HALSTEAD Town beat Ilford 3-2 in a thrilling Essex Senior League encounter, writes KEN GILLIARD.

The win lifts the Humbugs to a season-high sixth spot in the league table.

The visit of Ilford served up an exciting spectacle for the large crowd who braved the conditions.

It would have been particularly satisfying for the groundstaff who had worked tirelessly to get the game on, after recent downpours.

Halstead enjoyed the better of the early exchanges with Ilford goalkeeper Sam Soutar making a couple of excellent early saves.

The dominance during the first quarter of an hour for Halstead counted for nothing though as Oliseh Okungi curled a 20-yard free-kick into the bottom right hand corner, to give Ilford the lead.

Halstead continued to press and Sonny Dutton was denied an equaliser by a superb clearance off his own line by Jordan Fisher.

However, the goal wasn’t far away for the home supporters and on 21 minutes, Joel Older tapped home an equaliser after the Ilford goalkeeper allowed Kane Gilbert's cross to slip out of his hands and onto the crossbar.

Ilford were dangerous on the counter and a great move involving Okungi resulted in Yusuf Tacine tucking home to restore Ilford's lead, two minutes after they were pegged back.

The Halstead onslaught continued for the remainder of the half with Soutar repelling everything the Humbugs could throw at him.

The pick of the bunch was a fine save from Jake Brown whilst the visitors were restricted to hitting the hosts on the break, with Tacine the major threat.

The pace dropped in the second half but the game bounced into life just before the hour mark when Okungi was unlucky for the visitors as his effort from distance came off the outside of a post.

But Halstead equalised when Gilbert found Ade Funbi in the box and the striker did the rest.

The game was an end-to-end affair after that, with both sides defence standing up well to the pressure.

A late block from Halstead denying Mark Hayford at the expense of a corner whilst at the other end, Soutar tipped over a free-kick destined to be turned home.

It looked as thought it would end as a draw but with the clock ticking down, Matt Coppen nodded home at the far post from a corner to give the Humbugs a well-deserved victory.