Iron slip back into relegation places
Jekyll and Hyde season continues
Lacking the influential Kyran Clements in the defensive unit, Iron put in a disappointing performance in what was a six-pointer between two sides in the relegation zone.
There can be few excuses from the Iron side because they were second best for long periods and lacked cohesion, guilty of giving the ball away, and displayed little passion and commitment in what was a crucial game for the club.
It was a below par performance and but for the heroics of young Norwich City keeper Billy Johnson the visitors would have clearly won by a bigger margin.
Johnson pulled off two excellent saves in the first half, repeated it three times in the second and even brilliantly saved Guisppe Iaciofona's 44th minute penalty which would have given them a second goal right on the interval.
Admittedly the penalty was extremely harsh when referee Sunny Gill somehow deemed to judge what many in the 545 crowd felt was a fair tackle by Arthur Iontton on Frankie Musonda but Johnson did well to dive low to his left and push the ball away.
Iaciofona proved a thorn in the side of the Iron's defence most of the afternoon and had given his side the lead on 15 minutes when he was left unmarked at the far post to poke home a right wing cross and then twice in the second half he almost found the net again thanks to his persistence and skill.
With the Iron having started so badly it was perhaps no surprise that manager George Borg made a double substitution after only on 29th minutes bringing on Charlie O'Keefe and Liam Smyth for the Alfie Cerulli and Tommy Cooney.
It certainly improved the situation for Iron and they came more into the game but in the second half any potential momentum gained by two pairs of fresh legs quickly waned as Iron kept misplacing so many passes and then sat back further encouraging the visitors to take a stranglehold on the game which they did with ease.
Even Iron fans hoping for at least a goal late on to give them an equaliser and a share of the spoils were disappointed as the visitors ran the clock down and deserved their victory.
Braintree Town: Johnson; Kirkpatrick, Cooney (29 O'Keefe), Sheehan, Iontton; Smith, Guerfi, Gardner-Smith (60 Ocran), Cerulli (29 Smyth); Russell, Chiedozie. Unused subs: Matsuzaka, Pappel. Attendance: 545. Referee: Sunny Gill.
Match Preview in association with LV BET
Saturday 14 March 2020 - Braintree Town v St Albans City
St Albans City are currently 21st in the Vanarama National League South on 34 points. Their away record this season is: P 17 W 5 D 4 L 8 F 23 A 27 Points 19. Top Scorers - Joe Iaciofano - 15, Zane Banton - 8. Last 4 away League results: Lost 2-1 v Chippenham Town, Won 1-2 v Havant & Waterlooville, Won 0-3 v Bath City, Lost 2-1 v Hampton & Richmond Borough. Form last 6 games: WWDWLL.
Braintree Town are currently 19th in the Vanarama National League South on 35 points. Their home record this season is P 17 W 5 D 4 L 8 F 21 A 27 Points 19. Last 4 home League results: Won 2-0 v Bath City, Drew 0-0 v Hemel Hempstead Town, Drew 1-1 v Weymouth, Lost 0-1 v Slough Town. Form last 6 games: DLDLWL. Top Scorers - Liam Smyth - 4, Alfie Cerulli - 3
The teams last met on the 13 August 2019 at Clarence Park. Iron put in a top display which saw them win three-nil. Danny Mills making his first start was the first to score. Olly Saunders carried the ball from deep in his own half towards the City penalty area, played in the overlapping Ade Cole; he went past one man into the box, laid it back towards Saunders who left it for Mills to hit a shot that went over the keeper off the bar and into the net. A minute later the Iron had doubled their lead. Ade Cole played the ball out of his own half up to the feet of Tom Richardson; he set away the overlapping Femi Akinwande down the right who surged into the area before driving home at the keeper's near post. The scorer then went and kissed the linesman! The third goal came in the final minute of normal time; Michael Clark breaking up a move carried the ball forward, fed Mills to his left who then played a ball up to Cerulli. Alfie strode forward and hit a low shot from 25 yards which the keeper could only push the ball out into the path of Clark who had continued his run from defence to guide it into the net. (Highlights are here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hQgYVPJylMc)
The teams last met at Cressing Road on 28 August 2017 when the game ended in a one-nil win for the home side. Marc Okoye scored heading home a Ben Wyatt corner.
