Braintree Town's play-off hopes still alive after Forest Green draw
PUBLISHED: 12:16 12 April 2016 | UPDATED: 12:16 12 April 2016
Braintree Town maintained their strong chase for a play-off place with a workmanlike performance that earned them a draw, while all but ending the visitors' outside chance of winning the championship outright.
A dominant second half performance also saw the Iron nearly snatch all three points, but for the woodwork and three outstanding saves by visiting keeper Steve Arnold.
A return to form after three successive defeats for the Iron delighted manager Dan Cowley, who felt their much-improved second half display should have seen them win the game.
“We had our game plan set out from the start and knew what to expect from what is a really good side with lots of experienced and full-time players too,” he said.
“We didn’t want to give an early goal away, as at Barrow in midweek, but keep our shape and discipline and not give anything away, and press them hard for the first two-thirds of the match.
“We knew they would then start to try and open up the game more, push more men forward which they did because they were desperate to win.
“But as the second half went on we controlled the game, had a couple of chances which saw the ball cleared off their goal line, and their keeper made two excellent saves to keep them in the game.”
But Cowley again praised his side’s ‘never say die’ attitude adding: “I know they are an honest and hard working group of players and, despite being tired from our two long journeys for games in the previous week, they still showed so much character and resilience in this match against a truly top side.
“I am really proud of them and they will all go again this next week with two more tough away games at Grimsby Town and then at Gateshead.”
Braintree Town: King; Long, Phillips, Fry, Habergham; Isaac, Davis (Sparkes 88), Woodyard, Brundle; Akinola, Marks (Cheek 62). Unused subs: Miles, Powell, Gardner.
Referee: Brett Huxtable.
The visitors certainly started this game strongly, moving the ball swiftly, causing the usually reliable Iron defence a few problems early on, but on the counter attack both Simeon Akinola and Chez Isaac were denied goal chances by last-ditch defending from the visitors.
The breakthrough came in the Iron’s favour on 34 minutes when Akinola slipped the ball out to the right where visiting defender James Jennings missed his interception, allowing Isaac to skip through into the area, where the winger was flattened by Jennings who was trying to make amends for his mistake.
Up stepped Iron skipper Kenny Davis to slot the ball home from the penalty spot. The Iron’s lead only lasted three minutes though when the visitors swept up field and a left wing cross was nodded down by the experienced Jon Parkin and the loose ball conveniently fell straight to the feet of Darren Carter who drove home, giving Iron keeper Tom King no chance.
The visitors, with their renewed confidence, pushed forward and it took a fine save from King in added-on first-half stoppage time to stop Charlie Clough from scoring.
The second half though saw the Iron more in the ascendancy as they had the better of the contest, giving the visitors no real clear-cut goal scoring chances.
On the hour, Isaac fired a good shot straight at keeper Arnold who also did well to collect a Mitch Brundle free-kick from the top right-hand corner of his goal, when a goal looked certain.
Two minutes later Iron’s best chance of the game came when substitute Michael Cheek chased a loose ball into the visitors’ area and rounded keeper Arnold, only to see his acute right angled shot, which was heading into the net, just cleared off the line by Clough.
The Iron kept up the pressure on the visitors’ struggling defence and on 77 minute the industrious Brundle, having one of his best games for the club, saw his first time header from an Isaac free-kick hit the bar and rebound before being cleared.
By now the visitors had made their three substitutes and were playing with five forwards in a bid to snatch a late winner but the Iron defence, expertly marshalled by duo, Matt Fry and Mark Phillips, deservedly held out.
There was almost late drama in the game when first Akinola and then Cheek forged into the visitors’ area with two possible scoring chances only to be halted by some last minute desperate defending.