National League leaders Cheltenham Town become latest scalp for promotion chasing Braintree Town

PUBLISHED: 10:54 21 March 2016 | UPDATED: 10:54 21 March 2016

Players ( L to R) Mark Philips, Matt Fry & skipper Kenny Davis celebrate with the crowd at the end.

Players ( L to R) Mark Philips, Matt Fry & skipper Kenny Davis celebrate with the crowd at the end.

Archant

Braintree Town have made a habit of upsetting the champions-elect at the Avanti Stadium, and they repeated that against current leaders Cheltenham Town on Saturday, thanks to an excellent second half defensive display that saw them run out 1-0 winners.

Braintree's England C player Alex Woodyard tracked by ex Iron Dan Holman.Braintree's England C player Alex Woodyard tracked by ex Iron Dan Holman.

Previous promoted sides Luton Town and Mansfield Town came unstuck when they turned up in Essex, and Gary Johnson’s high-riding side were the latest victims of the Iron’s part-timers.

It took a solitary well-headed goal at the far post, on 63 minutes, from Michael Cheek, from Chez Isaac’s brilliant first-time cross, that eventually proved to be the winner and nobody was more delighted than Iron boss Danny Cowley.

“It was a great win and one which, over the 90 minutes, I felt we fully deserved,” he explained.

“We knew it would be a tough game and they would ask us lots of questions but all the players responded excellently and again it was our work ethic and every player’s individual commitment to the cause that saw us through. I thought we dominated the first half, had the lion’s share of the game and had a couple of decent half chances to have taken the lead.

Michael Cheek scores the winner for BraintreeMichael Cheek scores the winner for Braintree

“We then knew at half time when they made a double substitution that they would go more direct and put us under a great deal of pressure which they did.

“But I thought we battled extremely well and defensively were outstanding in that period when they pushed us really hard.

“They only really had one direct chance in that period about on the hour mark but keeper Tom King did brilliantly parrying the ball away with a shot at point-blank range from substitute Amari Morgan-Smith.

“Ironically four minutes earlier we were unlucky not to score when Dan Sparkes first-time shot was cleared off their line by defender Dan Parslow.

Match facts

Braintree: King, Long, Phillips, Fry, Habergham; Davis, Sparkes (Brundle 76), Woodyard, Isaac; Akinola, Cheek (Marks 68, Edgar 85). Unused subs: Miles, Powell.

Flatt, Barthram, Parslow, Hall, McLennan, Burgess, Munns (Pell 46) Storer, Rowe (Morgan-Smith), Holman, Wright

Substitutes: Waters, Cranston, Lovett

Attendance: 1,138 (216 visitors)

Referee: Constantine Hatzidakis

“But then Cheek comes up with a tremendous header at the far post and scores which I felt we fully deserved and he had earned for his unselfish running.

Cowley, was without the influential Matt Paine because of an ankle injury but saw Sparkes return after injury, and felt his players showed little anxiety or fear, unlike their visitors.

“We’re at what I call the business end of the season but in big games like this there’s no pressure on us, like there is on our visitors,” he explained.

“Our players are relaxed, playing with a smile on their faces and that means a great deal. Naturally they all really wanted this win against the league leaders and clear favourites to return straight back to the Football League.”

The win, which saw Iron record their 20th clean sheet this season, keeps them in fifth place and Cowley is already looking ahead to a busy Easter weekend of action with Bromley the visitors on Good Friday (kick off 3pm), before a short trip to Aldershot on Easter Monday.

n Manager Cowley confirmed that young striker Jack Powell, who was on the bench for this game, has rejoined on loan from Millwall for the remainder of the season.

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