Keepers in sparkling form as Braintree and Forest Green share the spoils

The ball just eludes Michael Cheek (left ) and Reece Hall-Johnson in the Forest Green penalty area o

The ball just eludes Michael Cheek (left ) and Reece Hall-Johnson in the Forest Green penalty area on Saturday. Photo: ALAN STUCKEY - Credit: Archant

National League Forest Green Rovers 1 Braintree Town 1

Braintree Town picked up a deserved and valuable point at Forest Green on Saturday.

The game was dominated by several excellent saves by the two keepers – the Iron’s Sam Beasant and Rover’s Sam Russell – that ensured both sides shared the points in the end after a highly entertaining game which saw end-to-end football all afternoon.

Beasant, who has been in fine form since returning to the Iron side after injury, pulled off two fantastic saves in either half while Russell denied Michael Cheek a minute into the second half with a great one-handed save from the striker’s header and then again in the dying moments of the normal 90 minutes foiled first substitute Lee Barnard with a shot and then Jerome Okimo with his fine header.

There was even more drama in the seven minutes-plus referee Wayne Barratt added on at the end when the home side’s Christian Doidge headed the ball into the net for what home fans thought was a winning goal only to be denied by the assistant referee flagging for a clear offside.

It would have been an injustice had the Iron returned home empty-handed because for long periods, particularly in the first half, they contained the promotion-chasing home side, currently in second place, with a thoroughly disciplined and well organised display that continually frustrated the Rovers players from breaking down the Iron’s rearguard action.

It was also a tactical battle won on the day by Iron manager Hakan Hayrettin who had fully prepared his side in setting up a system to frustrate the home side’s normal free-flowing football.

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“We had our game plan and the players knew they had to work hard as a team, closing them down all the time in every department on the pitch and then moving the ball out quickly from defence and catching them cold in defence,” he said. “It worked a treat and but for their keeper we would have won the game in my view because they couldn’t cope with how abd the system we played.

“We knew it was going to be difficult coming here and obviously once they had equalised that gave them confidence to push forward more and put our defence under pressure,” he explained.

The Iron overcame a difficult few early minutes in the game but nerves were calmed on 14 minutes when Cheek fired home from close range after a quick thinking Jack Midson took a quick throw-in down the left wing for Okimo to race clear before he delivered an excellent cross into the home goalmouth for Cheek.

It was a deserved lead for the Iron and twice before half time keeper Russell pulled off fine saves to deny the visitors adding a second while on 39 minutes down at the other end Beasant foiled Rob Sinclair saving his fierce first-time shot.

The turning point of the game though came 45 seconds into the restart when again the industrious Cheek picked up a right wing cross at the far post only to see Russell somehow manage to push the ball away off the goal line.

A second Iron goal then would in effect have killed off the game for the Iron but after a home side double substitution on 55 minutes it was the turn of the home fans to celebrate as Charlie Clough headed home a Liam Noble free-kick to beat Beasant in the Iron goal.