Brightlingsea Regent Reserves visit Rosemary Lane as Halstead Town look to solve puzzle of worrying home form for new start in 2020
Halstead Town manager Mark McLean is looking to solve the puzzle of his side’s home form when they host Brightlingsea Regent Reserves in the Thurlow Nunn League First Division South tomorrow evening (7.45pm).
It will incredibly be just shy of seven weeks since they last played at their Rosemary Lane base, a 2-0 reverse against Coggeshall United on December 28, with their four home defeats in 2019/20 the highest across the top seven sides in the table.
It comes despite having one of the biggest and most vocal home supports in the division, meaning it continues to be a conundrum boss McLean is keen to put to bed in 2020 as he looks to carry off promotion in the top four.
After they jumped back into the top four with a 1-0 victory at 14th-placed Burnham Ramblers on their return to action on Saturday, McLean is looking to avoid another home slip-up tomorrow night.
“I do not know what it is,” he said. “Last season we were phenomenal away from home and, on the whole, apart from where we have been weakened, it has been the same this year.
“At home we have not helped ourselves at times. We have played better at home this year but four defeats with a couple of draws in there (from six games) is not something I want to see. Last year we would have won the league and gone up if it were not for our home form.”
He is expecting an energetic opposition to make them work hard for the win though.
“Brightlingsea are a young side who work hard for 90 minutes,” he said.
“We have got a decent record against them but they are always hard games.”
The growing vocal support, unusually young for a Step 6 crowd is also something he wants to harness more as well as rewarding.
“It is certainly something we should be using, especially under the lights,” he said.
“We have got about 60 young fans that are out there with a drum and they are excellent at keeping the noise up.
“It is our responsibility now to score the goals to help build on that noise.”
The Humbugs are set to be boosted by the return of captain Jake Brown following an ankle injury while experienced centre-back Gary Burdett returned from a spell on the sidelines on Saturday to help them record a clean sheet at Burnham Ramblers.
A Kane Munday low cross was turned into his own net by a defender to put the Humbugs into an early lead but goalkeeper Jack Cherry had to come to the rescue to save a penalty before the first half was out, while he also made a crucial save in the second half to keep them in front.
McLean said: “Being honest it was not the best performance but it was always going to be a little bit sticky after the week off.
“We were playing well and then we fell into a scrap. We ground it out well in the end and I would take that over the next 11 games, to be fair. I’m sure the fluency will come with games though.”
McLean has been pleased to see his side come through a period watching some of their promotion rivals catch up on games without leaving them adrift of the top four automatic promotion places.
A win tomorrow night would see them leapfrog Lopes Tavares into third place ahead of their home game against mid-table Frenford on Saturday. But their rivals would still hold five games in hand on them following the weekend.
More by this authorRussell Claydon