EVEN before the Thurlow Nunn League division one south season has started, Halstead Town are seeing the benefits of manager Mark McLean's decision to enlarge his squad size this year.

The Humbugs are due to entertain Saffron Walden Town in their final pre-season game tonight ahead of the start of the new campaign, when they will host Wormley Rovers, on Saturday.

It is a chance for McLean to put the finishing touches to his preparations, however, they are likely to be without a couple of key squad members.

Skipper Jake Brown and new striker Ricky Gardener are doubts for the game after both came off with hamstring injuries in a 1-0 defeat by Witham Town on Saturday and McLean felt it highlighted why he has added more depth to his squad this year.

He said: “For any promotion challenge, you have to have depth in your squad.

“You need to have that 20 or 21 players and it was similar last year.

“There is always someone away or injured and it was proved when we played Witham.

“We had a number away and a couple who pulled up and now, because of that, we need to be careful heading into the weekend.

“I’m very worried about Ricky (Gardener), but with Jake (Brown), I think if we wrap him up and take care of him then he might be OK.

“He certainly felt his hamstring, but Ricky looks a bit more serious.

“That definitely popped.

“We have Tom Cook to come back in but you want everybody fit for that first game."

McLean was disappointed to see players pick up injuries in the encounter with Witham, but was pleased with how his team grew into the game against a side playing two levels above them.

He added: “I thought we were a little too tentative on the press in the first half, but we were playing a step four side and we needed to plant ourselves in the game.

“We lost Ricky really early to an injury and we were really disappointed with that because I think he would have gone on to really enjoy himself.

“We just got a real foothold in the game and were starting to dominate when Jake went and got an injury.

“To be fair, though, Nick Miller came on and slotted straight in as he does and we finished the half well.

“I said to them at half-time that they were allowing us to press and I wanted them to take what was on offer to work them in.

“We just needed to get the final ball in and I really don’t know how we didn’t score.

“We kept their keeper very busy and he earned his stripes for them.

“I spoke to Leon, one of the Witham assistant managers, after the game and he said it was the toughest game they’d had in pre-season because of the runaround we gave them in that second half."