Braintree Town maintain promotion push with victory against Halifax
Kenny Davis struck after just 38 seconds as Braintree Town moved up to seventh in the National League table, with a comfortable home win over relegation-haunted FC Halifax in a bad-tempered affair last night.
Iron never looked back from the moment that Davis rammed a shot into the roof of the net, after Simeon Akinola’s initial drive had thudded back off the foot of a post.
Referee Alan Young, a late call-up, ensured that this would never be a free-flowing game, dishing out 10 yellow cards and one red one, including Halifax defender Kevin Roberts’ dismissal on 57 minutes.
But play-off chasing Iron made the game safe in the 67th minute, with Michael Cheek rounding keeper Sam Johnson and sweeping home left-footed into an empty net to register his ninth goal of the campaign.
This 15th win, from 31 games, completed a league double over the Shaymen, following a 6-3 win in Yorkshire in November, at the same time keeping Danny Cowley’s men on track for a possible top-five finish.
Fired by their early breakthrough, Iron looked to add to their lead during a first-half which they dominated, without having a repeat cutting edge.
Winger Akinola and Alex Woodyard caught the eye with some neat touches, but Halifax were resolute in defence, no doubt bolstered by their good recent run – they had only lost one of their previous 15 games, since the heavy home defeat to Iron.
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On 15 minutes, Akinola swept over a delightful ball for Davis to control, but the midfielder’s shot was charged down by a defender, and although the rebound broke for Cheek, he was standing in an offside position.
Halifax finally threatened in the 19th minute. A deep cross by Scott McManus sailed over the head of debutant keeper Tom King, but striker Jordan Burrows was just unable to divert home at the far post.
The visitors began to enjoy more possession as the first half wore on, and King did well to smother a daisy-cutter of a free-kick from Kingsley James, the ball having skidded through the defensive wall.
A Halifax break caused problems in the 42nd minute, but again King came to the rescue by diving to his right to save from targetman Burrows’ downward header, following James Bolton’s cross.
Braintree should really have doubled their lead in the last minute of the first period. Cheek managed to escape the attentions of defender Hamaza Bencherif, but screwed his shot wide with keeper Johnson out of position and an open goal beckoning.
Iron had a let-off in the 48th minute. Remy Clerima appeared to bundle over substitute Jake Hibbs in the box, but rather than award a penalty, referee Mr Young booked the Halifax man for diving.
Hibbs was the first of three players to be booked for diving, within the first 15 minutes of the second half, as Mr Young unwittingly took centre stage.
And the referee was in the spotlight again, in the 57th minute, as he flashed a second yellow card for Roberts, to reduce Halifax to 10 men.
A last ditch block at Matt Brown denied Akinola an almost certain goal, in the 65th minute, but Iron did finally double their lead a minute later, with Cheek planting the ball into an empty net.
Cheek was close to a second goal, when his goal-bound shot was blocked by the legs of keeper Johnson on 70 minutes, but by then Iron already had the points in the bag.