HALSTEAD Town got the new Essex Senior League season off to a fine start after winning 3-1 at Ilford, writes KEN GILLIARD.

They returned from Cricklefield triumphant following goals from Kane Gilbert, Jordan Palmer and Alfie Cleal, while keeper Jack Cherry saved a penalty.

Halstead made the early running, with two chances coming their way in the opening minutes.

Gilbert got on the end of Matt Travell's free-kick but guided his header wide of the upright, before Gilbert played in Palmer whose effort was superbly saved by keeper Loftus and Joel Older put the rebound over.

It was no surprise when the Humbugs finally took the lead on 26 minutes.

Cleal's free-kick was headed back across goal by Older and Gilbert was on hand to tap home, opening his and the Humbugs account for the season.


This was the signal for Ilford to come into the game a little more and they had a couple of chances to equalise.

Skipper Jones headed over from a corner when in a lot of space and then the hosts were awarded a penalty, after Cherry brought down Landu.

Cherry redeemed himself by saving Lilly’s spot-kick, ensuring Halstead went in at the break ahead.

Halstead started the second period strongly and almost doubled their advantage straight away but Older’s effort was well saved by Loftus and Gilbert’s rebound effort was blocked.

Ilford responded well and equalised from their next attack when Boxall curled the ball past Cherry from distance, a goal of high quality.

This spurred the hosts on and Cherry made a high class save to deny Lilly from distance.

The game was end to end now and within minutes a great move saw Jake Brown and Palmer linking up, with the latter turning superbly in the box and firing home.

It meant that with just over half an hour to go, Halstead were back in front.

Despite lots of huffing and puffing, chances were at a premium with Palmer's long-range countered by a decent chance for Ilford.

Phillips dinked over Cherry but also the goal and therefore missed a great chance to draw his side level again.

The game was settled on 83 minutes when Cleal squeezed home from the tightest of angles to seal Halstead's fine away win.