Report: Braintree Town hold Oxford United in The Emirates FA Cup
- Credit: Archant
Braintree Town skipper Kenny Davis was the hero as the Iron deservedly held 10-man Oxford United in the FA Cup First Round, at the Avanti Stadium.
The long-serving midfielder, part of two Braintree teams thumped at home at the same stage of the competition, against Tranmere and Chesterfield, in the last three years, dispatched an accurate side-foot effort from the edge of the box to force a replay against the League Two side at the Kassam Stadium on Tuesday week.
Davis’ 63rd-minute equaliser cancelled out Ryan Taylor’s early opener for Michael Appleton’s U’s, who had skipper Johnny Mullins sent off for two bookable offences with 20 minutes to go.
The games against Tranmere and Chesterfield, both towards the top of League One at the time, proved a step too far for Iron and, for long periods of the first half, Braintree did little to suggest history wouldn’t repeat itself.
The Iron did ride their luck at times in the second half too, the woodwork denying substitute Liam Sercombe late in the game and goalkeeper Will Norris pulling off a couple of fine saves to deny Patrick Hoban.
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Braintree went behind when beanpole striker Taylor nodded home the impressive Callum O’Dowda’s deep left-footed cross at the back post, after the winger had been given far too much room to deliver.
O’Dowda, 20, had been the U’s liveliest play in the opening exchanges and played his part as the visitors almost put the game out of the hosts’ reach two minutes later.
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Taylor did excellently in the middle of the park to turn his marker and rolled the ball out to the left where O’Dowda took a touch, before unleashing a cross shot.
Town goalkeeper Norris could only parry the effort out to Taylor on the edge of the six-yard box but with the ball coming to him at pace, the striker could only hoist his rebound effort over the bar.
The Iron, who were to lose right-back Remy Clerima to injury later in the first half, were showing the 1986 League Cup winners too much respect, often sitting off their higher-ranked hosts.
Braintree’s first real effort in anger didn’t come until the 29th minute and proved significant for Mullins, who was booked for a silly push on Iron striker Michael Cheek.
From the resultant set-piece, Dan Sparkes’ curling free kick cleared the wall but was well held by U’s stopper Benji Buchel.
The home team began to get a grip in the latter stages of the first half and Cheek’s header from Sparkes’ right-wing corner was inches wide.
Oxford had failed to take advantage of their early dominance but came out for the second half in far more positive fashion, and Braintree keeper Norris twice did well to save Hoban efforts at his near post.
The visitors continued to push forward and Hoban squandered another chance with a header from Alex MacDonald’s cross that went just over the bar.
Oxford still looked quite comfortable, despite Braintree cranking up the pressure a notch, but that changed when Cheek almost capitalised on a mix-up between Buchel and Joe Skarz in the box, only to see his weak goal-bound effort smothered by the goalkeeper at the second attempt.
That lifted the Essex crowd and after a powerful run by Chez Isaac, the midfielder laid the ball off to Davis on the edge of the box, who scored past Buchel from 22 yards.
Braintree went for the jugular and after Mullins got his marching orders for hauling back Cheek, Taylor Miles’ 22-yard free-kick just clearing the bar and Isaac’s angled volley being held by Buchel.
Oxford brought on striker Danny Hylton and joint-top scorer Liam Sercombe and after the former headed over, the latter saw an effort hit the post, before his angled shot was well saved by Norris.
Danny Rose and Cameron Gayle, also missed the target as Oxford finished strongly but Braintree almost won it with the last kick of the game, Buchel pushing Miles’ long-range shot wide.