County signed off the first half of their season's Conference North fixtures against the same opponents with whom they had competed on 9th August. And the point gained by the Hatters at Grange Lane - or the EON Visual Media Stadium, if you will - did represent an improvement on an opening-day home defeat, as well as keeping them within one win of the play-off positions going into Christmas.
There was just a single change to the team that had taken to the field at Ramsbottom in FA Trophy action a week earlier - Scott Duxbury returning, as part of the back four, for his first League match since early October. Kristian Dennis, having been replaced in the first half against the Rams, remained out due to an ongoing calf problem, while Jamie Milligan had not travelled to North Ferriby with the squad. Lee Stevenson, for the final game of his loan-spell at Edgeley Park, was named among the substitutes in place of Nathan Woolfe.
The teams took to the field under remarkably clear blue skies and welcome winter sunshine, in stark contrast to the grey, damp conditions that continued to blight the North West. And the hosts appeared to adapt more quickly to the unseasonal weather in the opening exchanges, as, first, Russell Fry stung Danny's Hurst's hands with a well-struck drive following the game's inaugural corner, before the Ferriby Captain, Liam King, shot over County's goal.
The Hatters' recent adventures in Trophy-land were going a little way to masking the fact that they had failed to find the back of the net in a League fixture since 15th November. Happily, however, this drought came to an end after just five minutes of play at Grange Lane, when, in what was County's first meaningful advance into the Ferriby half, a Bobby Lofthouse cross from the left was prodded home at close range by Chris Sharp for the striker's third goal of the campaign.
The Villagers looked to counter immediately, and, during their next attack, Jason St Juste volleyed wide of the County goal when well placed to do better. St Juste soon made amends, though, by way of a cross from the left flank that met the head of a diving Tom Denton. The beanpole target-man made no mistake in converting to put his side back on level terms, and to increase his personal League goals tally for the season to nine.
With just a quarter of an hour on the clock, and with two goals already scored, the stage was set for a fittingly festive footballing bonanza. What actually happened was that both sides struggled to create chances for much of the rest of the game - and, even when they did, neither goalkeeper was called upon to perform above and beyond the call of duty.
A Lofthouse free kick was placed just beyond the Ferriby post, whilst one taken for the hosts by Adam Bolder cleared County's bar. And both Bolder and St Juste provided assists for Ryan Kendall, who responded to those respective deliveries by shooting and heading wide.
County were forced into making a substitution just after the half-hour mark, when Richie Baker limped off with what appeared to be a pulled hamstring. His place was taken by Stevenson.
Kendall was to go close with the very last kick of the half, after being played through by Josh Wilde and striking the upright with a first-time shot, as the Villagers went off at the break looking the likelier side to enjoy a Happy Christmas.
HALF-TIME: North Ferriby 1 (Denton, 15), County 1 (Sharp, 5).
The Hatters, having ridden their luck a little in the first half, emerged for the second with a five-player defence that now incorporated acting Skipper, Mark Lees. This tactical change was to prove most effective in withstanding subsequent Ferriby attacks, which, more often than not, took ‘route one'. And, whilst each defender more than played his part in this quest, Glenn Belezika deserved particular credit for successfully quelling any further threat from the dangerous St Juste.
During a half that saw the Hatters generally in the ascendancy, Sharp was twice picked out in the Ferriby box, by Stevenson and by Scott Spencer, respectively. On the first occasion, County's goal-scorer lofted the ball high and wide, and, on the second, unleashed a low drive that Adam Nicklin had to be at full stretch to gather. Stevenson himself attempted a speculative half-volley - but, in a contest that seemed increasingly unlikely to be remembered as one for the purists, the loanee's effort failed to realise its potential for the spectacular... opting instead to soar wildly over the home goal.
On the balance of play, a share of the spoils felt fair and just. The Villagers have only lost once on their own patch all season, too, so the merit of a point gained there should not be underestimated.
The second half of County's campaign begins on Boxing Day. Eat, drink and be merry in the meantime, by all means - but be sure to be in good voice again by the 26th, with a view to helping get the team back into winning League ways and on the path to success in 2015.
A VERY HAPPY CHRISTMAS TO HATTERS EVERYWHERE!
FULL-TIME: North Ferriby 1 (Denton, 15), County 1 (Sharp, 5).
Team: Hurst, Belezika, Duxbury, Lees, Gregson, O'Halloran, Moses, Baker (Stevenson, 32), Spencer, Sharp, Lofthouse.
Unused Subs: Ormson, Churchman, Lazenbury, Hancock.