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Halstead Town looking to ensure it is their time for promotion




After bringing in four new signings, Mark McLean believes the 2020/21 campaign can be the season where Halstead Town drop the ‘nearly men’ tag in the race for promotion.

In both of the last two Thurlow Nunn League First Division South seasons, The Humbugs had been riding high in the top two before fading away at the business end.

They were seventh and six points off the top four automatic promotion places in March when the 2019/20 campaign was scrapped, though that came after a punishing injury list.

Halstead Town manager Mark McLeanPicture: Mecha Morton
Halstead Town manager Mark McLeanPicture: Mecha Morton

Despite the blow of losing captain Jake Brown to a broken collarbone and new attacking midfielder Alfie Cleal with a knee issue in Tuesday’s 2-1 home friendly defeat to Heybridge Swifts, McLean is hopeful their injury luck can change.

“The aspiration is to be promoted and I genuinely feel we have got a squad to compete, but we just need a wee bit of help along the way,” he said.

Supporters were able to return to Rosermay Lane for the first time since March in Tuesday's friendly between Halstead Town and Heybridge SwiftsPicture: Samuel Farnes (41275131)
Supporters were able to return to Rosermay Lane for the first time since March in Tuesday's friendly between Halstead Town and Heybridge SwiftsPicture: Samuel Farnes (41275131)

“We proved it the year before (3rd) that if we can stay relatively fit we have always got a chance.

“It is very silly to predict things like winning the title as last night showed what can quickly happen with two players getting injured. But as long as we do not get to the level that we did last season with seven, eight or nine players out we will be competitive again.”

There have been a trio of departures with midfielders Kane Munday (AFC Sudbury) and Callum Vincent, and defender Conor Scurlock all leaving Rosemary Lane.

But in has come left-back Greg Strong, who has made more than 250 appearances for Saffron Walden Town, former Witham Town player Cleal and central midfielder Lewis O’Sullivan. Striker Joe Jones has also returned to the club after a break from Saturday football.

The players watch on as Halstead Town's goalkeeper Jack Cherry pulls off a penalty save in the pre-season friendly with Heybridge SwiftsPicture: Samuel Farnes (41275129)
The players watch on as Halstead Town's goalkeeper Jack Cherry pulls off a penalty save in the pre-season friendly with Heybridge SwiftsPicture: Samuel Farnes (41275129)

After hosting Essex Olympian League side Onger Town on Saturday (3pm) the competitive action gets under way in the FA Cup extra preliminary round at higher-league Ilford on Wednesday (7.45pm) before their league opener at home to Athletic Newham the following Saturday (3pm).

“I would not say the draw has been overly kind to us but we are in it and cannot grumble. Everyone looks forward to the FA Cup,” said McLean.

“They have a new management team and we have got to go there and be rigid and compact like we have been in our last few games.”