HALSTEAD Town were beaten 3-0 at Saffron Walden in their latest Essex Senior League clash, writes KEN GILLIARD.

It was a much-improved performance from the Humbugs but ended with a scoreline that flattered the hosts.

The Humbugs were looking for their first league win since the opening week of 2023.

But it was the hosts who threatened first, with Jason Hallett's effort blocked by Humbug defender Ryan Carter.

Halstead then had an effort ruled out as the assistant flagged for the ball going out of play, before ending in the net.

The Bloods went close through a Ryan Melaugh free-kick which went just wide while at the other end, Alfie Cleal's long-range effort just cleared the hosts' bar.

Jordan Palmer headed just wide from another Halstead free-kick and Cleal's effort was comfortably dealt with by keeper James Young.

In the dying moments of the first half, Halstead had a penalty claim rejected and Carter received a yellow for simulation, amid much debate.

After a goal-less first half, Halstead almost took the lead after the break when Cleal's effort was brilliantly saved by keeper Young.

The goalkeepers were coming to the fore with Jack Cherry more than up to the task when tested by Noble.

The fast start to the half continued with Hallett’s effort superbly saved on the line by Humbugs' Matt Travell and Charlie Cole then heading wide for the Bloods.

But the deadlock was broken when George Powell scored for the hosts, from a corner.

The Humbugs almost equalised when Young made a fantastic save from Morris's header and it was an open contest, with both Cole and Hallett registering efforts on goal.

Halstead spent the next 15 minutes searching for an equaliser and Lonton went close with a curling effort and then Travell was narrowly wide with a header from a corner.

Travell again went close for the Humbugs from distance as Halstead pushed for an equaliser but a second Saffron Walden goal with five minutes remaining put the game to bed.

Charlie Cole was in the right place at the far post to finish off from a free-kick and seal the hosts' win.

Halstead didn’t give up and in additional time, Lonton saw his effort bounce out off the underneath of the bar.

This injustice was compounded by Evan Goodfellow hitting them on the break and converting from a one-on-one situation, to give Saffron Walden a three-goal advantage.