MATCH REPORT: Haverhill Borough make it a perfect 10 at Halstead
THURLOW NUNN LEAGUE FIRST DIVISION: Halstead Town 0 Havarhill Borough 2
Two second half goals earned Haverhill Borough their 10th straight win at 10-man Halstead Town thus afternoon to send Martin Wescott's men into second place - following Coggeshall Town's slip-up (5-4) at Whitton United.
After the hosts had been reduced to 10 men following ex-Borough striker Shaun Avis' first-half dismissal, Luke Clark was the man to finally break the deadlock in the 59th minute, before substitute Rory Bone wrapped things up with a simple finish a minute from time.
This season's surprise package, given they insist they do not pay their players and have Haverhill Rovers on the same complex offering a higher level to play at, Haverhill Borough's manager and players are still not talking about promotion.
But with this winning run now into double figures, and a gap opening up between the top three and the chasing pack, which includes Halstead who have to now mastermind a similar run to stand any chance, Borough look a side to be taken very seriously for promotion to Rovers' level.
This performance was not their best, but it clearly pleased Wescott to see them break down the resistance of a hard working side on their own patch who had started determined to burst their near-neighbough's bubble.
Ironically, it had been eighth-placed Halstead's manager who had been the one talking up a shot at promotion before this game, despite Mark McLean's side being 16 points off the top three albeit with three games in hand.
A lively opening 20 minutes showed The Humbugs meant business though with an early Marcus Warren cross being punched clear while Avis, with four goals in his last three games, heading wide.
Borough's first dangerous incursion into their opponent's half seeing Chris Holmes head Matt Staines' deep cross on before Paul Warner plucked the loose ball out of the air.
Ryan Swallow fired a low shot just wife from outside the area while Borough's skipper Jarid Robson, with 18 goals from midfield already this season, was given a free shot in the box from Jake Brown's sloppy pass, but Luke Banner was able to turn it around his near post.
Joe Illett had seen a similar effort parried round the post at the other end, but the game's biggest chance fell to Borough striker Holmes in the 20th minute.
A threaded pass played him in behind the Essex side's back line and when he rounded goalkeeper Banner he looked destined to put his side into the lead.
But a great covering run by Warren saw him hack his shot clear off the goal-line.
Halstead enjoyed a good spell of possession, but it was Borough on the break who continued to look the most dangerous, and Staines' effort had Banner diving to his left to keep the scoreline goalless.
The Humbugs' were soon causing mayhem in their opponent's box though when, from a 35th minute Jordan Hutchings free-kick, a home player won a far post header among a crowded box and it was Clark's turn to be the saviour on the line.
A pivotal moment in the course of the game arrived in the 37th minute when Avis, to the home fans' evident anger and disbelief, was shown a straight red card, apparently for tripping the goalkeeper after he had collected a loose ball. The striker was seen protesting he had been reacting to his eyes being gouged, but his protests fell on deaf ears.
Staines passed up an early opportunity to make his side's numerical advantage count by firing wide as the sides went into the break goalless.
Halstead had looked to be coping well with 10 men but were served a big warning in the 54th minute when Brown was caught in possession trying to do a clever turn in his own half and Swallow robbed him before feeding Robson whose rifled effort from long range clipped the top of the crossbar on its way over.
Borough had the lead they craved a minute before the hour mark though, when Halstead's failure to adequately deal with a cross in from the left was punished when Clark swept the loose ball home.
Ten minutes later Halstead came close to an equaliser when Brown's angled drive had to be turned round the lost.
A flurry of substitutions then disrupted the flow of the game and it was not until the last 15 minutes that there was any sniff of a chance in either box.
It fell to the hosts who appealed in vain for a penalty when Tom Cook's free-kick was deemed to have hit Robson's arm as Borough battled to clear their lines, but the referee was not prepared to listen.
Borough played on with 10 men while right-back Tommy Hardwick had to change his bloodied shirt from the free-kick.
Plucky Halstead's resistance was finally broken in the 89th minute when substitute striker Bone chased down the goalkeeper, who got caught out under the pressure, and was left to pick the ball out of his net after Bone rolled it in ahead of a desperate covering defender's lunge.
Halstead: Banner, Hutchings (Cook, 71), Warren, Wilderspin, Cunliffe (c), Brown, Donaldson (Gilbert, 64), Hudson (Schelvis, 77), Avis, Passley, Illett. Unused sub: Charnock.
Borough: Warner, Hardwick, Hurkett (Regan, 71), Clark, Durell, Hansey, Pruden, Robson (c), Holmes (Bone, 71), Swallow, Staines (Thomas, 73). Unsed subs: Wescott, Choat.
* See Thursday's papers for manager reaction.