MANAGER Mark McLean was adamant that a disappointing conclusion should not cloud an encouraging season of progress for his Halstead Town team.

The Humbugs boss was speaking in the aftermath of a 4-1 defeat by Wormley Rovers on the final day of the campaign that, coupled with a 2-1 loss to Wivenhoe Town the week before, saw them miss out on a top-two finish in Thurlow Nunn League division one south.

Had Halstead beaten Wormley, they would have had enough points to leap above rivals Coggeshall United on the final day, but had to settle for third place in the final table instead.

It was a frustration to miss out on the top two - where they had spent much of the campaign - but McLean knew his team had taken big strides forward this year and felt the ending shouldn't mask what had been achieved at the Milbank Stadium over the past 12 months.

"We have regrets - massively - because we know we've done ourselves," he said. "Had we won the last two games then we'd have been five points clear in second spot. "But sometimes it doesn't go your way.

"I haven't suddenly started not rating the players because the boys have had a fantastic season.

"We've made huge progress - look at the statistics.

"There's been four league games less than last year and we've accumulated 21 points more so there's a massive progression just there.

"I think we've played in a better style as well.

"Maybe not in the last couple of weeks and that can happen when it gets down to the nitty-gritty but we have been so much better this year. "So there have been massive strides, but this shows that there is still a way to go.

"It shows we're not ready.

"If we were ready, we'd be there.

"As it stands we're not ready and there are things to be addressed, but we're not far away."

The FA have a system this year where only the champions from step six leagues, including division one south, are guaranteed promotion and only six of the ten second-placed sides with the highest points-per-game ratios will also go up.

So Halstead may not have got promoted anyway, even had they finished in the top two.

McLean added: "In any other season, we'd be promoted within the top three. "We've probably been under a pressure that no other Halstead team has been under because we should have been up. "What has left me with a real element of frustration is that we went into the final game still not knowing if a win would be enough and I think that has been really poor from the powers that be. "That's not fair.

"You play 36 games of football and you want to know the outcome; I think that played on the players as well.

"Ultimately, things like that affect you.

"It felt like we got another chance for the final game but you don't always take them."