AT the start of the season, had you offered anyone at the Milbank Stadium the situation that Halstead Town found themselves in as December headed into January, then I'm convinced that they would have gladly accepted it.

A place in the top three at Christmas and among the favourites to go on and secure promotion is not to be sniffed at.

Especially when you compare the current position to the one Town were in 12 months ago when any hopes of crashing the promotion party were a long shot at best at the same stage in the campaign.

As 2018 became 2019, the Humbugs were still firmly in the heart of the Thurlow Nunn League division one south promotion race as part of a group of teams with real title ambitions.

Their players should be enthused and confident that they have had such a positive first half of the season, but there has been an air of edginess about them at times.

They could easily have been clear at the summit at this point, but have somehow found ways to shoot themselves in the foot on a few occasions.

They tend to have come mostly at home and Coggeshall United, Frenford, Little Oakley and White Ensign are all league outings that will send a shiver down a Humbugs fan's spine.

While none of them are going to be killer blows in isolation, the players have to make sure it isn't allowed to continue as successful title bids don't tend to contain too many slip-ups.

And with sides like Harwich & Parkeston and May & Baker looking set to join the promotion rush in the second half of the season, Halstead know now is the time they have to stamp their own authority.

Are the pressures of expectation falling heavily on the young shoulders?

That could be a factor as youthful players are having to adapt this year to being a scalp that rival clubs will dearly love to take.

As a side at the top of the pile, everyone raises their game against you and that wasn't the case when Halstead found themselves mid-table at the same part of the season last year.

They were the ones looking to topple the frontrunners then, but they are having to cope with the boot being on the other foot now.

The game against Little Oakley was a point in case.

Halstead were bossing the game and showing their title credentials at 3-0 ahead in the first half, but feet came off the gas and the Acorns took full advantage to snatch away two valuable points.

However, there is no reason at all why Halstead's players should have a second's fear of being a scalp.

They have shown that they should relish it and must remember what it was that took them to the top in the first half of the season.

Cup competitions have best been forgotten this year, but it was always about the league and on that score, they have excelled.

Fearless football has got them into a position of strength and they must stay brave all the way until the end of April.

Boss Mark McLean has done a tremendous job over the last couple of seasons to fashion a group that can not only get promoted, but is capable of doing it in style.

McLean has sourced players from within the club and outside who have given them the backbone needed to repel the best that division one south can throw at them.

There are attacking threats all over the pitch and when this Halstead side play as they know they can, they are scintillating to watch.

When teams are on the hook, the Humbugs must make sure they don't let them off it and staying ruthless across 90 minutes of football, keeping doing what has worked so far and what has been rammed into you in training will earn rewards.

This is the best situation that Halstead have been in at this stage of a season for a good few years and now is the time to press it all the way home.

They really do have the talent to progress at the higher level - it's just getting out of the current one that must be sorted.