Eastern Senior League – South Division Play-Off Semi-Final
Venue: Park Lane
2021-22 Season: Match 75
Saturday 23rd April 2022 – 3pm KO
Benfleet: Sky Blue Shirts, Navy Blue Shorts,Sky Blue Socks
Halstead: Black & White Shirts, Black Shorts, Black Socks
Halstead battle hard to overcome Benfleet in play-off Semi-Final
Benfleet 1 – 2 Halstead Town (AET)
Match Report & Photos by Scott W [Twitter: @ScottMHC14]
The first match this weekend saw a return to Park Lane for a crucial Eastern Senior League play-off Semi-Final, as Benfleet ,who finished 3rd in the League season) entertained Halstead Town, who finished the season strongly.
Buoyed on their sizeable travelling contingent of supporters, Halstead looked to keep things tight early-doors as Halstead forward Calvin Poku struck wide of home custodian Florent Gislette’s woodwork. Benfleet looked to retain possession and gain the impetus as well, and prominent forward Ben Foord had a half-chance two minutes into the game but visiting stopper Jack Cherry did well to deny him. The same two players were key on eleven minutes as a fierce strike by Foord was well-parried onto the woodwork by Cherry.
You may have thought at this point that it was a case of when Robert Polkinghorn’s side would break the deadlock. But that wasn’t the case as the Humbugs certainly defended stoutly and the hosts couldn’t quite create the clear chances their possession advantage may have given them. It got worse for Benfleet on twenty-four minutes. From a relatively rare foray forward at this point in proceedings, a good run down the right channel by winger Jordan Blackwell ended with a fine cross into the six-yard area, which allowed wily forward Calvin Poku to slot home from close range after evading the ‘Fleet backline.
Benfleet were playing some neat football, but their finishing was going astray. A good move involving full-back Joe Hunter and defender Sonny Hartman ended with Foord again firing off-target. Halstead did also clear a good header off the goalline and they did ride theur luck a little. But for me, the Humbugs were also more composed in defence and they were not rattled by the task at hand. Cherry was called into action again just before the break as a good header by centre-back Cameron Harris from about eight yards out was denied by the Halstead captain.
HT: Benfleet 0 – 1 Halstead
Benfleet needed to find another gear after the interval as although Halstead had few chances in the first half, they looked a danger going forward and they did catch the Blues defence napping on occasion. Early on in the second half, impressive winger Frankie Stone sprinted clear of the retreating visiting defence, only to be denied by an excellent recovery tackle by a Humbugs defender.
I was starting to wonder on the hour whether this match would be a case of ‘missed chances’ for the hosts. On 62 minutes, the Poku was again given too much space in the area by the home defence with his resulting strike being well-denied by Gislette. Benfleet sensed they had to level quickly and responded as Foord was through on goal but again a superb recovery challenge by full-back Ryan Carter stifled the oppurtunity to shoot past Cherry.
Benfleet were really cursing their luck after a free-kick by substitute Henry Sims was nodded on by Foord and Stone’s prod at goal was cleared off the goal-line. Fourth official Ian Pascu signalled six added minutes to play and just as you started to think the solitary goal would be the winner, Benfleet finally scored. A powerful header by Harris found the net in a congested area two minutes into added time and gave them a chance in extra-time.
FT (90 mins): Benfleet 1 – 1 Halstead
So, thirty minutes added time we had but there was a near -immediate dramatic turn in the match. Just two minutes in, Benfleet’ defence was caught trying to clear by Poku, who unselfishly slotted in Jordan Palmer who calmly finished past the grasp of Gislette. Halsyead really should have made the game secure eight minutes later but forward Adam Hampson’s decent strike was well-saved low down by Gislette.
Benfleet gave it everything in the second period of extra-time but it wasn’t to be. To their credit, Halstead showed plenty of desire, composure and application to edge their way to the play-off Final with a gritty and commendable performance.
Full-Time (AET): Benfleet 1 – 2 Halstead Town
This match was a dramatic encounter though in summary, Halstead just edged it on composure in both penalty boxes, in my view. They took their goals well from the relatively few chances they had, compared to their hosts who couldn’t convert their morass of chances due to a combination of profligate finishing and last-ditch Humbugs defending.
There were some fine performances in this match . First, for winners Halstead. Winger Jordan Blackwell put in a fine display, exercising his movement and pace to good effect to stretch the home backline. Forward Calvin Poku also showed his guile and got an goal & an assist as part of a good all-round performance. Goalkeeper Jack Cherry pulled off three good saves in the first-half to keep it tight and centre-back Garry Burdett had another good game, showcasing desire and good positioning.
For Benfleet, I felt full-back Joe Hunter had an excellent game showing high energy, good passing and good awareness too. Support forward Frankie Stone also had a good game too, showing good pace, awareness and movement. Cameron Harris had another good game at centre-half making several good interceptions & also taking his goal well. Lastly, a word for forward Ben Foord who was their focal point up front and never stopped grafting. He was a constant threat until he had to be substituted late on.
Congrats to both sides but it is Halstead who go on to face Buckhurst Hill in the Final after they defeated Wivenhoe 3-2 today. That will be a tough game.
Benfleet | Manager: Robert Polkinghorn | Assistant: Robert Rook
Starting XI (Subs): 1 Florent Gislette (GK), 2 Billy Carter, 3 Joe Hunter, 4 Martyn Lacey, 5 Cameron Harris, 6 Sonny Hartman (17 Billy Bonham-Dare 67′), 7 Frankie Stone (15 Danny Hurford 108′), 8 Aaron Russell (Capt), 9 Robert Lacey, 11 Ben Foord (14 Mason Shave 86′), 10 Taylor Lawrence (12 Henry Sims 73′)
Goal-scorer: Cameron Harris [90’+2]
Sin-bin: R Lacey (115′) | Subs Not Used: Frost
Halstead Town | Manager: Mark McLean | Assistant: Pete Travers
Starting XI: 1 Jack Cherry (GK & Capt), 2 Ryan Carter, 3 Matt Travell, 4 Garry Burdett, 5 Nick Miller (14 Greg Strong 106′), 6 Alfie Cleal, 7 Jordan Blackwell, 8 Jordan Palmer, 9 Calvin Poku (15 Curtis Abel 92′), 10 Adam Hampson, 11 Jordan Pavett (12 Louis O’Sullivan 83′)
Goal-scorers: Calvin Poku [24′], Jordan Palmer [ET 2′]
Booked: Miller | Subs Not Used: None
Referee: Chris Darling
Assistants: Sam Jones & Iain George
Fourth Official: Ian Pascu