Goal scorer Clark is now at St Albans City as are former players Scott Shulton, Rohdell Gordon and Taylor Miles.
Another relegation avoiding battle sees the Iron take on City who have had a couple of impressive away performances lately and the better of the recent form. Expect another nail biting encounter.
Talking to Liam Smyth
All about 'the best goal I've ever scored'
DOB: 6/9/01 (18) Born: Watford
On loan from Stevenage
Q. Who do you support?
Q. Who is your favourite player?
A. Robert Lewandowski
Likes - Music, a bit of everything, house, hip-hop old school R &B.
Food - Sweet potato
Social Media - Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat
Q. What do you like to do outside of football?
A. PlayStation - Call of Duty
Q. Tell me about your career path to date
A. I was at Chelsea Development from age six to eight before joining QPR where I stayed until I was thirteen. I started out as a forward, then centre back, left back, left and right midfield before playing as a forward again. After I left QPR I went into grass roots football playing with mates and enjoying my football again. I played in a trial game for Watford against Arsenal where a scout saw me and he then got me a trial at Stevenage where I joined their U15's on a 2 year contract.
Q. You also have five U19 caps for Northern Ireland, was that a surprise call up?
A. At first it came a bit out of the blue. My agent asked me if I had any different nationalities in the family and on my dad's side there is Irish ancestry. I was called into a training camp at sixteen and played in matches against Slovakia and the Faroe Islands and then played in a mini tournament in Belfast against Serbia, Poland and Kazakhstan.
Q. Who has helped you get this far in your career?
A. My parents; when times were tough, they helped me calm down. My dad had been a semi-pro at Harefield as a left back; he told me to shoot hard.
Q. Were you pleased to be loan out here and what are your personal aims whilst you are here?
A. It's a good loan and my first loan. I was told to get experience but when I got he I was told I'd start on the bench, but started straight away. My aim is to get as many goals as I can and as much game time as I can and to contribute as much as possible.
Q. You've recently lost your starting place, but have had a dramatic impact on your last two substitute appearances with goals against Bath and Billericay; what was that like have you scored any better?
A. Obviously it was good as I'd been down about being on the bench, but ready to come on. Against Bath, I got a shout early on to go for goal, the player to my right took a defender away and the gap just opened up for me for the shot, that's probably the best goal I've ever scored. The goal against Billericay, I stood up for the free kick, I practice a lot on free kicks at Stevenage.
Q. How have you settled in at Braintree?
A. I've settled in well having team mates here has helped. I was really quiet the first week not knowing how things worked here. But I've also played with Charlie before and Zak.
Q. What differences have you noticed playing here compared to what you're used to?
A. In men's football, if you make a mistake, they let you know as it's more costly. There's a lot less time on the ball and there's always a defender pressing you. It's more physical and about winning the second ball and set pieces.
Q. Who is the best coach manager you've worked with and why?
A. Jordan Gibson at Stevenage, he's always believed in me and he's been there for me when it's been tough and he's helping me to succeed.
Q. Best player you've played with/against?
A. Raheem Sterling when I was at QPR. He came along to a training camp to help and ended up playing in the game. Against has to be Ronnie Henry now at Billericay, when he was at Stevenage he'd always find a way to get inside your head.
Q. If you could play with anyone, who would it be and why?
A. Bobby Firmino at Liverpool; he always knows where people are for a pass, he's creative and would help me get goals.
Q. Which Braintree team mate makes you laugh?
A. Alfie Cerulli; he doesn't always know what's going on.
Q. Which team mate is the most committed in training?
A. Zak Gerfi, he's always running about chasing every ball.
Q. Where will Braintree finish?
A. Above relegation!
Resurgent Iron denied at the death
Braintree impress but come home pointless
There was heartbreak for the Iron as the conceded a goal in the fourth minute of stoppage time to deny them a share of the spoils they fully deserved in a typical feisty local derby at New Lodge on Saturday.
