HALSTEAD Town claimed a 2-1 win at Woodford Town in their final match of 2023, writes KEN GILLIARD.

The Humbugs maintained their unbeaten record for December and moved up to fifth in the Essex Senior League table.

Halstead made just the one change from their thrilling win in a seven-goal thriller against Takeley, with Matt Travell restored to the starting line-up and making his 100th appearance for the club.

The opening half an hour saw the visitors have the upper hand throughout and they should have been in front as early as the seventh minute.

Kane Gilbert's cross was missed by home keeper Edne Allen and Jake Brown headed wide with the goal gaping.

Woodford created little but on 13th minute missed a glaring chance, although the forwards embarrassment was speared by the assistant’s flag.

The quarter of an hour mark saw Halstead have yet another great chance but this time Sonny Dutton fired wide of the mark, from the edge of the area.

The next 15 minutes saw Halstead applying pressure on the home goal with a mixture of long throws, corners and free-kicks all being put into the box to test out keeper Allen.

But whilst it caused chaos at times, there were no clear cut opportunities.

Halstead then paid the price for not turning the pressure into goals as Woodford broke and Nathan Sollosi and found the bottom right corner.

The goal impacted the balance of play with the hosts having the better of the final minutes of the half but without creating any clear chances and Halsteas went in at the break behind.

It was The Woods who started the second half the stronger and in the opening minute of the second half had a great chance to increase their lead.

However the effort went wide and the Humbugs had been let off.

The opening quarter of an hour saw the hosts have the upper hand and although chances were at a premium, Emmanuel Robe struck the woodwork and he and Sollosi were a permanent threat to the Halstead defence.

The game changed within the space of a few minutes as Woodford had the ball in the net on 69 minutes but the assistant’s flag was up for a clear offside.

And within two minutes, Halstead got back on level terms.

The ball was being contested on the edge of the Woods box and popped out onto the left to Dutton, who cut inside and from the edge of the box superbly side-footed a curling effort into the bottom right-hand corner, out of the reach of Allen.

This set up a grandstand finish to the game and with 15 minutes to go, Woodford once again miss from close range, slicing an effort wide of the far post.

At the other end, a Halstead corner simply lacked a finishing touch as it pinged around the Woods box.

However, the drama was to continue as on 88 minutes the Humbugs were awarded a free kick 25 yards out.

Up stepped Gilbert to curl a superb effort into the top right-hand corner for his 25th of the season, securing Halstead victory.

It completed what was a very satisfactory year on the pitch for the Humbugs.