Braintree face uphill task in play-offs

Blue Square SouthPlay-Off Semi-Final First LegBraintree Town 0 Eastbourne Borough 2A goal in each half for Sussex visitors Eastbourne Borough has left Braintree Town facing an uphill battle in the second leg of this play-off semi-final.

Stuart Watson

Blue Square South

Play-Off Semi-Final First Leg

Braintree Town 0 Eastbourne Borough 2

A goal in each half for Sussex visitors Eastbourne Borough has left Braintree Town facing an uphill battle in the second leg of this play-off semi-final.

Braintree had their chances at Cressing Road, but the impressive visitors, who finished second in the table this season, were far more clinical with their chances and fully deserved the win.

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The Iron, whose injury list already stands at nine first team players out, will also be without Bradley Quinton for the return leg on Saturday, after the influential skipper was dismissed ten minutes from the end for a soft second booking.

As expected, there were many changes to the Eastbourne side from their 1-0 defeat at the same ground on Saturday. Manager Garry Wilson restored his side to full strength, bringing back the rested trio of Darren Baker, Pat Harding and Paul Armstrong.

Braintree did welcome back commanding centre-half Russ Edwards after he had missed a number of games because of family problems. He replaced Lee Burns, who picked up a knee injury in Saturday's match.

Braintree enjoyed the better of the chances in a scrappy opening 20 minutes, their main threat coming from a string of set pieces. Towering forward Ryan Moran twice went close in the opening ten minutes and Adrian Deane and Chris Sullivan also had chances.After a lengthy stoppage for knocks to Braintree's Quinton and Billy Burgess, Eastbourne took the lead. Two minutes after Matt Crabbe's central low shot from fully 40 yards had keeper Nicky Morgan clawing the ball around a post, Allan Tait saw a similar effort - this time from 30 yards - take a deflection off a defender to go past a wrong-footed Morgan.

As the drizzle continued, Sullivan's low angled shot looped off a defender's foot and over the keeper's head before defender Ben Austin acrobatically cleared off the line. Soon after the break Sullivan sliced wide from 12 yards after a neat turn in the box.

Eastbourne were unlucky not to go further ahead after 57 minutes when, following a mazy dribble and cross by Austin, Atkin headed against the foot of a post, while Darren Budd's follow-up grazed the bar.

After Paul Armstrong's speculative chip from 20 yards came back off the bar with Morgan stood watching, the lead was finally extended for Eastbourne when Tait latched onto a long ball forward and neatly dinked a shot over the onrushing keeper.

Quinton's half-volley and Sullivan's close-range effort both required good saves, but their hopes of a comeback were killed off ten minutes from the end, when Quinton received a second yellow card after persistent fouling.

Braintree Town: Nicky Morgan, Billy Burgess, (Steve Good 45) Mark Jones, Ben Chenery, Russ Edwards, Brad Quinton, James Hawes, Nicky Shimm, Ryan Moran (Louis Riddle 74), Chris Sullivan and Adrian Deane (Leon Archer 87). Unused subs: Eugene Ofori and Chris Smith.

Eastbourne Borough: Lee Hook, Darren Baker, Neil Jenkins, Darren Budd, (Matt Smart 83), Ben Austin, (J Lovett 84), Marc Pullen, Pat Harding, Paul Armstrong, Andy Atkin, Allan Tait, (Nathan Crabb 87) and Matt Crabb. Unused subs: Andy Ballard and Dean Lightwood.

Referee: Mr M McLaughlin.

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