Having come back from going behind after only 15 minutes with substitute Liam Smyth firing home a tremendous 25 yard free kick midway through the second half, Iron lost their point when home skipper Ronnie Henry, fortunate to be in the right place as the ball feel to his feet, rammed home a loose ball from a corner to score the winner.
It was a bitter pill for the Iron side to swallow because after being on the defensive for most of the first half they came back strongly, took the game to their more experienced home side in the second half and in reality deserved a draw.
Playing on a sodden and mud covered pitch, Iron were caught cold at the start and allowed Connor Shields to skip through down the right before firing in a low shot to the far corner of the net to give the Blues the lead.
With the home side use to the dreadful playing surface and adopting a direct long ball approach to feed their forwards, Iron struggled to make any imprint on the game with the midfielders unable to play their usual passing game.
Iron’s young keeper Billy Johnson pulled off two excellent first half saves while at the other end the Iron’s best chance fell to Alfie Cerulli but his fierce shot was pushed away by home keeper Alan Julian for a corner.
The second half though was a much different story as they Iron finally began to get a grip on the game and it was no surprise when on 66 minutes, Smyth drove a 25 yard free-kick into the top right corner of the home net for the equaliser.
Encouraged by this turnaround, Iron kept pressing forward and both Jacob Gardner-Smith and Smyth forced Julian twice to tip fierce efforts over the bar and on 72 minutes Smyth almost grabbed his second goal but again his on target shot was brilliantly forced behind by Julian for a corner.
Both sides ended up with 10 men in the closing stages when the Blues’ substitute Dejon Noel-Williams was rightly shown a red card by referee Jack Packman for an elbow into the face of Kyran Clements - forcing the Braintree youngster to leave the field with blood pouring from his face.
By then Iron had used up their three subs so the numbers were evened up and despite two more fine efforts on target again denied by Julian play swiftly moved up the other end where the home side grabbed that late winner.
Braintree Town: Johnson; Kirkpatrick, Cooney, Matsuzaka, Clements; Iontton, Guerfi (57 Smyth), Gardner-Smith, Chiedozie; Russell (82 Sheehan), Cerulli (82 Ocran). Subs unused: O’Keefe, Smith.
Iron now face another relegation threatened side in St Albans City at Cressing Road this coming Saturday.
Match Preview - Saturday 7 March 2020
Vanarama National League South - Billericay Town v Braintree Town
Billericay Town are currently 20th in the Vanarama National League South on 34 points. Their home record this season is: P 13 W 5 D 7 L 1 F 23 A 17 Points 22. Last 4 home League games: Lost 0-1 v Havant & Waterlooville, Drew 1-1 v Oxford City, Drew 3-3 v Tonbridge Angels, Drew 2-2 v Slough Town. Top scorers: Jake Robinson - 20, Femi Akinwande - 12 (6 for Braintree Town). Form last 6 games: DLDDDL.
Braintree Town are currently 18th in the Vanarama National League on 35 points. Away record: P 16 W 5 D 1 L 10 F 22 A 37 Points 13. Last 4 away League games: Lost 2-0 v Hungerford Town, Lost 1-0 v Maidstone United, Won 1-4 v Oxford City, Lost 6-0 v Dulwich Hamlet. Top scorers: Alfie Cerulli & Liam Smyth - 3, Jordan Chiedozie - 2. Form last 6 games: LDLDLW.
