What Chesterfield fans can expect from high-flying FC Halifax Town in National League Christmas cracker clash

We could be in for a Christmas cracker when promotion rivals Halifax come to town next week.

By Liam Norcliffe
Monday, 20th December 2021, 2:43 pm
Halifax manager Pete Wild.

With the Spireites not playing on Boxing Day, their next fixture is at home to the Shaymen on Tuesday, December 28.

And what a game it could be, provided it goes ahead, with the sides separated by only goal difference as it stands.

Currently, it is Chesterfield who are number one at Christmas with Halifax in second spot, so depending on the other results on December 26, we really could have a top of the table clash on our hands.

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Ahead of the tasty encounter, we spoke to journalist Tom Scargill, who covers the Shaymen for the Halifax Courier, to get the lowdown on the Blues’ next opponents...

What has been the secret to Halifax's success so far this season?

I would say recruitment has been the biggest single factor, with striker Billy Waters proving a masterstroke of a signing, but others like Matty Warburton, Jordan Slew and Tyrell Warren really complementing what was already here. Another big factor is that so many of the players who were here last season have taken their performances onto the next level, such as captain Niall Maher, midfielders Kian Spence and Kieran Green and left-back Jack Senior, all of whom have been consistently excellent. There is a clear identity and style of play about the team, which the players seem comfortable with and able to execute.

Is their form and league position a surprise to you?

Yes, not a massive surprise but they're certainly higher in the table and have more points than I'd have anticipated at this stage, especially after losing the likes of Jeff King, Jake Hyde, Neill Byrne and Jack Earing over the summer. I thought they would be very difficult to replace, but Pete Wild and his backroom team deserve huge credit for their recruitment, and have more strength-in-depth this season, which has helped keep Town on track - when someone has had to dip out of the side through injury, whoever has replaced them has usually done an even better job.

What's the difference between this season and last season?

Consistency is the big difference for me, they're losing far fewer games, and when they do, they've always bounced back with a win, which shows real character and resilience. Producing that consistency is down to a variety of factors, such as greater strength-in-depth, bringing in players who are suited to the team's style of play, signing players with a point to prove and who are hungry to do well, and the continuing development of players who were at the club last season. There seems to be more of an identity about Town this season, more of a confidence about who they are and where they're going.

Who did Halifax sign in the summer and have they been a success?

Defenders Warren and Jesse Debrah have added competition at the back, with Warren deputising superbly for Jay Benn, who started the season on fire at right-back as King's replacement before getting injured. Warburton and Harvey Gilmour are creative, ball-playing attacking midfielders, with Warburton having the greater impact of the two, Slew plays on the left and has chipped in with goals, Jack Vale and Elliot Newby have done well on loan, but the star signing is Waters, who has lead the line incredibly well. His work rate is voracious, his movement is excellent, his link up play is sharp and his finishing has been ice cool.

What obstacles could potentially stop Halifax from being promoted?

Injuries to key players hurt them last year, and I suppose like any team in the league, could do so again. They're more immune to that than last season because of the greater squad depth this time around, but the likes of Waters would be extremely hard to replace.

Pete Wild is consistently linked with other jobs - are you surprised he is still at the club?

I certainly think the club is lucky to have him. He was a bit of a risky appointment when he got the job in the summer of 2019, but he picked the club up off the floor when he came in and was a complete breath of fresh air. He got the club to the play-offs in his first season, an incredible achievement, took it to the last day last season, when they lost to Chesterfield, but things have really kicked on this season. Everyone knows Halifax's budget is more Aldi and Lidl to Chesterfield, Wrexham and Stockport's Waitrose or Marks and Spencers, which makes the job Wild is doing so much more impressive.

Who are they key men Chesterfield fans should watch out for?

Waters is the obvious answer, but Warburton is having a really good season too and is a good finisher. Slew can strike a ball very well from range. They would be the three biggest goal threats.

What's the feeling among the Halifax fans about what can be achieved this season?

I think the general feeling is that they haven't had a chance of promotion like this for years, and there is genuine excitement about what this squad, if they and the manager stay put, can achieve. The fans know they are competing with some big spenders at the top end of the table, but they don't see any reason why Town can't keep doing what they've been doing. Expectation levels now compared to when Wild took over are off the charts, which shows what a great job the manager has done. I think everyone is just enjoying the ride at the moment. The football has been great to watch, the team work hard and play as a unit and there is a real togetherness and connection between the team and the fans.