Nathan McDonald is the hero as Braintree Town hold leaders Wrexham
ALAN Devonshire could have been forgiven for having a few sleepless nights ahead of the visit of league leaders Wrexham.
After all, his side had conceded 31 goals the their last 10 games in all competitions and were facing a team that had tasted just one defeat in their previous 14 games.
But he need not have worried as, to a man, the Iron put in a fantastic shift to record their first clean sheet in a dozen games thanks to a fantastic goalkeeping display from Nathan McDonald and a woeful late miss from Wrexham substitute Jake Speight.
McDonald, 20, produced a catalogue of saves to deny Andy Morrell’s men and provided the inspiration that almost saw the hosts take all three points, only for Jai Reason’s late effort to be saved by Cameroonian stopper, Joslain Mayebi.
However, he was powerless when Speight was presented with an open goal eight yards out, only to see the former Bradford man sky his shot over the bar with the goal gaping.
While not back to the free-flowing football that saw Town embark on that wonderful six-game winning run in September, this was a performance full of guts, determination and no shortage of courage, especially after the late dismissal of Aswad Thomas for his second bookable offence.
Who knows what would have happened had Nathaniel Knight-Percival’s fourth minute header not been ruled out for offside? In the early stages, Wrexham were looking very much like a side full of confidence and Mathias Pogba brought the best out of Mcdonald, from range, within the first 30 seconds.
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Then, from the resultant corner, Mark Creighton’s header was cleared off the line by Thomas as, buoyed by a strong following from North Wales, Wrexham tried to make their early good play count.
But they huffed and puffed and gradually Devonshire’s side established themselves on the game with Andy Yiadom’s fierce drive deflected over the bar and Sean Marks denied by a superb last-ditch tackle from Curtis Obeng.
Iron goalkeeper McDonald has endured a horrible period recently between the sticks but after his early save from Pogba, he followed that up with an even better stop, pushing Jay Harris’ 30-yard shot around the post.
And the youngster was at it again shortly after the restart, showing quick reactions to deny the unlucky Knight-Percival by tipping the visiting captain’s header over the bar.
Knight-Percival was certainly in thick of it and his header across goal then caused mayhem before McDonald was fouled in the box with the ball in the middle of a goalmouth scramble.
With McDonald in fine form, the hosts sensed it could be their day when Marks ran clear of his marker with 23 minutes to go. However, the big striker, who worked tirelessly in attack, stabbed a fierce effort over the bar from 20 yards out.
Then came two turning points in the game. First the visitors were furious when they were denied a penalty for handball, before Speight - in a rich vein of scoring form - ballooned the ball over an unguarded net with 14 minutes to go after Danny Wright had drawn McDonald out of position.
And Speight was almost punished when Reason brought the best out of Mayebi who dived full length to deflect the former Ipswich man’s half-volley wide.
McDonald then made a miraculous save to deny Wright’s header at the death having marshalled his defence minus Thomas for the final six minutes of the game - the ex-Charlton youngster receiving his marching orders for hauling down the pacy Obeng.