Last meeting was our opening home game of the season when local rivals Town won an entertaining fixture by three goals to two. Tom Richardson gave the home side a twelfth minute lead nodding home after keeper Julian had parried Akinwande's shot. Billericay equalised three minutes later when Hutchings was adjudged to have fouled in the box and Rhead tucked away the penalty. Billericay regained the lead just past the hour when Moses Emmanuel scored from close range only for Richardson to reply instantly for the Iron with a great header. The deciding goal came from a corner when Wassmer rose unchallenged to power home a header.
The last time Braintree played a League fixture at the New Lodge was on 12 December 2005 in the Isthmian League when George Borg was the Iron boss. The game finished one all with Braintree going ahead just before half time through Ofori. The Iron were awarded a second half penalty which was saved by Millard before Game equalised in the last minute. Braintree went on to win the League that season. Billericay are now playing catch up after their pitch was vandalised in November. Their form has seen them slide down the VNLS table. Having said that their home game earlier this week was their first home defeat of the season, losing to promotion chasing Havant and Waterlooville. They are draw specialist having with most of their games finishing level. Braintree showed true mettle last time out defeating Bath City, more of those battling skills will be required to secure a further step away from the bottom five.
Talking to Jacob Gardiner-Smith
From Cambridge to Zenit
DOB: 3/7/97 (22) Born: Cambridge
Career History - Youth - CSKA Moscow, Zenit St Petersburg
Dual registration - St Albans City & Hendon Town
On Loan from Wycombe Wanderers
Q. Who do you support?
A. Manchester United
Q. Favourite player?
A. Paul Pogba
Likes - Music - Hip-hop
Film - Paid in Full
Social Media - Twitter & Instagram
Best place visited - Vietnam
Q. How did you end up in Russia at 16?
A. I knew an agent out there who got me a trial. I was at CSKA for a year then moved on to Zenit. I've always been a midfielder and it was a new challenge for me and took me out of my comfort zone. Zenit are a great club and I really embraced the culture out there
Q. What was the set up like out there?
A. It was great; Zenit put me up in an apartment where some of the other players were near the training ground. We'd train every day. They had an indoor dome and all the pitches are 3G. There was a sauna and everything you could ask for.
Q. What was the football like and why did you return to the UK?
A. It was technical; the players there are technically gifted, not as physical as non-league here. A lot of tactical training, working on shape and clever free kicks. I was the only English lad there, but I had a team mate there who helped me out with the language. I left as I was out of contract and I wanted to take what I'd learned there and play in the English Football League.
Q. You then played non-league for a couple of seasons, what was that like after your time in Russia?
A. It was a big shock; a big learning curve for me. At St Albans I wasn't really given a chance to show what I could do, it taught me a lot about non-league managers. I had a great manager at Hendon and found my feet there which helped shape me into the player I am today.
Q. You then had a trial at Wycombe Wanderers and impressed to get a contract; what do you hope to gain from your time here before returning to Wycombe?
A. Experience; I'm learning more about the game at men's level here and it's helped me develop my game. I hope when I return to Wycombe that I can then push on as a player there.
Q. It's not been an easy time for the club since you arrived here; how has it challenged you?
A. It's helped me face adversity; losing every week has challenged me to step up and help to turn it around. The gaffer brought me in to make a difference and it's changed me from a boy to a man.
Q. How does the football compare to what you've done before?
A. It's a world away from Russia, but similar to my time at St Albans, Hendon and Wycombe. It's more direct getting the ball forward quicker, more competitive and fighting to wear the shirt.
Q. What are your strengths/weaknesses?
A. Strength - Athleticism, tackling, winning the ball back, generally ratting around. Weakness - I need to improve my awareness and pay attention to detail.
Q. Who is the best coach/manager you've worked with?
A. Gareth Ainsworth at Wycombe; he's seen the potential in me and given me a chance for which I am grateful. He's developed me as a player and I've learned a lot under him.
Q. Who is the best player you've played with/against?
A. With - Daniel Lesovo who is a left winger in the Russian Premier League. He was a team mate of mine at Zenit. Hardest opponent was Hulk in training, even though he was getting on then.
