Braintree on the verge of the National League play-offs after Wrexham win

Braintree players (L to R) Sim Akinola, Sean Long, Mitch Brundle celebrate victory at Wrexham

Braintree players (L to R) Sim Akinola, Sean Long, Mitch Brundle celebrate victory at Wrexham - Credit: Archant

The Iron are within one point of making the National League play-offs for the first time ever after this fantastic win at the Racecourse Stadium on Saturday, with a team performance that manager Dan Cowley described as “incredible where every player worked their socks off for 90 minutes.”

Braintree's Taylor Miles tries his luck at Wrexham

Braintree's Taylor Miles tries his luck at Wrexham - Credit: Archant

The win puts the Iron in fifth place with 78 points and with sixth place Eastleigh losing 1-0 at home to Tranmere Rovers, leaving both those teams on 75 points, all the Iron need now is one point from their final game at home to relegation-threatened Altrincham on Saturday to be assured of making the play-offs.

“We know what we have to do but nobody is getting carried away with what might be,” said Cowley.

“This game against a top quality full-time side was really hard and we knew we would have to weather their pressure when they came back strongly against us.

“But despite going behind after taking such an early first half lead I know this group of players and that they would come back again and keep their composure,” said Cowley.

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“It was an incredible effort from all the players who showed tremendous work rate from the first whistle.

“They worked their socks off and to come to such an imposing Football League ground in front of 5,500 of their fervent fans with such vocal support the players put in a fantastic performance,” he continued.

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“They had to dig deep at times and they certainly did and it was also good to hear our small band of supporters (79 fans in all) in such vocal support, particularly in the second half when we were defending hard yet pushing hard for a winner and the players really appreciate it.”

The Iron started with the same starting line up at Gateshead last week and had the best possible start taking the lead on three minutes when Michael Cheek raced through on goal beating defender Jamal Fyfield to fire a low shot into the bottom right-hand corner of the net.

But on 11 minutes the home side were level when sloppy Iron defending allowed a free-kick into their area to be headed home by Simon Heslop and it looked like going from bad to worse on 38 minutes when Iron skipper Kenny Davis fouled Connor Jennings outside the left side of the Iron area.

The kick was taken by defender Lee Fowler who drove it low into the Iron penalty box where the ball evaded everyone ending up in the far corner of the net in what for the visitors was a poor goal to give away.

Undeterred, the Iron fought back and both Cheek and Mitch Brundle immediately went close to equalising but the Iron equaliser did come, crucially two minutes before half time, when they swept up field and Davis created a half chance for Sim Akinola. His shot was blocked and the ball ran kindly to Cheek who wasted no time in driving the ball low past keeper Rhys Taylor.

It was just the half-time tonic the Iron needed and they came out in the second half to dominated most of the game and Cheek, Davis, Miles and defender Mark Phillips all went close.

Again the Iron defence coped with a series of home attacks and on the counter attack they always looked the more dangerous and of the two sides the one likely to find the net.

Twice Brundle went close with shots just wide of the post but the 21 year-old was not to be denied his glory of scoring the winning goal for the second week running.

It came on 81 minutes when again the ever industrious Davis seized on a chance to go over the half-way line to lay the ball into the on-running Brundle who calmly evaded two chasing defenders to fire a great right-foot shot into the top right-hand corner of the home net giving keeper Taylor no chance.

It was no more than the Iron deserved particularly for their persistence and never-say-die attitude throughout the game and despite the home side throwing everyone forward in the dying minutes the Iron rearguard held firm and deservedly returned home with the three points needed.

So it’s all down to next Saturday’s final home game of the season against Altrincham (note the kick off is 5.30pm like all National League games on the day) and one point will seal their play-off place, which they fully deserve over an incredible season for the part-timers.

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