Too close to call, admits Iron boss

BRAINTREE Town boss Lee Patterson says his side's play-off semi-final with Eastbourne Borough is simply too close to call ahead of the first leg at Cressing Road tonight (7.

Stuart Watson

BRAINTREE Town boss Lee Patterson says his side's play-off semi-final with Eastbourne Borough is simply too close to call ahead of the first leg at Cressing Road tonight (7.45pm).

The Iron sneaked into the final play-off spot on Saturday by the skin of their teeth after their narrow 1-0 home victory over Eastbourne was backed up by a crucial 4-1 win for mid-table Thurrock over play-off rivals Eastleigh.

Braintree can expect much-changed opposition in tonight's repeat fixture though after the Sussex side, who had already confirmed second place, were able to rest three key players due to five other players returning from injury or suspension.

Patterson, who has lost only six games since taking over in October last year, said: “We defended well as the game went on against Eastbourne and we will have to do the same again in the play-offs.

“They may have had the luxury of resting a few players on Saturday, but it is now all about what we can do over two games.

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“I feel that we have got a slight advantage with them having to travel midweek, but I honestly can't call it. If we approach it like we did in the second half on Saturday and pass the ball shorter then we have got a chance.

“My board have been fantastic this season in backing me to bring in a few extra players and so have the fans (over 1,000 have been in attendance at both of Braintree's last two home games). I just hope that we can give them something to cheer about this week.”

Braintree's horrendous injury list grew further still on Saturday when the influential Lee Burns limped off after 27 minutes with knee ligament damage. However Russ Edwards is available.

The winner of this semi-final, the second leg of which takes place in Sussex on Saturday (3pm), will play the winners of Hampton & Richmond and Fisher Athletic at Stevenage Borough on a date to be confirmed.

Patterson will be hoping to go one further than his predecessor George Borg and lead his side into the Blue Square Premier League after Braintree narrowly lost 1-0 in the play-off final to Salisbury last season.

Borg's men had reached the final courtesy of a penalty shoot-out win over Havant & Waterlooville after a closely fought two-legged semi-final.

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