Q. Why do you think we struggle to beat the lower teams, yet do well against the higher teams in this League?
A. Sometimes it's our mentality, complacency, players need to take responsibility. Against the better teams we're up for the fight.
Q. Who is the worst singer at the club?
A. Lucas Kirkpatrick
Q. Who is the best trainer?
A. Zak Guerfi
Iron respond with composed performance
Borg - 'pleased for all the boys because they put in such a magnificent shift, every one of them'
Lowly Iron pulled off one of the shocks of the day by beating second placed and promotion chasing Bath City in an entertaining game at Cressing Road on Saturday.
And there was certainly no fluke because the Iron lads, clearly livened up by manager George Borg's criticism over the previous week's defeat, responded with one of their best performances of the season. They fully deserved their win and three points which lifted them out of the relegation zone and up to 18th place.
Two well-taken second half goals were enough but it was the way the Iron players kept pressing hard on their visitors from the kick off, chasing every ball while at the back defended in numbers and deservedly kept a clean sheet to complete their first home win since September.
The real difference though was in midfield where Arthur Iontton, making his home debut, Jacob Gardner-Smith and newcomer Zak Guerfi, the 22 year-old Tunisian U21 midfielder, kept a tight stranglehold and never let the visitors settle into any pattern of play from the off.
At the back, with Stevie Sheehan absent due to the birth of his second child, young Kyran Clements who made captain for the day slotted into the centre of defence with Dan Matsuzaka. The pair had outstanding games and were well supported by full-backs Lucas Kirkpatrick and Charkey O'Keefe, all helping to give a more solid performance against what was an experienced Bath side.
The best chance in the first half fell to Jordan Chiedozie but he surprisingly lofted his free-kick on the edge of the area high over the bar but on the hour he made amends by opening the scoring.
It all stemmed from a foraging right wing run by Alfie Cerulli who put in a fine cross to the far edge of the visitors' area where Chiedozie picked his spot to drive the ball low into the far corner of the net.
It was no more than the Iron deserved, particularly for their hard endeavour and creative attacks and, although the visitors tried hard to retaliate which involved a couple of scrambles in the home goalmouth, the Iron defence stood firm and soon hooked the ball upfield and out of danger.
The real icing on the cake came though four minutes into added stoppage time when young substitute Liam Smyth, picking the ball up in his area, ran through the retreating visitors' rearguard side-stepping tackles before drilling the ball from 25 yards out with his left foot high into far top corner of the City net going in from hitting the underside of the crossbar.
It was a sensational goal and understandably the youngster's excitement at scoring such a cracking goal saw him leapt upon by his joyous team mates yet even though he was booked for taking his shirt off in the celebrations failed to dampen his enthusiasm.
The 2-0 scoreline for the Iron was fully justified and the win will give the youngsters even more confidence when they go to their next game at Billericay Town on Saturday.
Manager Borg though was delighted with the result but more importantly the way his side played adding: "We've been working on things in training and it has paid off today and I'm really pleased for all the boys because they put in such a magnificent shift, every one of them.
"Bath are a good side but I think they were surprised at the way we took the game to them from the off, dominated midfield for long periods and never let up," he said. "I believe the squad we have now may be young but they have the right attitude, work hard and gave 100 per cent for the whole game."
On his new signing Guerfi he added: "He clearly shows what he will give us from midfield with his experience but I had to take him before the end because he had run himself into the ground and was suffering from cramp."
Braintree Town: Johnson; Kirkpatrick, O'Keefe, Matsuzaka, Clements; Guerfi (81 Smith), Gardner-Smith, Iontton, Cerulli (88 Smyth); Chiedozie, Russell. Unused subs: Stone, Ocran, Sade. Referee: Isaac Searle. Attendance 410.
