Halstead Town head to Darren Eadie's Leiston in the FA Cup with 'nothing to fear'
Despite there being a daunting three levels between them, Halstead Town boss Mark McLean says they will not be going to park the proverbial bus at Leiston in Saturday’s Emirates FA Cup tie (3pm).
The Step 3 Southern League Premier Division Central side, who have former Norwich City player Darren Eadie as part of their join management team, are set to provide a big test for the Humbugs.
But even with the prospect of a penalty lottery decider at the end of 90 minutes if the scores are level at Victory Road, McLean is not looking to utilise stifling tactics.
“It’s not the way I do things,” he said. “I will go down having a go. I will sleep better at night if we as a team do that.
“In pre-season we played Walthamstow (Step 5) and Heybridge (Step 4) and competed extremely well and felt really unlucky to lose both games, so we go to Leiston and we will do our utmost to do the club proud.
“We have nothing to fear. They are a very good side and I know they have got a couple of phenomenal players but you never know how football unravels itself.
“As long as we compete (I’m happy), and we will make sure there is a free spirit for these players to go and express themselves. Let’s go and enjoy ourselves and see where it takes us.”
Their appearance in the preliminary round of the famous old competition comes after they recovered from going behind early on at higher-league Ilford last Wednesday to start their 2020/21 campaign with a highly-pleasing 3-1 extra preliminary round victory.
Attacker Joe Jones marked his return to the club by capitalising on a goalkeeper error for the equaliser before a simple Chris Harris header put them ahead going into the interval. It was another Harris header which gave them a two-goal cushion.
“Once we started to stop the first phase that they can get out on we really got a foothold in the game and actually went on to control it quite comfortably,” said McLean. “Yes, they had a little moment at the end but we hit the post just before that to be 4-1 up.
“It was a wonderful, wonderful night for us.”
But his side had to settle for a point as their renewed bid for promotion from the Thurlow Nunn League First Division South got under way with a 1-1 draw at home to Athletic Newham (formerly known as Lopes Tavares) on Saturday.
Jordan Pavett’s tap-in in the 20th minute, after Harris’ shot could not be held, had been the least the Humbugs deserved from a strong first half.
But McLean’s side were left counting the cost of not building on that advantage when the visitors fired level in the 48th minute through an eye-catching solo effort from Jeff Idemudia, while they also survived a late scare.
“I thought we missed some really good chances and we should have been two or three up at half-time,” said McLean.
“Jordan Pavett has had a great chance one-on-one literally two minutes before they have gone down and scored a goal. If we had put that away I think we would have seen the game out.
“I think overall I have got to be happy as it has been a really tough four days to start but we have loved it and there are a lot of positives.”
McLean is hoping to have new attacking midfielder Alfie Cleal (knee) available for selection for the Leiston trip but captain Jake Brown (collarbone) and Gary Burdett (undiagnosed) are still sidelined for a few weeks yet.
Halstead return to league action on Tuesday at home to Wivenhoe Town (7.45pm).