National League play-off dream gets closer for Braintree Town after Bromley win

Simeon Akinola (10) heads in from a corner for the only goal of the game

Simeon Akinola (10) heads in from a corner for the only goal of the game - Credit: Archant

Braintree Town put in a dogged 90 minutes of sheer energy and commitment to snatch a narrow victory over their Kent neighbours in an absorbing National League contest, watched by a bumper crowd of 1,321 at the Avanti Stadium on Good Friday.

It left manager Dan Cowley delighted with the three points, which pushed the Iron up to fourth place. He praised every one of his players for their mental strength, more than anything else.

“It’s the best three points of the season in my view, even though it wasn’t by far our best performance,” insisted Cowley.

“Apart from the increasing number of injuries, other players are suffering from flu symptoms and of course the three on England C international duty during the week (Alex Woodyard, Sam Habergham and Chez Isaac) were clearly tired.

“We knew Bromley would be a strong, physical side and they had the better of the first half.

“But we nicked a goal right on half-time and that gave us renewed confidence and strength to keep better control in the second half.

“But although we may have been physically and tactically short in the game, every player made up for it with sheer mental strength and determination to win the game. And that’s what counted in the end.”

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With the Iron squad down to the bare bones through injuries, including absent key strikers Sean Marks and Michael Cheek, Cowley was forced to bring in 19-year-old striker Harry Cardwell, who had not met his new team-mates until he turned up just before the kick off.

“He (Cardwell) did exceptionally well for his first game, running the channels and with excellent movement off the ball,” continued Cowley.

“He pressed and chased down their defenders, and I’m sure he’s not only going do well for us for our remaining games, but is clearly a player with the potential to make the top grade.”

To add to Cowley’s injuries worries, midfielder Isaac, who made a substitute appearance in midweek for England C, had to come off suffering from an ankle injury which he had picked up in that game.

Cowley said: “We lost him and then in the second half, both Simeon Akinola (calf strain) and Dan Sparkes (groin strain) had to come off, but full credit to the subs and the rest of the players.

“Heaven knows what side I will be able to put out at Aldershot on Easter Monday.”

The Iron players were certainly looking tired in the first half and twice the visitors came close to opening the scoring when Lee Manshull’s 25-yard shot went over the bar on 20 minutes, and two minutes later Ben May headed narrowly over from a corner.

But what turned out to be the crucial winning goal came right on the stroke of half-time when a left-wing corner from substitute Jack Powell was met at the near post by Akinola. He escaped defenders tracking him to glance a header down into the net.

That goal certainly took the wind out of the visitors’ sails and, once the second half started, the Iron looked much stronger.

Twice Kenny Davis went close to adding the home side’s second goal and late on, both substitute Anthony Edgar and Cardwell saw goalbound shots charged down by defenders at the last moment.

The Iron now head off to Aldershot on Easter Monday (kick off 3pm).

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