Saturday 29 February 2020 - Braintree Town v Bath City
Match Preview - Vanarama National League
Bath City Town are currently 2nd in the Vanarama National League South on 59 points. Their away record this season is: P 16 W 7 D 4 L 5 F 21 A 20 Points 25. Top Scorers - Tom Smith - 15, Ryan Brunt - 9, Ross Stearn - 6. Last 4 away League results: Won 0-2 v Maidstone United, Won 0-1 v Concord Rangers, Drew 0-0 v Dorking Wanderers, Lost 7-0 v Wealdstone. Form last 6 games: LDLWWW.
Braintree Town are currently 23rd in the Vanarama National League South on 32 points. Their home record this season is P 16 W 4 D 4 L 8 F 19 A 27 Points 16. Last 4 home League results: Drew 0-0 v Hemel Hempstead Town, Drew 1-1 v Weymouth, Lost 0-1 v Slough Town, Lost 0-1 v Tonbridge Angels. Form last 6 games: WLDLDL. Top Scorers - Alfie Cerulli - 3, Liam Smyth - 2.
The teams last met on the opening day of the season, 3 August 2019. The opening half had been evenly contested with the Iron having the better of the chances. The closest they came to scoring was when Josh Urquhart took a quick free kick from the halfway line that hit the crossbar. Within ten minutes of the second half, City had taken charge with too well struck long range efforts. The last meeting at Cressing Road on 10 February 2018 also saw City win by two goals to nil, courtesy of first half strikes from Nat Jarvis and Jack Compton. That opening day in the Somerset sunshine seems a distant memory now. Bath as predicted have gone on to be amongst those teams chasing promotion. Meanwhile, last Saturday’s defeat to bottom placed Hungerford Town saw the Iron fall into the relegation places. With no home League win since September, now is the time for the lads to step up to the plate to ensure another season at this level.
Iron drop into bottom two
Borg locks players into dressing room
Iron Manager George Borg locked his players in the dressing room at the end of Saturday's defeat at Hungerford which saw his Braintree side slip to one from bottom.
The home side opened their scoring after only five minutes when a long throw-in from the left was not dealt with by the Iron backline allowing the unmarked Joe Tomlinson to poke the ball into the net.
The nearest Iron came to scoring in the first half was when Jordan Chiedozie's chipped shot hit the top of the home crossbar but otherwise, after some promising midfield build up, Iron simply ran out of ideas in the final quarter of the field.
The home side added their second early in the second half when, on 49 minutes, a sloppy pass cross field by the Iron defence allowed Matt Jones with all the time in the world to ram his shot into the Iron net.
Continuing their more long ball upfield approach the home side prospered while the Iron, trying to play passing football, saw far too many of their passes go astray repeatedly giving the home side again the advantage of possession.
With a dozen minutes to go the Iron manager pushed central defender Stevie Sheehan up front in a bid to try and salvage something from the game but it was all to no avail.
Braintree Town: Johnson; Clements, O'Keefe, Iontton, Sheehan; Smith (Smyth), Orcan (Matsuzaka), Gardiner-Smith (Cerulli), Kirkpatrick; Russell, Chiedozie. Unused subs: tone, Ryan. Attendance: 207. Referee: Ross Martin.
Next up for Iron is this coming Saturday when promotion hopefuls Bath City visit Cressing Road for a league game, kick off 3pm.
Iron battle gales to secure a point
Clean sheet a building block
Iron deservedly ended up with a much needed point in this game where the gale force winds obviously played a major part in the outcome of what was under difficult circumstances an entertaining game at Cressing Road which rightly ended with honours even.
It was effectively a game of two halves with the Iron well on top in the first 45 minutes, playing some of the best football passing game seen from the side this season, and then in the second period having to defend well against the conditions more than anything else.
With the wind behind them in that first half, Iron had the better of goal scoring chances and could well have been at least three goals ahead by the interval but it was the reverse situation in the second with the visitors taking full advantage of the conditions but despite this they failed to make any clearcut goal scoring chances.
