Halstead boss still harbours top-three hope
THURLOW NUNN LEAGUE
Halstead Town 0
Haverhill Borough 2
Despite Saturday’s home defeat to high-flyers Haverhill Borough, Mark McLean is refusing to write off his side’s promotion chances saying he still fancies them to embark on the long run they would now require.
At the start of three home games The Humbugs, who had gone into the weekend 16 points off the top three but with three games in hand, had seen their chances of a third straight league win hit when in-form striker Shaun Avis was sent off in the 37th minute for an apparent kick out at the goalkeeper.
But Halstead certainly made a good fist of things thereafter, leaving their manager upbeat even after conceding twice, through Luke Clark’s sweeping finish just before the hour mark and in the final minutes to substitute Rory Bone’s simple finish.
“You can see why Haverhill (2nd going into last night’s game) are winning games, they are clinical and play with a good tempo. But I thought we were more than a match for that, certainly with a man down, which you would never have known at any time in the game.
“I will take heart from the desire and the effort. We can play better still.”
Indeed they did on Tuesday evening with a 5-1 victory over Leiston Reserves.
Tom Cook’s and Avis’ unanswered goals before the break were added to by Cook’s and Avis’ second, sandwiched between substitute Jack Charnock finding the back of the net.
But it still leaves a mountain to climb in their pre-season target of promotion, having come so close in their previous campaign.
The Humbugs are still 14 points off the three automatic promotion positions with 12 games to go.
But McLean, who took over from Mark Benterman in January, said: “Listen, there is a gap now with the top three. We have got a great run of games and we are just going to pick them off one by one and see where we go with them.
“I am comfortable with the squad. We might have a look as we need a bit more strength in depth, but I am happy.”
Halstead had started Saturday’s match really brightly but could not make the breakthrough before they were indebted to left back Marcus Warren for sliding Charlie Holmes’ shot off the line.
Avis’ sending off came amid his protests he had reacted to being hit in the face.
Halstead battled hard in the second half but utilmately did not have enough in the tank to hold Borough at bay, while at 1-0 down a penalty appeal, for handball, went against them before Bone robbed keeper Banner to slot in the crucial second goal late on.
McLean’s side host Downham Town (12th) on Saturday (3pm) with Avis set to be suspended.
Halstead: Banner, Hutchings (Cook, 71), Warren, Wilderspin, Cunliffe (c), Brown, Donaldson (Gilbert, 64), Hudson (Schelvis, 77), Avis, Passley, Illett. Unused sub: Charnock.
Free Press Man of the Match: Marcus Warren.