by Russell Claydon
HALSTEAD Town manager Jimmy Holder is hoping his side can gift wrap their fans six points over the festive period to push them back into the top six.
After a strong start in the Ridgeons League First Division, a recent dip in form, including two successive narrow defeats, have seen the Rosemary Lane outfit lose ground in the top half of the table.
But Holder knows if they beat Brightlingsea Regent at home on Boxing Day (11am) — the side who are one place and two points above them in seventh — and then take three points at basement battlers Cornard on January 2 (7.45pm), a place in the top six is more than a realistic possibility.
“We pitched our tent to finish in the top 10 (at the start of the season) and I think we have got a bit excited and think we can do better than that and I think we can,” the Halstead boss said.
“It seems the middle bunch have all been on good runs and bad runs and the two two, Thetford and Whitton, and Godmanchester, have done exceptionally well and the rest have been up and down.
“If we had won our last two games we would have been right up there.”
Holder maintains Saturday’s 3-2 defeat at a resurgent Debenham LC (who have now won their last four league matches) really could have gone either way, just like his view of the previous week’s 2-1 home defeat to fellow in-form side Godmanchester Rovers.
Asked what went wrong at Debenham, he said: “Not very much. At 2-1 we looked very dangerous on a cold, wet and miserable day and the only differnece was they looked a bit stronger.
“It was a hard game and I think they played really well and we stayed in it right to the end and unfortunately our concentration was not good enough and they got a goal at the end.”
With just 16 teams in the First Division this season, Holder admits he had been considering setting up a friendly or two to plug the lack of games, with only one having been scheduled for Halsted to play in January, but after a re-jig of the fixtures is now happy not to do so.
“The size of the league does not help as you are short of six games,” he said. “We have been talking about that (friendlies) as we had one game in January but that has changed now.”
Jack Smith serves his last game of his suspension on Boxing Day, whilke Nico Farthing will have to sit out of the Brightlingsea and Cornard games with his.
Long-term absentee Lee Hurkett (chipped bone in his ankle) has begun training again and Holder is hopeful of having him available again in another two to three weeks. Meanwhile, Adam Smith (ankle ligament damage) will remain in a cast until the second week of January.
<n>Hadleigh United are not in action again until they travel to second bottom Newmarket Town on December 31 (12.30pm) before hosting Felixstowe and Walton United at the Millfield on January 2 (3pm). Manager Stuart Crawford has announed young goalkeeper Daniel Heath (21) and fellow youngster Jamie Cowan (20) have both signed contracts with the club until the end of next season.
<n>For full Ridgeons League tables and fixtures, see page 43.