Eastern Senior League – Division South Play-Off Final
Venue: Roding Lane
2021-22 Season: Match 78
Saturday 30th April 2022 – 3pm KO
Buckhurst: Blue & Black Shirts, Black Shorts, Black Socks
Halstead: Red & White Shirts, Red Shorts, Red Socks
Halstead produce excellent display to overcome odds & book their place in Step Five
Buckhurst Hill 1 – 2 Halstead Town
Match Report & Photos by Scott W [Twitter: @ScottMHC14]
with additional photo by Halstead Town FC, used with thanks.
The last weekend of Senior football for the current season began with a welcome return to Roding Lane for this hotly-anticipated Eastern Senior League South Play-Off Final as Buckhurst Hill welcomed Halstead Town. Unsurprisingly, there was a substantial crowd in attendance for this game which had the ultimate prize for these two sides – Promotion to Step 5. Buckhurst defeated Wivenhoe narrowly last week, while Halstead won in extra-time against Benfleet to set this tie up.
The warmth of Summer was in evidence here, and we didn’t have a slow start to proceedings here either. After just three minutes, Halstead made the most of a corner and central midfielder Jack Schelvis stole half a yard of space before bundling home his effort into the net, which left home stopper Daniel Blockley stranded. The goal was understandably celebrated by the ‘Halstead Ultras’ – standing behind that goal. Buckhurst Hill responded with a forward press of their own, with the impressive Tyler Dolan getting past the visiting defence, only to be denied by Halstead’s commanding goalkeeper Jack Cherry, who came out and gathered.
The nerves were still present in the Buckhurst defence on 17 minutes, as Jordan Palmer’s effort was spilled by Hill stopper Daniel Blockley and went out for a set-piece. The half was moving on into the midway point with Buckhurst finding it difficult to carve out strong chances but they got a crucial leveller, as forward Suleyman Zuhdu’s strike came back off a Halstead defender before looping over Cherry and into the net. Just when you thought the Humbugs might have blinked, three minutes later they took the lead once again. Another fine pass in by winger Jordan Blackwell came to forward Calvin Poku in the penalty area and he quickly got his strike away and it found the left corner. It was a well-taken goal but it precipitated another response by the Stags front-line.
Two minutes before the interval, Zuhdu was unfortunate to not add to his goal tally as a fierce strike sailed into the crossbar and back off the underside of it without crossing the line. The Humbugs had one more half-chance before the break as Palmer headed narrowly wide of Blockley’s woodwork. Overall though, Halstead had (much like the week before in the Semi-Final) set their stall out to make it difficult through resolute & organised defence and they were 45 minutes away from a famous win.
Half-Time: Buckhurst Hill 1 – 2 Halstead Town
The second half began with Buckhurst Hill having the ball in the Halstead half for long periods. Dolan once again found his way into the penalty area after evading a visiting defender but Cherry once again stood tall and denied him. Zuhdu also headed wide soon afterward. On 54 minutes, a fine centre by full-back Liam Foster found Nathan Sollosi but Cherry was in action again to tip Sollosi’s shot wide. Full-back Keaton Moore also powered in a well-struck effort which missed the top corner by inches.
Despite Buckhurst creating the chances they had, they did not quite look entirely comfortable. Pressure could well have played a part in that, and they were growing frustrated with their profligacy in front of goal. Zuhdu was again denied by Cherry who did well to deny a powerful effort by the Buckhurst captain, but substitute Callum Ibe also blazed over when well-placed ten minutes after coming onto the field. The Humbugs did not have many forays forward as they were defending in numbers but Poku was still showing his quality in holding the ball up and making good runs on occasion.
With Buckhurst taking a few more risks seeking that important equaliser, forward Adam Hampson fired well over after being found well on the counter-attack. On the whole though, you have to applaud the work rate and attitude of the Halstead side who did emerge with a famous victory, which means they are getting promoted to Step 5. It is a testament to the high standards Buckhurst have set this season that they are still tough opposition, even if they were not quite at their best. It will be intriguing to see how they start next season but they are a club who have come a long way since their Step 7 days.
Full-Time: Buckhurst Hill 1 – 2 Halstead Town
In summary, Halstead had to produce a superb display in defence which was allied to clinical finishing to edge their way to a second momentous victory in as many weeks, which means they will compete in Step 5 after a gap of 17 years, most likely in the Essex Senior League come August. They are a side that will be a welcome addition and don’t be surprised if they surprise a few next season. You had to feel for Buckhurst who contributed heavily to the match, but conceding early was costly for them and they could not make the most of their chances which they created having had long spells of ball retention, and had some strong performances. This loss will hurt, but it should not detract from what is still a fabulous first campaign of Senior football for Mark Williams’ side.
There were several creditable performances in this match. For victors Halstead, winger Jordan Blackwell had another stand-out match on the right flank. I believe he got assists for both their goals, and he also made several important passes and showed good work rate. Defender Chris Harris also epitomised his teams’ resoluteness in defence, making several big interceptions and block tackles. Goalkeper Jack Cherry also showed once again how important a player he is to the side, making at least three fine saves when the Humbugs backline was breached. Finally, forward Calvin Poku showed guile and good finishing for his goal and despite not having much opportunity to test the Buckhurst goalkeeper, he took his goal very well to change the momentum of this match.
For Buckhurst Hill, I thought Tyler Dolan had a really good game, showing his high energy, good passing and movement. He was unlucky in not scoring today. Full-back Keaton Moore also contributed to his team’s forward moves well & was inches away from scoring a fabulous goal. Centre-back Jonah Gregory also did well, showing good alertness and positioning. Lastly, talisman Suleyman Zuhdu has to get a mention as he was central to the hosts’ forward moves, showing good passing and work rate. Also, Halstead stopper Cherry did superbly to deny him on two occasions. Zuhdu will end the season as the League’s top goal-scorer on 37 goals.
Finally, I’d like to wish Halstead well in their campaign at Step 5 next season, they will be a tough side to beat – a testament to manager Mark McLean and his staff. Commiserations to Buckhurst Hill as well, they will emerge from this experience as a stronger club in time.
Buckhurst Hill | Manager: Mark Williams | Assistant: JP Kent
Starting XI (Subs): 1 Daniel Blockley (GK), 2 Liam Foster (14 Sam Sollosi 77’), 3 Keaton Moore, 5 Henry Day, 20 Jonah Gregory, 6 Jack Griggs (15 Jake Moss 40’), 7 Tyler Dolan, 8 Josh Banfield, 9 Sonny Shilling (21 Callum Ibe 60’), 10 Suleyman Zuhdu (Capt), 11 Nathan Sollosi
Goal-scorer: Suleyman Zuhdu [22’]
Booked: Griggs | Subs Not Used: Nicholson
Halstead Town | Manager: Mark McLean | Assistant: David Streetly
Starting XI (Subs): 1 Jack Cherry (GK & Capt), 2 Ryan Carter, 3 Matt Travell, 4 Chris Harris, 5 Nick Miller, 6 Jack Schelvis, 7 Jordan Blackwell, 8 Jordan Palmer, 9 Calvin Poku (14 Markus Dunn 90’+2), 10 Adam Hampson, 11 Kane Gilbert
Goal-scorers: Jack Schelvis [3′], Calvin Poku [25′]
Booked: Gilbert, Carter | Subs Not Used: Walker, Kendle (GK)
Referee: Dario Matthewson
Assistants: Michael Jarvis & Daren Bigg
Fourth Official: Ashley Tyne