Braintree Town and Southport battle to a point

BRAINTREE Town were involved in just their second 0-0 draw of the season last night as fourth-placed Southport battled to a point at the Amlin Stadium.

Both sides had chances in a frantic first half, while most of the action centred around referee Steve Bratt in the second half, after he turned down strong penalty appeals from both Sean Marks and Jai Reason.

The draw saw the Iron stretch their run to just one Blue Square Bet Premier defeat in seven and earn their second clean sheet in two games.

It was Braintree that fashioned the first chance of the night on 13 minutes, Matt Paine hitting a long-range daisy-cutter that goalkeeper Tony McMillan was right behind.

Paine tried his luck moments later, again from range, but his shot went well over and he was then inches away from connecting with home debutant Billy Gibson’s accurate pass.

Ben Wright’s powerful free kick from range then fizzed over the bar as the pace of the first period showed no signs of abating before Southport hit back and won a free-kick of their own, Paine receiving a booking for hauling down Tony Gray, whose resultant set-piece hit the wall. Southport missed the chance of the first-half on 31 minutes when Owens rose highest in the six-yard box but the striker headed a simple chance over McDonald’s bar, much to the hosts’ relief.

The clash was becoming an end-to-end game, Wright’s dipping volley from 30 yards being easily collected by McMillan, before Gray then launched an audacious effort of his own at the other end.

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Iron goalkeeper McDonald’s clearance landed at Gray’s feet 45 yards out, but the stopper recovered to gather the goalbound ball as it entered his six-yard box.

The second half failed to live up to the excitement of the first, although Southport had appeals for a penalty turned down on 54 minutes but referee Bratt saw through Gray’s theatrical dive.

He was just as lenient later in the half as Marks went down under pressure from James Smith. Bratt then made a big call as the game headed towards injury-time, refusing Reason a penalty after the midfielder was clearly upended in the box.

“Both teams had hard games on Saturday but I thought it was a good advert for football at this level, in terms of effort, although the game lacked a bit of quality at times,” said Iron boss Alan Devonshire.

“Our wide players did not see enough of the ball and the game bypassed the midfield quite a bit.”