LITTLE Oakley boss Matt Carmichael believes his side are not far from joining the frontrunners at the top of the table.

The Acorns are ninth in Thurlow Nunn League division one south after Saturday’s 3-1 defeat at home to title-chasing Halstead Town.

It was a rare defeat for Carmichael’s men and the Oakley boss insists his side can go toe-to-toe with top sides in the division like Hashtag United, Halstead, White Ensign and Harwich and Parkeston.

However, he knows they need to find a level of consistency before breaking into the top five.

“The teams in the top five have found a way of imposing themselves and winning games whereas we tend to stutter a bit when we come up against one of them,” he said.

“We know what we need to do to get to the next level, though, and you learn a lot from games like Saturday.

“On our day I know we’re capable of being in that top bracket but it’s about finding a level of consistency.”

Brad James scored Oakley’s consolation but it proved too little, too late against a Halstead side that already led 3-0 thanks to goals from Chris Harris, Callum Vincent and Jordan Pavett.

“Halstead controlled the game in the first half and we couldn’t get into our rhythm,” added Carmichael.

“We sat off and didn’t press them enough.

“Basically, we didn’t do what we’ve been doing for the last seven or eight weeks and the goals we conceded were preventable.

“Halstead are a very good side and I’ve got no doubts they’ll finish in the top two.

“They didn’t allow us to play in our usual positive way - although we got on top in the second half without being able to create anything - but I still feel we showed them a bit too much respect.

“It’s like we’re more interested in staying in the game rather than trying to win it.

“I’m frustrated that we didn’t give a better account of ourselves.”

Carmichael will have to shuffle his pack in the next few weeks, due to injuries suffered by defensive pair Joss Neale and Lewis Wood.

Both could be missing for a while, after picking up knee problems on Saturday.

Jamie Dobkin is also suspended after being sent off against Halstead.

“It’s a shame but it gives others a chance to step up,” said Carmichael.

“Let’s see what the squad can do.”