In a scintillating first 20 minutes the Iron saw Jordan Chiedozie's shot come back off the crossbar with keeper Daniel Grimshaw beaten and new signing Darelle Russell twice forcing Grimshaw into excellent saves while right on half time Russell laid the ball off to Brendan Ocran who saw his goalbound shot pushed brilliantly away by Grimshaw.
Iron were to rue their misses though as the second half progressed with visitors going close through Sam Ashford and Aaron Jarvis and when they did shoot on target Iron's young Norwich City loanee keeper Billy Johnson did well to save the shots without being too much troubled.
In the dying minutes of the game the Iron's Chiedozie and substitute Alfie Cerulli almost each snatched a late winner while up at the other end the visitors' skipper Connor Essam went extremely close with a header from the edge of the penalty box.
But it deservedly ended all square with Iron manager George Borg the happier of the two managers adding: "I'm really pleased with the young boys who put in a tremendous shift – yes we had chances in the first half and should have scored and we knew they would have the better of the second half and it would be a battle but the boys fought so hard and could have easily even snatched a late winner.
"It's taken me seven weeks since coming in to get things sorted and I feel we now have the right players to help us climb the table," he explained. "I'm still hoping to bring in another experienced defender to help further boost the squad.
"I'm delighted at the way we are trying to play football and particularly the performance against Hemel who are a vastly experienced side and to their credit tried to play good football in what was obviously difficult conditions," he explained. "Our new striker Darelle Russell has immediately given us both the strength and experience in leading the line and I think him and Jordan (Chiedozie) will working even better playing together."
New strike Russell, signed from Waltham Abbey, said he had thoroughly enjoyed his debut adding: "I should have scored in the first half and we should have gone in two or three goals in the lead but I am happy with the way the boss has us playing and I am sure we can start winning games and climb up the table.
"The spirit in the dressing room is great and you don't always get that in a team and it's important," he added.
Braintree: Johnson; Clements, O'Keefe, Matsuzaka, Sheehan; Smith, Ocran (72 Cerulli), Gardner-Smith, Smyth (85 Kirkpatrick); Russell, Chiedozie. Unused subs: Stone, Ryan, Sade. Attendance: 391. Referee: Chris O'Donnell.
Next up for the Iron is an away match at Hungerford Town on Saturday, kick off 3pm.
Braintree v Hemel - Weather update
Storm Dennis to arrive Saturday afternoon
Tomorrow sees the arrival of Storm Dennis. As at 8pm Friday, the Cressing Road pitch is very firm and we are confident that the pitch drainage will be able to accommodate the predicted light and moderate rainfall. However, we are also mindful of the strong winds forecast and will review the situation from 11am onwards and thereafter on an hourly basis, with the safety and security of both spectators and participants being our primary concern. Even with the 50-mile an hour gusts forecast we remain confident that the game will start and be completed but all spectators that enter the ground are reminded to retain their match tickets in the event of any unforeseen problems causing the game to be abandoned. For more information call the club on 01376 345617 or 01376 330976.
Match Preview - Vanarama National League South
Saturday 15 February 2020 - Braintree Town v Hemel Hempstead Town
Hemel Hempstead Town are currently 10th in the Vanarama National League South on 37 points. Their away record this season is: P 15 W 4 D 4 L 7 F 16 A 24 Points 16. Top Scorers - Sam Ashford - 10, Liam Nash - 9, Ricardo German & Jack Midson - 4. Last 4 away League results: Drew 1-1 v Eastbourne Borough, Lost 2-0 v Bath City, Drew 1-1 v Maidstone United, Drew 2-2 v Chippenham Town. Form last 6 games: DLLLDL.
