Halstead Town manager Mark McLean eagerly anticipating club's FA Cup return after positive response at Brightlingsea Regent Reserves
Halstead Town manager Mark McLean is relieved to be going into their first FA Cup tie in three seasons on the back of the perfect response to a heavy opening day home defeat.
After missing out last season, the Humbugs are looking to improve on their third-place finish in the Thurlow Nunn League First Division South this time around to guarantee promotion to Step 5.
With an injury list totalling seven players though they got off to a terrible start on Saturday with a 5-0 thumping at home to Wormley Rovers, the same side who inflicted a 4-1 defeat on them at the same venue to open their 2018/19 campaign.
But a 5-1 victory at Brightlingsea Regent Reserves on Tuesday – with Chris Harris coming back in to score four times – saw them bounce back in style ahead of their trip to higher-league Sawbridgeworth in the FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round on Saturday (3pm).
“It was very out of character and disappointing,” McLean said of their opening day display which had seen them concede three times in the second half.
“It was important the boys cleared their minds and got focused for last night, which was always going to be a tough game, and they did that.
“They were brilliant to a man and now they are all happy chappies and we can crack on.”
Winning in Hertfordshire at a Sawbridgeworth side who finished third-from-bottom in the Essex Senior League last season would be lucrative with £2,250 in prize money available to the winners.
And it is a day everyone at Halstead will be relishing, having not achieved qualification for the world’s most famous and oldest domestic cup competition in the previous two seasons. Their last appearance was a 6-0 defeat at AFC Sudbury in the first round qualfying tie in 2014/15.
“Qualification for it has now become harder so it is important (to us) and creates excitement,” said McLean.
“We need to go out there and make sure we do ourselves justice. We are looking forward to it very much.”
McLean has injury problems ahead of the tie with centre-backs Gary Burdett and Connel Dunlop, captain Jake Brown and fellow midfielder Jamie Baker all ruled out over the next few weeks, while four-goal Harris now has cricket commitments with Maldon keeping him out until mid-September. And Humbugs supporters are going to have to wait a while to see new striker Ricky Gardner in competitive action, after the former Heybridge Swifts man, who had taken a year out in Australia before Halstead signed him on his return, picked up a hamstring injury in pre-season training.
Young midfielder Rocha Fosker has put himself in line for another start though after an eye-catching full debut against his former club on Tuesday.
Experienced left-back Alex O’Leary, who has returned to Halstead after a spell playing Step 5 in the Midlands, and former Colchester United youngster Liam Whitehead (Wivenhoe Town), who predominantly plays as a full-back or in midfield are also new signings.
Under-18s striker Nathaniel Downes got Halstead’s other goal in the 5-1 win on Tuesday to make it a special debut and will be in McLean’s thoughts for the trip to Hertfordshire.
As long as a replay is not required, the north Essex side will return to league action at home to Little Oakley on Tuesday (7.45pm), who won their opening game at Burnham Ramblers 2-0.
* Hadleigh United go into their FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round tie at north London Spartan South Midlands League Premier Division outfit London Colney on Saturday (3pm) following two defeats.
The Brettsiders, without manager Christian Appleford again this weekend (holiday), lost their Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division opener 3-0 at Kirkley & Pakefield on Saturday, with all the goals coming inside the final 20 minutes of the game.
They were unable to bounce back at home to Stanway Rovers on Tuesday, losing 3-2 with two former AFC Sudbury players on target.
They trailed 1-0 at the break after ex-Yellow Jordan Blackwell steered the ball home in the 31st minute.
Former Thetford striker Andrew Wood made it 2-0 in the 48th minute before Hadleigh fought back to 2-2 with Ben Elliot tucking away a 59th minute penalty before new signing Joel Glover equalised in the 77th minute. But ex-Sudbury youngster Milo Grimes condemned the hosts to back-to-back defeats with his 82nd minute winner.
* Long Melford had an opening week to forget as they fell to a 4-0 home defeat to Woodbridge Town at Stoneylands on Saturday before a 4-1 loss at Newmarket Town on Tuesday.
The first goal on Saturday arrived after three minutes when ex-Ipswich Town captain Carlos Edwards got down the Melford left flank, and his excellent cross was headed home with force by Jake Rudge.
Woodbridge were then two up after five minutes, a raking pass found Rudge on the Melford right before hesitation cost the hosts dear as Darren Moyes saved the first shot, but from the rebound defender Dan Smith failed to clear off the line and only found his own net.
As the shock subsided Melford started to get into the game; Steve Adams and Nathan Rowe went close with headers, while Jamie Griffiths was twice denied by Alfie Stronge in the Woodbridge goal. Mark Ray and Aaron Churchyard put the visitors out of sight with goals in the last 25 minutes, either side of Griffiths firing wide from the penalty spot.
Things did not get better on Tuesday with a 4-1 defeat at Newmarket Town which saw Nathan Rowe score the second-half consolation.
Melford travel to Essex Senior League side Southend Manor in the FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round on Saturday (3pm) as they look to kick-start their season.
More by this authorRussell Claydon