Record crowd sees Pontefract Collieries hold National League Halifax Town to draw in FA Cup
Pontefract Collieries manager Craig Rouse could be rightly proud of his players after their FA Cup dream lived on with a fantastic display in a 0-0 draw against National League big boys Halifax Town.
Northern Premier League East side Pontefract more than matched their higher ranked opponents for much of their fourth qualifying round tie and fully deserved to earn a potentially lucrative replay at The Shay on Tuesday night.
And supporters can now look forward to hearing the name of Pontefract Collieries read out in today's first round proper draw when the likes of Sheffield Wednesday, Sunderland, Portsmouth and Bolton Wanderers enter the competition.
The draw is being made live on ITV in a show starting at 1pm with Colls or Halifax being number 54.
Ponte's place in the hat was hard earned, but they defied a three-division gap between the sides with a committed performance full of hard work all over the pitch and enough attacking intent to have their visitors worried.
In front of a record crowd of 1,429 at the Regional Electrical Services Ltd Stadium it was the hosts who looked more likely to break the deadlock for the first 70 minutes until the players understandably tired after the big effort they had put in and the chances finally evened out to make a draw perhaps a fair result.
With midfelders Jack Vann, Derry Robson and Gavin Rothery snapping into tackles and central defenders Spence Clarke and Jamie Williams commanding at the back, Colls were in the faces of Halifax from the start and denied their opponents an effort on goal in the first 34 minutes.
It took Ponte a while to get their attacking in gear as well, but slowly they began to believe that a cup shock was possible.
Jack Greenhough's long throws were giving the visitors problems and from one of them Colls fashioned their first half-chance, but Vaughan Redford sliced his shot well wide.
Vann forced Town keeper Sam Johnson into his first serious save with a well struck shot from the edge of the box after being found in space by Rothery and Johnson was equally impressive in denying Redford from the rebound.
Halifax had plenty of the ball, but were unable to create anything of note until Billy Waters had a sight of goal and saw his angled shot saved low down by home keeper Ryan Musselwhite.
Waters did put the ball in the net only to be judged offside while Colls saw a big chance go begging when Eli Hey was through, but with only the keeper to beat he fired over after a touch from a defender put him off balance.
Rothery and Scott Smith had efforts blocked either side of half-time as Ponte continued to grow into the contest.
Halifax looked to up their efforts in the second half with Billy Slew's shot on the turn sending the ball just wide.
But again Colls showed they had a threat when Clarke managed to get free in the box to meet Ben Gordon's free-kick only to direct his header straight at Johnson.
Gordon was then involved at the other end as the tempo of the match increased and he did well to block Waters' shot after he had sneaked in at the far post to meet Jack Senior's cross.
Boosted by substitutes Jamie Allen, Elliot Newby and former Leeds United, Doncaster Rovers and Rotherham midfielder Martin Woods, Town looked much more of a threat now with Senior almost in behind the home defence only for Musselwhite to be alert and Kieran Green's shot from the edge of the box being deflected wide.
Jesse Debrah headed wide from a corner and fellow defender Niall Maher went even closer with a near post header from a Woods free-kick that bounced back off the crossbar.
Maher's shot from his own half had Musselwhite scrambling back a bit before he saved.
But Ponte were not done as Rothery went on a dangerous run and went down under a challenge right on the edge of the box, but no penalty or free-kick was forthcoming.
Newby's shot from the edge of the box was tipped over by Musselwhite before Colls had another good opportunity when Johnson's punch from a home corner only sent the ball to Vann on the edge of the box and his shot looked to be creeping into the corner of the net only for Johnson to save.
In the last 10 minutes it looked more likely that the visitors would nick it as Matthew Warburton finished poorly when well placed in the area and Allen's run into the box was followed by a shot that was comfortably saved by Musselwhite.
Into six minutes of added time that turned into seven there was late drama as Ponte went down to 10 men with defender Scott Brown - on as a second half substitute for the injured Williams - sent off for a second yellow card after pulling back Allen. Warburton's shot from the resulting free-kick was saved by Musselwhite.
But fittingly the final action was at the other end with Fabian Bailey's shot bringing out another save from Johnson. They played a full part in a cup tie that despite the goalless outcome will live long in the memory of all Colls supporters.
Pontefract Collieries: Musselwhite, Greenhough, Clarke, Williams (Brown 64), Gordon, Rothery, Vann, Robson, Smith (Bailey 82), Hey (Hinsley 55), Redford.
Halifax Town: Johnson, Warren, Maher, Debrah, Senior, Spence (Woods 68), Green, Slew (Newby 68), Warburton, Gilmour (Allen 59), Waters.
Referee: Matthew Dicicco.