Halstead Town 2-2 May & Baker
By Andy Everett
Baker's grab first point of the new campaign
The first Saturday in August saw May & Baker make history with their first ever competitive match in Senior Football. Their opponents were Halstead Town, who have a history dating back to the reign of Queen Victoria.
Bakers were giving debuts to Michael Gooch, Elliot Carter and Reece Tranter in their starting XI with James Zanelli and Alex Owuadey on the bench who were both to make impacts later on in the match.
An intriguing first game for both teams with each knowing very little about the other and it was Halstead, on a hot sunny day, that started the brightest. Their early pressure saw Bakers having to defend tenaciously but it was the away side that had the first sight of goal. A quick break following an Halstead corner saw Tranter outstrip the home defence and his effort brought a fingertip save from Jack Cherry.
It was Halstead that had the first real chance of the game which should have seen them take the lead. A Jordan Pavett free kick was touched onto the bar by Gooch but only for the rebound to fall to Callum Vincent, who from 6 yards out, headed onto the bar again and the danger was cleared.
This gave the home team the impetus they were searching for and Baker's were struggling to get out of their own half. Halstead finally made their possession pay when, on 17 minutes, a move down the right between Jamie Baker and Kane Gilbert saw the latter accurately play the ball between the Baker's defence into the path of Jake Brown, who calmly slotted the ball beyond the on rushing Gooch and into the net. 1-0
The away side responded calmly and began to find possession of their own. In the 20th minute a Dan Mackin in-swinging cross was met by Dexter Stuart's glancing header which fell to Tom Harvey who poked the ball into the roof of the net but Baker's joy was short lived as the assistants flag had deemed Harvey to be in an offside position. The game remained 1-0 to Halstead. A minute later a fierce Henry Osei shot was destined for the corner but a last-ditch block by Marcus Warren kept the host's goal intact.
Then came a close call for Baker's as Pavett was caught by Stuart and fell into Gooch. Everyone looked at the referee to see him award a free kick for the foul on the away side's keeper. The home support made their feelings known of what they thought of the decision.
The pattern of the game continued with Halstead having large amounts of possession and Baker's hitting them on the break. It was not all one way traffic as Cherry was brought into action on a few occasions but he stood firm. The home side almost added a second from a short corner when Baker crossed and a Jack Schelvis header at the far post was just the wrong side of the upright. Halstead then played Baker's at their own game, when from defending a corner they hit the away side on the break as Mark Dallinger made a lot of ground and fed in Tom Cook who rounded the keeper, but Gooch had done enough to force him away from goal and was able to recover superbly to block out Cook’s effort.
Right on the half time whistle Gilbert almost doubled the advantage when he headed a free kick from Pavett goalwards only for Gooch to acrobatically turn the ball over.
HT: Halstead Town 1-0 May and Baker
Halstead again started the better side and the visitors had to defend free kicks and corners. Cook cut in from the right and his curling left foot effort flew wide.
It was Cook again who forced Gooch into another top draw save but this was only going to put off the inevitable as a ball over the top for Vincent to run on to and his attempted lob was saved by Gooch but the hosts striker reacted quickest and crossed from the by-line for Pavett to head home. 2-0
This had come at a time when Baker's were needing to make their first change due to a hamstring injury for Sam Dickens and James Zanelli was brought into the action before the game could re-start.
Halstead were now full of confidence and a run by Vincent almost ended with a third as both Pavett and Gilbert slid in but Gooch again saved well but was left with horrible stud marks over his left eye and needed lengthy treatment. Something was needed to be done by the Baker's bench and James Barlow was introduced for Carter and a change of formation was implemented. This enabled Baker's to occupy the Halstead full backs who had both been getting forward unopposed. The substitution almost had an immediate impact as Barlow out paced Baker but his cross was fired over the bar by Tranter. Halstead then made a change bringing on Ryan Mahon and with almost his first touch of the match he played in Vincent but he could only poke the ball wide.
May & Baker's had now started to get a foot hold in the game and from a Mackin free kick, first a Dean Hall header and a Zanelli shot were both cleared off the line superbly by Gilbert. Although the scoreline did not suggest this, Baker's were well and truly in the game and were applying pressure on the Humbugs goal. Osei enjoying more freedom in a wide role was getting the better of Dallinger and from one cross he found Tranter who saw his effort superbly saved by Cherry. Another attack from Baker's saw Tranter once again denied by Cherry.
The Baker's management team for the day of Alan Dickens and Andy Hill sensed that they could get something from the game and made the decision to bring on the youth of Alex Owuadey for the maturity of skipper Richard Oxby. This substitution proved to be vital and on 85 minutes, Harvey found a pin point pass that had Owuadey moving in on goal but was caught by the back tracking Dallinger and the referee pointed to the spot. Harvey stepped up and cooly sent Cherry the wrong way. 2-1
The visitors were in the ascendancy and with the pace of Barlow and Osei on the flanks were causing the home side problems. As the game was reaching the 90th minute, Osei again got the better of Dallinger and his low cross was met by substitute Owuadey who was in the right place to equalise. An amazing introduction to his first competitive game for May & Bakers. 2-2
The momentum was with Bakers and they pressed for a winner but it was Halstead that had the last chance of the game as Ross McLintock, who had earlier replaced the dangerous Gilbert, was put through but the speed of recovery from Stuart and superb last ditch tackle saw him clear the danger. The resulting corner came to nothing and the referee moments later blew the final whistle to bring this exciting game to its conclusion.
FT Halstead Town2-2 May & Baker
A wonderful entertaining game with both sets of players a credit to their Clubs and this Division.