HALSTEAD Town beat Takeley 4-3 in a thrilling Essex Senior League contest, writes KEN GILLIARD.

The first contentious moment came just three minutes in when after a clear foul on a Takeley player, visiting player Kieran Southgate shoved Jake Brown to the floor.

Despite all officials advising, the referee took no action with the crowd expecting a red card.

Takeley made the most of the referee’s generosity on eight minutes when the hosts failed to clear their lines and Kevin Yeboah side-footed home.

Halstead had a chance to get back into the game when Joel Older was tripped having taken down Matt Coppen's long ball but the normally reliable Kane Gilbert stepped up and side footed wide.

Humbugs goalkeeper Jack Cherry palmed away Southgate's shot at his near post while at the other end, Jules Simon-Parson's effort was cleared off the line.

Minutes later Simon-Parson provided Joel Older with a great chance but the winger’s effort was sliced wide.

Debutant Scott Sloots was comfortably denied by Joe Walker before Halstead had a man sin binned as Alfie Cleal complained to the referee and then Jack Schelvis saw yellow for a foul on Southgate.

The home fans' displeasure with the referee grew as the free-kick resulted in Southgate tapping home to extend the visitors' lead, before the break.

The Humbugs took the field for the second half still a man down and Cherry denied Southgate, before Takeley winger Caolin McGettigan had an opportunity blocked and then saw another effort go narrowly wide.

Halstead pulled a goal back in the 50th minute when Simon-Parson’s superb midfield challenge saw him advance and unleash a 25-yard effort which Walker could only parry and Gilbert tucked home the rebound.

But Takeley quickly restored their two-goal advantage when McGettigan set up George O’Hanlon slammed home.

However, the hosts went straight up the other end and Brown stabbed home to once again reduce the arrears.

Takeley’s Charlie Allum fired straight at Cherry and then Older saw his goalbound effort blocked for a corner.

A neat Halstead corner routine saw Older go short into Gilbert at the near post and his flick found Sonny Dutton, who hit the outside of a post.

But it was 3-3 when a ball from the left found Alfie Cleal just outside the box and his superb strike left Walker clutching at thin air.

And Halstead scored what proved to be the winner when a free kick found Older and his cross was turned home by Matt Coppen at the back post.

Takeley were reduced to ten men when substitute Alex Lambrou was sent off for a horrendous challenge.

Nevertheless, the visitors refused to give up and only Cherry's superb block kept them in front as the game went into additional time.

Takeley had a golden opportunity before the end but from a few yards out their forward couldn’t turn it home, as Halstead claimed a well-deserved victory.