Braintree and Stockport stumble to four-goal draw

CHRISTMAS is well and truly over, but the act of giving was very much in force at Braintree Town and Stockport stumbled to a point apiece in an error-prone game.

After a drab first hour, the game was brought to life with four goals in the last 32 minutes as the Iron took a two-goal lead through Aswad Thomas and Nicky Symons, only to be pegged back by Joe Connor and substitute Danny Rowe’s last minute wonder goal.

The Iron were not helped by the aggressive wind and rain that blew their way in the second half and manager Alan Devonshire was left to rue goalkeeper Nathan McDonald’s inability to keep out Rowe’s speculative effort from 30-yards.

“I was a bit disappointed with the second goal and I am not sure whether Nathan (McDonald) prepared for the shot properly,” said manager, Devonshire after the game.

“But I am not going to come down too hard on my players, as they gave everything for me today and 120 minutes of football in midweek.

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“Mistakes are going to creep in, they are only part time, but they have got to go home and prepare for a long trip to Fleetwood tomorrow night.”

Town took the lead on 58 minutes when Thomas grabbed his third goal of the season.

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County’s defence went to sleep as Ben Wright delivered a quick throw-in from the left and, with the visitors ball watching, Thomas let the ball run across his body before lashing home a left-foot strike, from 18-yards, that hit the far right-hand corner.

Up to that point, the struggling Hatters, just two points clear of safety, had edged the game with the 5-4-1 formation favoured by boss, Jim Gannon, stifling the home side.

Chances were at a premium and neither goalkeeper was really tested, although Sam Sheridan’s deflected shot, blocked by substitute Matt Paine, almost crept in the far corner at the start of the second half.

But it was Thomas’ goal who opened the floodgates and two minutes later, the Iron doubled their lead.

Shaken by going behind, the Hatters made a terrible hash of clearing the ball from their own area and, despite being surrounded by several blue and white shirts, Nicky Symons found the right corner of the net from 20 yards – his right foot curler beating 17-year-old keeper Ian Ormson.

The Iron’s two-goal burst spurred County manager Gannon into action and an inspired double substitution from the former Port Vale boss, a minute later, rescued a point for the Cheshire side.

Substitutes, Sean McConville and Rowe had barely been on the pitch when the latter got on the end of his team-mate’s cross, but his close range effort was superbly tipped over by McDonald.

However, from the resulting corner and in a carbon-copy of Gateshead’s equaliser on Tuesday night, the unmarked Joe Connor powered home a header from McConville’s right-wing corner.

McConville, a Football League player with Accrington last season, was proving a real menace on the right and peppered Town’s penalty area with shots and crosses while.

But with the game edging towards injury time, Town seemingly holding out and County powder-puff in the last third, Rowe hit a speculative effort from outside the box.

His shot should have been saved by McDonald but the keeper seemingly made an error of judgement as the ball hit the patch of sand that covered his six yard box.

Devonshire will look to bolster his ranks ahead of tomorrow’s game with Fleetwood, and confessed he may have to make changes to keep his semi-professional squad.

“They will have to finish work at 12 and some of them will be back there the following morning,” said Devonshire, who could be without Adam Bailey-Dennis (thigh), who limped off at half-time.

“We are in the position we are in the league on merit and for those who are not satisfied, they should try doing what the lads are going to have to do in the next few days.”

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