HALSTEAD Town were beaten 1-0 at home by Saffron Walden Town in the Essex Senior League, writes KEN GILLIARD.

A local rivalry was renewed when The Bloods visited the Milbank Stadium and the two sides came into the match separated only by goal difference in the league.

Halstead made three changes to their starting XI, with the welcome return of Matt Travell from injury added to by the inclusion of Sonny Dutton and Jordan Palmer.

Watched by Halstead's biggest crowd of the season, the visitors had the better of the early exchanges.

Twice in the opening five minutes, Danny Norton was off target with good headed chances before Joni Vukaj guided his effort wide of the far post, as the home goal led a charmed life.

Halstead posed a threat on the break; Joe Maybanks cross almost found Jake Brown but the visiting defence blocked it for a corner, from which Brown's effort was well collected by goalkeeper Jarvis Monk.

The half hour mark saw some excitement as first Olli Miles turned the Halstead defence and was denied by Jack Cherry, who turned his shot onto the post.

The play switched to the other end and Ade Funbi's clever backheel almost deceived the keeper but the Saffron Walden goal survived.

Halstead Gazette:

Then Walden were reduced to ten men for ten minutes as Craig Calver was sin binned for dissent.

The visitors responded well to going down to ten and on 35 minutes were awarded a penalty as the Halstead defence hauled down Vukaj and Miles stepped up to convert.

Calver returned to the field with his side still one goal to the good.

Saffron Walden started the second half well and in quick succession, Ryan Melaugh dragged an effort wide and then blasted one over.

Halstead almost responded but Palmer’s flick just eluded an outstretched Dutton and the game remained 1-0 to the visitors.

The game was end to end and frantic at this stage, with Monk grabbing a Palmer header under his bar and at the other end, Cherry saving from Tom Skelton with his legs at the other.

Halstead Gazette:

Just after the hour mark, Norton’s cross was inadvertently turned onto his own bar by Robbie Bennett and a soft effort from the rebound ended in Cherry’s arms.

Maybanks found himself one on one with the goalkeeper when Cherry's big kick eluded everyone but shot straight at Monk, who blocked the ball and it ran safe.

Halstead substitute Ben Morris then played in a superb ball but Palmer couldn’t get on the end of it whilst at the other end, Cherry superbly claimed a cross with a forward breathing down his neck.

Maybanks' free-kick eluded everyone but ended just wide of a post and Morris's shot was deflected into the side netting while Lewis Stark’s effort was blocked for a corner, which resulted in a goalmouth scramble and then the keeper grabbing a goalbound header on the line.

But despite Halstead’s strong finish The Bloods held on for a narrow victory, in an entertaining game.