Dazzling debutant Thomas nets the points for Halstead

SUPPORTING ROLE: Ash Baptiste, who started the move which led to Chris Thomas' first goal on Saturday
SUPPORTING ROLE: Ash Baptiste, who started the move which led to Chris Thomas' first goal on Saturday
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THURLOW NUNN LEAGUE

FIRST DIVISION

Halstead Town 2

March Town United 1

Halstead Town manager Mark Benterman was full of praise for new signing Chris Thomas, who bagged a brace on his debut in a 2-1 win over March.

The targetman, signed from Thurlow Nunn Premier Division side Stanway Rovers, netted twice in three second-half minutes to cancel out David Jackson’s first-half opener for the visitors.

“He brings another dimension to the game,” said the boss of the Rosemary Lane outfit who have dubbed themselves ‘the Humbugs’ due to their striped kit.

“He’s taken his chances really well. We have been lacking a natural goalscorer.

“I’m not taking anything away from the boys because we have scored 37 goals in 10 games.

“You get three chances and you are looking for your striker to put two away.

“He’s had four today — one’s hit the bar, one’s gone towards Sudbury and the other two are in the net.”

Benterman, whose side visit Needham Market Reserves on Saturday (3pm) and Cornard United on Tuesday (7.45pm), admitted the victory was their worst performance of the season, adding: “It was just one of those games where you have to dig in, show a bit of character, and hopefully you get the rewards at the end.”

The hosts had won eight of their nine league games and should have led in the opening minute when right-back Ash Drew was found in the box, but could only send the ball harmlessly over the bar.

Halstead custodian Jack Cherry was forced to save Sam Darlow’s effort after spilling one of Jake Ogden’s many long-range attempts, while Jackson was denied at the near post as the visitors looked the more likely to score.

Halstead’s Chris Thomas headed against the bar following a smartly-worked corner, with Lewis Cunliffe volleying wide shortly after.

But it was March Town who took a deserved lead five minutes before the break.

Cherry could not hold Toby Ogbonna’s shot from the left and, with the ball heading for the net, Cunliffe’s attempted clearance was pounced upon by Jackson.

It was the first goal Town had conceded in four league outings.

However, the game was turned on its head within seven minutes of the restart.

First, Jordan Hutchings latched on to Ash Baptiste’s long ball, picking out Thomas in the box to coolly slide home on 49 minutes.

Just three minutes later, the home side were in front.

March Town defender Lewis Cook misjudged a ball over the top, which fell kindly to Thomas, who volleyed home his second.

The points, and Thomas’ hat-trick, should have been sealed with eight minutes to play when he was clean through, but he fired well over, before substitute Scott Kemp’s strike was well saved.

March Town should have levelled in injury time when a corner went across the box to Sam Egbayelo, but he shot wide as Halstead held on for their ninth league success.

Halstead: Cherry, Drew, Bradley, Hurkett, Cunliffe, Baptiste, Hutchings (S Kemp 61), G Thomas (Barry 80), C Thomas, Joslin, Carter (Jack 84). Subs not used: T Kemp, Palmer. Free Press man of the match: Chris Thomas.

n The reserves fought back from 3-0 down to get a 3-3 draw at Hadleigh United Reserves, as did the vets at Holland.