HALSTEAD Town were eliminated from the Isuzu FA Vase at the second qualifying round stage after losing 4-2 at home to Sawbridgeworth, writes KEN GILLIARD.

The Humbugs made a number of changes, with the suspended Matt Travell replaced by Nick Miller and Jack Cherry, Robbie Bennett and Tom White also starting.

Halstead got off to a flying start when Matt Coppen controlled and volleyed in one movement off the underside of the bar, after a corner had only been partially cleared.

Sawbridgeworth enjoyed some sustained pressure but Jordan Pavett got the wrong side of the defence and looked to have rounded George Edgeworth, only for the keeper to clear with his foot.

Pavett was almost through again minutes later but was once again denied by Edgeworth's legs, as Halstead started to get a foothold in the game again.

However, Opoku again threatened for the visitors and dragged his effort wide when he should have done better.

Sawbridgeworth finally got an equaliser five minutes before the break, in extraordinary circumstances.

Cherry’s clearance hit the advancing Wale Adedeji and rolled into the empty net from outside the area.

And the tie was transformed when a ball over the top saw Cherry catch Charles and despite the forward staying on his feet, the referee pointed to the spot.

Charles himself stepped up to convert the resultant penalty.

Halstead could have equalised within seconds as a corner found White at the back post but he skied his effort, as the hosts went in at the break behind.

Edgeworth tipped Coppen's 40-yard effort over the bar early in the second half but this only seemed to spur Sawbridgeworth on, on as they started to mount some attacks again.

The controversial moment of the game came on 66 minutes as Halstead failed to clear their lines but Bennett beat Charles to the ball, who clipped his heels and then took the ball and rolled it into the Halstead net.

The assistant initially flagged for the foul but took it down and the referee awarded the goal, without consulting him.

It was a disastrous goal all round and one which should not have stood.

Halstead needed to regain their composure but two minutes later they were again breached when a ball over the top found Alfie Attrill and he coolly lobbed the advancing Cherry to give Sawbridgeworth a 4-1 advantage which didn’t reflect the game.

With 14 minutes remaining, the referee once again incurred the anger of the hosts and their fans when a Sawbridgeworth defender handled on the goal-line, only for a goal-kick to be awarded.

Sawbridgeworth should have added to their tally when Adedeji's low cross evaded Cherry and Opoku shot wide at the back post.

Controversy continued to surround the man in the middle after Blackwell was on the end of a nasty foot up challenge from Sawbridgeworth’s Joshua Bardouleau.

But as all were expecting to see red, the referee produced a timid yellow.

Halstead reduced the arrears in the 90th minute when substitute Calvin Poku’s effort was fluffed into his net by Edgeworth.

The tie finally saw a red but disappointingly it was Cherry who got his second yellow for handling outside the box and Jordan Palmer took over in the home goal, for the additional minute.

Halstead bowed out but while Sawbridgeworth deserved their victory, the score-line perhaps did not reflect the match.

HALSTEAD TOWN: Jack Cherry, Ryan Carter, Nick Miller, Robbie Bennet, Matt Coppen, Jack Schelvis (sub Jordan Blackwell, 59), Alfie Cleal, Louis O’Sullivan, Adam Hampson, Jordan Pavett (sub Jordan Palmer, 78), Tom White (sub Calvin Poku, 66). Subs (not used): Joe Vogler Joe Jones.