Since reaching the 2015 FA Trophy final, we’ve failed to set the competition alight. Under Keates we fell at the first hurdle twice, losing at home to both Tranmere and Harrogate Town. Rovers’ win was revenge for the season before, when we won 4-2 at Prenton Park, thanks to goals by Manny Smith, Wes York, Dom Vose and Sean Newton, only to then lose 1-0 at Torquay. Last season we beat Boston United at home, but were then beaten at home by Leyton Orient.
Our recent record at The Shay is poor in the league, but rather impressive in the cups. You have to go all the way back to March 1993 for our last league win in Halifax, as Steve Watkin bundled in the only goal of the game as we closed in on promotion.
Since then we’ve visited The Shay five times in the league, drawing two and losing the others.
It’s a different story in the cups though. We’ve won our last three games there when freed from the shackles of the league. Our last victory came on the way to Wembley in 2015, as Neil Ashton scored the only goal following a remarkable run by Kieron Morris on a gluepot of a pitch, earning a place in the semi-finals.
Our previous cup tie there was in the FA Cup preliminary round in 2009, and we squeaked through thanks to a last minute Wes Baynes goal.
Our visit to The Shay in August 1998 also ended in a win, but sadly that wasn’t the end of the story. We’d already lost the first leg 2-0 at The Racecourse, but took on the challenge of an unlikely come-back with enthusiasm.Neil Roberts opened the scoring just before the half hour and, after putting the home defence under constant pressure, we levelled the tie when Karl Connolly scored from the spot with 13 minutes left.
It looked like we’d completed the job when Neil Roberts seemed to have scored with a header, but the linesman ruled that the ball hadn’t crossed the line, despite appearances to the contrary. Frustratingly, we went on to lose the ensuing penalty shoot-out.
When we entertained Halifax in mid-August, the match ended in an excellent 1-0 win despite Jake Lawlor’s sending-off. The only goal was scored by Mark Harris, hitting the net for the third game in a row, but he hasn’t scored since.