Halstead Town 2
Fakenham Town 1
THIS was a game about mettle in the end and as it worked out, Halstead had it – but only just, because they should have had this game in the bag on numerous occasions.
Fielding a changed side because of injuries, they shot out of the traps and went ahead on two minutes through Jordan Hutchings, but Fakenham rallied, rattled the woodwork and got a well-deserved equaliser when Ash Manning skinned two Halstead defenders on the right and crossed to Jake Betts for an easy tap-in.
However, normality was restored when Reis Farley-Hearn had some great interplay with Dan Sakal and Hutchings before the ball was delivered beautifully on to the head of the inspirational Ryan Crush, who was playing brilliantly out on the right, for number two.
Halstead should have broken the back of a Fakenham side that looked very jaded and at times, very frustrated by their own lack of direction.
They didn’t, and deep into the second half, they almost shot themselves in the foot when they had Jack Smith and Nico Farthing sent off in eight crazy minutes.
Fakenham had their chances, but simply were not good enough to capitalise on this advantage. In fact, Halstead grew in stature; James Raby, Lewis Cunliffe and Chris Raynor were superb in defence and when Jordan Palmer was brought on to plug the gaps at the back, nine-man Halstead became the force to be reckoned with.
Hearn, Hutchings and John Root played to their strengths and troubled the visitors, which spilled over into frustration when Hearn was hauled down when set free and Fakenham’s James Page was shown red as well — game over. Worryingly for Halstead, injuries can be dealt with, but suspensions are going to make the side very depleted going into the winter.
Halstead take the long road up to Downham on Saturday (3pm) while the reserves entertain Stanway at Rosemary Lane
Halstead: Walker, Raynor, Raby, Smith, Cunliffe, Farthing, Crush, Sakal (Palmer 75), Root, Hearn, Hutchings. Unused sub: Drew.