HALSTEAD Town were beaten 2-1 at home by Sawbridgeworth Town in the Essex Senior League, writes KEN GILLIARD.

The fourth-bottom Humbugs hosted third-from-bottom Sawbridgeworth with plenty of pride at stake and a desire from both sides to finish as high as possible.

Halstead started on the front foot and had their first effort on goal within the opening minute, when Jordan Palmer's effort from Alfie Cleal's long throw was blocked.

However, a better chance presented itself within minutes as Jordan Blackwell’s cross struck a defender's hand and the referee pointed to the spot.

Palmer stepped up but saw his effort superbly saved by George Edgeworth.

Despite all their possession and threatening to break the deadlock, the hosts failed to make Edgeworth work.

And on the half hour the visitors really should have done better when they were three on one against the Halstead back line but their forward lost control, when a goal looked on the cards.

Martin Arowoshaye's shot across goal was saved well with his left hand by keeper Crisell and this prompted a better spell for the visitors.

Edgeworth was called into action to clear a dangerous Blackwell free-kick and then to stop a long-range effort from Ryan Carter.

But at the other end, Halstead keeper Crisell made a superb save, tipping a Ayub Kadiri header onto the bar.

Halstead took the lead just before half-time when Palmer's ball over the top found Joel Older, who chipped the advancing keeper from an acute angle outside the box and with his wrong foot, found the back of the net.

But Sawbridgeworth responded immediately as from a debated corner, Halstead failed to clear their goalmouth and Elliot George managed to stab the ball home.

An uneventful half burst into life and ended a goal apiece but the 45 minutes that preceded the goals will be instantly forgotten.

Halstead almost had the perfect start to the second half when Blackwell's cross just eluded Older and then Cleal arriving at the back post couldn’t turn it home.

Edgeworth then pulled off a fantastic save as Blackwell’s cross was met on the stretch by Palmer, but the keeper turned his goal bound effort round the post.

Sawbridgeworth then went ahead when Halstead couldn’t clear a corner and Zac Davidson bundled home, at the back post.

Halstead quickly had the ball in the net as Cleal followed up on Older's shot but he was denied by the assistant's flag.

Kane Gilbert made a welcome return to the Halstead side and within minutes of coming off the bench, had a dipping effort from the edge of the box.

The hosts desperately looked to get level but Travell's effort from distance flew wide without troubling the keeper.

Play was scrappy and whilst Halstead were pushing forward to get an equaliser they were stretched at the back.

There were some heated final moments with a couple of yellow cards brandished and Blackwell sin-binned.

But the reality was that once the visitors had got their noses in front, they were comfortable and Halstead were left to rue the missed penalty and not making the most of their possession.