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Saturday 23rd April

After missing 2-3 games due to various reasons I was back on duty with my camera yesterday for the Play Off Semi Final against Benfleet F.C. which was played at Canvey Island.

The club laid on a coach and invited me along which took the sting out of having to drive. It wasn't long before I remembered that I suffer with travel sickness on coaches and by the time we had got to Braintree I was starting to feel a bit green. It's just as well that smoking is banned on coaches otherwise that would have tipped my over the edge.

Canvey Island once graced what is now the National League and their ground and facilities was a cut above the ones Halstead usually play at, which added to the occasion.

As far as the match was concerned it would be fair to say Benfleet had the majority of the ball and more chances but half way through the first half on what was a rare venture into Benfleet's half Halstead took the lead through Calvin Poku. Benfleet saw out the half having the Lion's share of the possession, but they didn't really trouble Jack Cherry in Halstead's goal.

Again in the second half Benfleet had more of the ball, but Halstead were pretty comfortable and looked good for a hard earned victory, when after a sustained spell of Benfleet pressure they scored an equaliser deep into stoppage time.

I've followed Halstead since we moved there in 1970 and don't just go to take photographs, so this was a bitter blow and somewhat dejectedly I joined the Halstead supporters behind the goal for extra time.

The official attendance was 162 and I'd estimate there was at least 60 made the journey from Halstead, which is tremendous support for a small team.

Only 2-3 minutes into Extra Time and after some good work by Calvin Poku who unselfishly squared the ball across the face of the goal for Jordan Palmer to tuck away in front of the travelling Halstead fans and just minutes later Adam Hampson had a fine effort well saved by Benfleet's keeper, which would have put the match to bed. As much as Benfleet pressed for an equaliser and penalties, Halstead were resolute and to our delight they saw the game out.

It was a most enjoyable day out and it was gone 7.00 before the jubilant travelling fans left the clubhouse.

Many thanks to Benfleet for making us welcome and their good wishes for next weeks final which is away to the free scoring Buckhurst Hill who finished the season with a +115 goal difference.

Here's hoping 'The Humbugs' can pull off a shock result.

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