Evo-Stik Premier Division
Buxton FC 2, FC Halifax Town 1
By Jonathan Dodds
CHAMPIONS in waiting FC Halifax Town fell foul of a star in the making as debutant Sam Johnson’s 19-minute cameo gave Buxton FC victory over the Evo-Stik Premier Division’s top side.
Johnson, who plys his trade in the Hope Valley League with Harpur Hill FC, was introduced to a bumper Silverlands crowd as a second half substitute for Kieran Lugsden, with the Bucks trailing 1-0 to a Tom Baker penalty.
And the 20-year-old striker made an immediate impact, heading home an accurate cross from the right by Grant Black past Halifax goalkeeper Jonathan Hedge for the equaliser.
Moments later Johnson showed he was just as versatile with the boot as he poked a loose ball in the penalty area over the line, following a long throw-in from the right, to cap an amazing six-minute turnaround and secure a famous win.
The inspired substitution was a bold move - Bucks manager John Reed later admitted he hadn’t seen Johnson play before.
“It was real Roy of the Rovers stuff, throwing him on when a goal down and with 19 minutes to play, but he did us proud and scored two quality goals,” he said.
“It was a big gamble. We hadn’t seen him play before, but we had nothing to lose.”
Except for the addition of Johnson to the bench, in place of Nathan Benger, Reed named an unchanged side for Saturday’s clash, following the 1-0 win at Hucknall in midweek.
It was the visitors who had the best chance of an early lead when the Shaymen’s captain Mark Bower was picked out by Baker’s left-wing free kick, but he could only scuff his shot when well placed.
At the other end, Mark Reed was gifted a free header but could only direct Scott Maxfield’s cross wide, and it was the same result for Neil Stevens when Tommy Agus’ high free kick from inside his own half was chested on by Gregg Anderson.
Buxton custodian Scott Hartley made a good save with his legs to deny Jamie Vardy just past the half-hour mark, after his break into the penalty area was forced wide by Black, having earlier gone close with a glancing header.
The hosts continued to give a good account of themselves, as Reed fizzed a shot just wide of Hedge’s left-hand post and Josh Wilde volleyed over from the edge of the area.
The only other incident of note in a goalless first half was a high challenge by Maxfield on Simon Garner which resulted in a yellow card for the Bucks coach.
Immediately after the restart, Hartley was called upon when a weak back-pass was seized upon by Danny Holland. His shot straight at the keeper was saved, and the follow-up was put over the bar by Lee Ellington.
From that point onwards, the Bucks enjoyed a 20-minute purple patch, venturing forward with purpose and pegging the Shaymen back in their own half. Stevens’ 25-yard shot went across the face of goal, Reed vollyed a Lugsden header wide and Wilde used his strength to win a ball at the byline before whipping in a low shot which was just a whisker away from seeking-out the front two.
It was therefore surprising when, against the run of play, Anderson’s clumsy challenge on Vardy resulted in a 69th-minute penalty, which Baker comfortably tucked away for the visitors.
The one-way traffic continued, though, with defenders Aaron Hardy and Danny Lowe making goal-line clearances to deny the Bucks during a mammoth goal-mouth melee, before super sub Johnson’s markers on 76 and 81 minutes turned the game on its head.
This stunned Halifax into action, and a substitute of their own, Scott Hogan, led the search for an equaliser in the closing stages, only to be denied firstly by Anderson, clearing bravely off his line, and then by Hartley at point blank range.
The Bucks held on, and the final whistle was greeted by scenes of joyous celebration both on and off the pitch as the hosts gained revenge for the 2-1 opening-day defeat and at the same time moved back into the Premier Division play-off places.
Buxton: Hartley, Black, Wilde, Agus, Anderson (c), Heywood, Stevens, Towey, Reed, Lugsden (Johnson, 71), Maxfield. Attendance: 803.