HALSTEAD Town were beaten 4-1 at home by Essex Senior League title hopefuls Tilbury on Tuesday, writes KEN GILLIARD.

The Humbugs went into this game looking for a first win in four league outings but knew they would have a tough challenge against the leaders.

The Dockers hadn’t tasted defeat in a league game since the end of August, a run of 19 games which left them eight points clear of second place with games in hand.

Dylan Carpenter-Flack was handed a first Halstead start and there was a return to the starting line-up for Ben Young, as the hosts made a few changes from their last outing at Newham.

The opening 20 minutes produced little of note but that all changed, as Tilbury enjoyed a dominant period and scored three goals in a handful of minutes.

The momentum started to swing the Dockers way when Dan Trendall turned the home defence and thumped an effort against the bar.

And the visitors took the lead soon after as Jack McQueen beat everyone to the ball from a corner to head home.

Two minutes later, yet another corner proved to be the Humbugs’ undoing as Connor Martin rose highest to nod home.

The hosts failed to regain their composure and left Oli Spooner free on the edge of the box to fire past Jack Cherry and into the bottom right corner.

Halstead steadied the ship and got to half-time without any further damage, although a scramble in the Halstead box on 44 minutes saw Sam Carter denied by a goal-line clearance.

And at the other end, Joel Older saw his curling effort go just the wrong side of the upright and then goal scorer Martin then intervened with a last-ditch challenge to stop the hosts reducing the arrears.

Halstead went in at the break 3-0 down and Tilbury extended their advantage within six minutes of the restart.

Top scorer Roman Campbell connected with a McQueen through ball and, despite being forced wide, fired home and took his season’s tally to 20.

For Halstead, it was damage limitation especially as their goal difference at this point had slipped into a negative for the season.

Humbugs supporters who formed the vast majority of a crowd of more than 200 finally had something to cheer late on as Kane Gilbert’s coolly-taken strike from within the area was the prolific forward’s 28th of the season.

It was no more than a consolation and Halstead host West Essex on Saturday, before a trip to FC Clacton on Tuesday.