THURLOW NUNN LEAGUE FIRST DIVISION
Halstead Town 2
Braintree Town Reserves 3
Halstead Town’s promotion bid took a dent after slipping to a 3-2 defeat at home against Braintree Town Reserves on Saturday.
The Humbugs hosted Braintree’s second string for their final home game of 2016, and though in a higher league position than their guests, it was The Iron who were the form side.
Braintree, beaten 7-0 by Halstead in the Thurlow Nunn League First Division Knockout Cup in October, had beaten two promotion-chasing sides in their last two outings.
The visitors got their reward with a gutsy, hard-working performance and showed character when, having surrendered a two-goal advantage, they grabbed a 79th-minute winner.
After Braintree came out of the blocks quickly in the opening minutes, the game settled down and although no team dominated, Halstead had two big appeals for penalties.
The first when Shaun Avis was taken down and the second when Matt Staines was clipped, but the referee rejected the appeals, with Staines booked for simulation.
Braintree began to force the play and on 27 minutes they went in front.
A perfectly-flighted corner was met by the unmarked Charlie Webb and his powerful header hit the back of the net to give the young visitors the lead.
Halstead were stunned and 15 minutes later they added to their woes when Alfie Manley raced clear of their defence but was beaten to the ball by the advancing Joe Simmonds, in the home goal.
Simmonds clawed the ball away and Jordan Hutchings attempted to complete the clearance, but his effort bounced off the post and straight to Manley, who dutifully tucked the ball into the empty net.
The Humbugs grabbed a lifeline just before half time when Jules Simon-Parson was fouled in a central area about 20 yards out, with Avis stepping up and curling the ball into the top corner.
Halstead came out for the second half with real intent and the pressure eventually told on 55 minutes.
Charlie Baker’s cross from the left was headed against the upright by Avis and Hutchings reacted quickest to head home the rebound.
Jock Hurley grabbed a winner for Braintree in the 79th minute, as the hosts failed to clear their lines and the youngster drilled a low shot into the corner.
A disappointing performance from Halstead and one they need to remedy quickly.
Halstead Town: Simmonds, Hutchings, Spriggs, Wilderspin, Cunliffe, Simon-Parson, Foulger (Ilett 84), Brown, Avis, Baker (Gilbert 59), Staines (McIlwaine 46). Sub not used: Walker. Attendance: 126.