FA CUP EXTRA PRELIMINARY ROUND: Halstead Town 2 Newmarket Town 1
Halstead Town pulled off a FA Cup shock on Tuesday evening as they came from behind to beat higher-league Newmarket Town at the Milbank Stadium.
It was a tie that actually got under way on Sunday afternoon, but an ankle injury suffered by Newmarket striker Matt Hayden - and the subsequent three-hour wait for an ambulance - resulted in the encounter being abandoned and then swiftly rescheduled.
And while the injured frontman watched on from the sidelines with a protective boot, his side made a positive start to proceedings, so much so that it was no surprise when they broke the deadlock in the 15th minute.
Full-back Paul Betson sent over a cross from the left flank, which Lewis Whitehead smartly converted with a looping effort that left Halstead goalkeeper Joe Fowler grasping at thin air.
The home side’s response to having fallen behind was relatively muted, although four minutes before the break Marcus Warren did force visiting goalkeeper Ben Nower into action with a snap shot from inside the box.
Halstead had an even better chance to haul themselves level after the restart when Newmarket’s Richard Chadwick under-hit his back pass. It sent number nine Matt Crick scampering clear, but Nower showed good acrobatics to tip the ball over the crossbar.
Nower was helpless, though, in the 63rd minute as the Humbugs’ growing influence on the fixture eventually told.
Captain Warren swung over a dangerous cross from the left, allowing Jules Simon-Parsons to power a header into the roof of the net.
The two sides then traded opportunities as Newmarket’s Deakan Napier stung Fowler’s palms, while Warren’s grass-cutter from distance was turned around the post by Nower.
Yet, it was Halstead that were now looking the more likely of the two teams to get the game’s next goal and so it proved 13 minutes from time.
Manager Mark Benterman had introduced Joe O’Hare and Tom Cook as second-half substitutes and the pair made a decisive impact. Cook cut inside from the right and unleashed a shot that Nower could only palm to O’Hare, who nodded the rebound into an unguarded net.
Now staring firmly down the barrel of being knocked out by a side one division below them, Kevin Grainger’s Newmarket threw caution to the wind and that approach should have paid dividends deep into stoppage time.
Moments after the Jockeys had seen a strong penalty appeal waved away by the referee, Fowler did ever so well to keep out Adam Dalby’s acrobatic effort.
However, it looked certain that the onrushing Whitehead was going to force a replay as he bore down on the loose ball, but from six yards out the attacker could only find the side netting and with it went his side’s participation in this season’s FA Cup.
Halstead will now travel to Thurrock of the Ryman League Division One North in next round on Saturday, August 19.
Halstead: Fowler, Pleace, Hurkett, Wilderspin, Cunliffe, Simon-Parsons, Gilbert (Cook 60), Murray, Crick (Spriggs 85), Hutchings (O’Hare 60), Warren
Newmarket: Nower, Dalby, Betson, Paterson, Chivers, Watson, Napier, Snaith (Grainger 89), Chadwick, Holder (Conway 72), Whitehead
Man of the Match: Jules Simon-Parsons - Scored the equalising goal and provided plenty of energy from midfield.