FC Halifax Town 1, City 2

LEAGUE One overcoming Conference is hardly the stuff of FA Cup legend but this was a big result for City and Phil Parkinson.

Only time will tell whether yesterday's victory at The Shay is the trigger for the upturn in fortunes that the manager has predicted. But this was a start – and an important one.

For 45 minutes, it seemed that City's autumn of discontent was lurching towards a fifth defeat in six games. Non-league neighbours Halifax led and deservedly so after another out-of-sorts first half. The pressure was building.

But the momentum shifted considerably with the introduction of Billy Clarke at the interval and class just about told in the end.

It was hardly the most convincing result but the Bantams got the job done to ensure their place in the hat for tonight's second-round draw.

After a much-improved but ultimately unrewarded performance against Doncaster, Parkinson had said he would love to have started the same team.

But as expected, City had to do it without James Hanson again as the club continue to try to get to the bottom of the issues draining his usual effectiveness.

At least they could call on the services of in-form Jon Stead after Parkinson begged a favour from good pal Chris Powell at Huddersfield.

But there were eyebrows raised about the way City lined up. Stead was on his own up top with Billy Knott playing off him in front of a flat midfield four, which featured Jason Kennedy and Andy Halliday as the central duo.

Any doubts about that among the massed ranks of away fans quickly grew as City made the worst possible start.

Alan Sheehan had kept his place at centre half, even though Rory McArdle was back from suspension. But the Irishman's slack back-pass gave away the cheapest of corners in the opening seconds.

It set the tone for a shocking start from the visitors as Halifax jumped straight on them.

Simon Ainge sounded a warning to his old club with a deflected shot before the Shaymen grabbed a second-minute lead.

Paul Marshall's near-post corner was not dealt with and it came loose to the unmarked Lois Maynard to fire home.

City were at sixes and sevens as the home side maintained their 100mph start and a wild shot high and wide from Halliday hardly improved the travelling mood.

"Football League, you're having a laugh," taunted the Halifax faithful before switching to "you're just a bus stop near Shelf".

Matt Glennon, another City old boy, had a mild moment of discomfort pushing out a low cross from Filipe Morais. But, as feared, Stead was getting little change out of the three central defenders surrounding him.

When Sheehan's lofted pass did beat Marc Roberts for once, it struck the back of Stead's heel and the Halifax skipper was able to recover.

Morais was seeing plenty of the ball and drifted inside to fire wide from 20 yards as City looked for a way back. They had taken the early sting out of the game but had not managed to test Glennon in the opening half hour.

Nerves were still evident at the other end and Ben Williams fumbled a Matty Pearson cross under pressure. But City's back-up keeper made up for that with a stunning point-blank block to deny ex-Bantam Steve Williams.

"Bring on the strikers," chanted the frustrated City fans behind him. All the goal-mouth incident had been focused on their end as Halifax made a mockery of the two-division difference.

The hosts could have doubled their advantage when Sheehan was easily dispossessed by Maynard. He picked out Scott Boden in the box and the angled shot was only a yard or so over.

That failed to placate the increasingly angry supporters and Andy D'Urso's half-time whistle was greeted with a loud boo. City may have dominated possession but Halifax had carried all the threat.

It had been painful viewing from a Bantams perspective and every bit as depressing as the Oldham first half a fortnight before.

Clarke replaced the ineffective Halliday for the restart to give Stead more support – and the substitute made an immediate impact.

He forced a good save from Glennon within a minute and then played a key role as City suddenly turned the game on its head.

It was Clarke who flicked the ball into Stead's path for the striker to calmly shimmy his way round the keeper before rolling home the equaliser.

And Clarke was at it again a couple of minutes later when his ball inside the full back played in Morais for a convincing finish from ten yards out.

The whole atmosphere of the place had changed. The City fans who, just minutes before, had been jeering now launched into a chorus of "Wem-ber-ley".

Halifax looked understandably deflated and there was a more comfortable air about the visiting play. But the advantage was still a narrow one and Marshall tried a long-range sighter that Williams watched safely wide.

The Shaymen began to rally again and Andrew Davies threw himself in the way of a Marshall blast. Balls started to rain into the City box but the defence this time held firm.

City thought they should have had a penalty when Clarke went down under a push from Roberts but referee D'Urso ignored the loud protests.

Kennedy's deep pass gave Mark Yeates the chance to run at goal and he forced a good block from Glennon. Then the Irishman played in Clarke to potentially kill off the contest – only for the Halifax keeper to foil him with an excellent smother.

Stead volleyed over from another Yeates pass but Halifax upped the aerial bombardment as the final whistle approached.

Sensing the danger, Parkinson added McArdle to the mix to see them home. The four added minutes were spent chiefly in Halifax territory but there was a late scare in the City box.

Boden's shot was blocked by Stephen Darby and Maynard fizzed the rebound inches wide.

Attendance: 8,042