan Joynes and Danny Forrest. It was a 2-2 draw at home in relegation-haunted March, Karl Murray equalising Felix Bastians? lead before Ollie Berquez?s mis-hit shot put the Cards in front, only for Tom Hutchinson to glance a throw-in into his own net at the last gasp.

We travelled to the Shay in September for a midweek fixture, losing 1-0 to a 62nd minute volley from Anthony Griffith. Carl Gibbs partnered Marvin Morgan up front and Izzy Harusha came on as a substitute.

Come on, you Cards!
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