Braintree Town pick up another crucial point in race for Skrill Premier play-offs

Dan Holman

Dan Holman - Credit: Archant

Brave Braintree Town burst back into the Skrill Conference play-off zone, thanks to a battling goalless draw at promotion rivals FC Halifax in West Yorkshire last night.

This was another terrific effort from Alan Devonshire’s men, who were virtually out on their feet during the dying minutes, due to all their recent energy-sapping exploits.

Having lost to a last ditch winner at Gateshead last Saturday, Iron had hammered hosts Southport 4-0 on the north-west coast on Tuesday, and they completed their hat-trick of daunting road trips with a deserved draw last night.

Halifax had only lost one league game on home turf all season, but they nearly lost a second as Iron took control early on.

In fact, Iron had the best chance of the night, when Dan Holman squandered a one-on-one situation in the 22nd minute, his shot sneaking wide of the far post.

Halifax, one point and one place behind Iron, mounted a second-half rearguard, but they rarely threatened keeper Nik Hamann.

As a result of this latest point, Iron have moved into the top five, going above Alfreton and Gateshead into fourth spot.

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And at least the Essex side can now look forward to a couple of home games, against Salisbury tomorrow and then Macclesfield next Tuesday evening.

It was a cagey opening, although Iron bossed the early possession, showing no signs of travel fatigue – they have now covered an amazing 1,424 miles in three round trips on the road in the last six days.

A sixth minute free-kick by Dan Sparkes was cleared from inside the home box, and suddenly Halifax threatened with a swift counter-attack. That move ended with left-back Scott McManus blasting a 25-yarder well over the bar.

Ironically Halifax, the home team, were operating with just one front-man, as opposed to Iron’s more adventurous 4-4-2.

The result was that Iron continued to dictate much of the early play, with the Shaymen inviting pressure and ready to strike on the break.

Iron winger Luke Daley nearly burst clear on 20 minutes, only to be crudely tripped by James Bolton – the right-back was booked for his troubles.

Two minutes later and the visitors should have broken the deadlock. Dan Holman sprung the offside trap and had just keeper Matt Glennon to beat, but he dragged his shot wide of the far post from just 12 yards out.

It was a disappointing effort from an on-fire Holman, who had bagged a brace in Iron’s terrific 4-0 win at Southport just 48 hours earlier.

Holman came even closer to breaking the deadlock, on the half-hour mark. The ex-Histon striker cut in from the left and, although the angle was very acute, he was unlucky that his low drive whistled inches wide of the far post, with keeper Glennon clutching at thin air.

At the other end, Halifax struggled to create anything of note in the first period, although Sam Habergham did intervene with a well-timed tackle to prevent centre forward Lee Gregory from registering a shot on 37 minutes.

Three minutes before the break and the Shaymen finally mustered a goal attempt, although Nick Hamann was in the right place to divert Lois Maynard’s long-range daisy-cutter around his post.

Iron had more defending to do in the second half, with Halifax visibly stepping up a gear, although Hamann was well protected by his back four.

Sean Marks did have a half-chance in the 50th minute, but he was denied at the feet of keeper Glennon. The ball broke loose for Holman, but referee Anthony Backhouse had already blown for a foul on the keeper.

Just after the hour mark and Holman, eager to make up for his bad miss in the first half, tried his luck from distance, only for his 20-yarder to balloon several yards over the bar.

Substitute Scott Spencer had looked lively for the Shaymen, since his introduction, and the debutant was not far adrift with a shot the flew over the top. But once again, Hamann did not have to make a save.

The visitors had a glimmer of hope, of breaking the deadlock, from a 78th minute free-kick, but Daley’s long-range effort soared well over the bar and into the deserted stand behind Glennon’s goal.

Into the final 10 minutes and Hamann was forced into only his second save of the evening, dropping to his knees to smother an opportunist strike by Matty Pearson.

Alan Massey, a rock at the back, made a vital block in the 85th minute, otherwise another shot by Pearson might have found its way past Hamann.

A minute later and Hamann dived to his right to cling onto a 30-yard free-kick by Paul Marshall, as Halifax searched in vain for a late winner.

It would have been cruel on Braintree to have conceded a late goal, but there were some very tired legs out there at the final whistle.

Once again, Iron have proved that they are the real deal this season!


FC HALIFAX: Glennon, Bolton, Ainge, Roberts (sub Lowe, 65), McManus, Marshall, Smith (sub Spencer, 61), Pearson, Maynard, Crowther (sub Jackson, 81), Gregory. Unused subs: Senior, Wilson.

BRAINTREE: Hamann, Peters, Wells, Massey, Habergham, Daley (sub Jakubiak, 80), Isaac, Paine, Sparkes (sub Laurent, 46), Holman, Marks. Unused subs: McDonald, Cox, Holdsworth.

Referee: Anthony Backhouse

Attendance: 1,535