Braintree Town are currently 18th in the Vanarama National League South on 31 points. Their home record this season is P 15 W 4 D 3 L 8 F 19 A 27 Points 15. Last 4 home League results: Drew 1-1 v Weymouth, Lost 0-1 v Slough Town, Lost 0-1 v Tonbridge Angels, Lost 1-2 v Chelmsford City. Form last 6 games: LLWLDL. Top Scorers - Alfie Cerulli - 3, Liam Smyth - 2
Last meeting was on 9 November 2019 with the Iron winning 3-0. Jason Banton opened the scoring on 36 minutes, receiving a pass from Akinwande on the right on the edge of the box, he curled in a left foot shot and although former keeper Beasant got his fingertips to it, it ended up in the back of the net. Braintree doubled their lead in the second half on 56 minutes, turning defence into attack. The ball was hit high out of defence towards the halfway line, where Banton was stronger than his marker, brought the ball down, strode forward with Ade Cole keeping pace alongside him, before sending the midfielder clear with a defender in his wake. No one was going to catch him and with Beasant on the edge of his area, Cole calmly poked the ball home. Under ten minutes later, victory was sealed. The ball was worked from right to left with a pass into the path of the onrushing wing back, Jack James, who shot low across Beasant and into the far corner of the net. Highlights can be seen here - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G8UXil4drs8
That game was the first following the departure of Glenn Driver and since then with the exception of Alfie Cerulli, the whole squad has undergone change. With only one win in the League this year, Hemel made four loan signings in January. After Chippenham Town with 29 goals, Hemel are the joint second lowest scorers in the League with 33 goals. This looks like being a close encounter between two sides striving to find better form.
Talking to Billy Johnson
Our man from Carrow Road
DOB: 25/9/99 (20) Born: Great Yarmouth
Previous Clubs: Beccles, Norwich United, Lowestoft Town (Loan)
On Loan from Norwich City
Q. Who do you support?
A. Norwich City
Q. Who is your favourite player?
A. Gianluigi Buffon
Q. What are your music tastes?
A. Anything old school
Q. Favourite TV programme
A. Power on Netflix
Q. What social media do you use?
A. Instagram and Twitter
Q. At what age did you start playing in goal?
A. I was about 14, playing for St Bennetts Wasps Beccles. Our goalkeeper was quite short and I was a centre back. As we got older we swapped roles.
Q. How did you progress from there?
A. At 17 I signed for Norwich United, then I was with the Community Sports Fund where I did a BTEC, half education, half sport. I was spotted by a guy called Colin Watts who is well known in the area for having a good eye for goalkeepers. He and Adam Drury who worked at the college got me trials at Lincoln and Peterborough, before I signed for Norwich City.
Q. Who has mentored/encouraged you?
A. My parents and family, driving me about all over the place. Adam Drury, he selected me for college he has pushed me on.
Q. You are one of five keepers at U23 level for Norwich City, how does that work, what is your relationship like with the other lads?
A. It's a good environment, lots of competition in training. Two of us are out on loan now and playing competitive men's football, we all get on and drive each other on in training.
Q. What differences have you noticed between playing U23's and playing in the VNLS?
A. The style of football, you play to your strengths at this level, it's more direct and the stature of the players. At U23's it's all about one-two touch football, keeping the ball on the grounf=d and playing out from the back.
Q. How often do you train at Norwich and what do you do with your spare time?
A. I train four days at Norwich, then come down here Thursday evenings. In my spare time I'll nap, play X-Box or see my mates.
Q. How do you think goalkeeping has changed over recent years, what do you need to be a modern goalkeeper?
A. You need the ability to be comfortable with the ball at your feet, like Ederson at Man City. You have more time with the ball at your feet and there is more variation on distribution.
Q. Where do you hope to be in three years' time?
A. I'd love to be in the Premier League or playing first team football. I speak to Tim Kruhl a lot at Norwich, he gives me good advice. He is way ahead of me with his experience and his ability to read the game.
Q. What is the best ground you've played at?
A. Bet365 Stadium, Stoke City playing for Norwich in a F A Cup Youth Final which we won.
Q. Best player you've played against?
A. Fraser Forster when he was at Southampton, he's such a big guy.
Q. How have you found your time at Braintree, has it been easy to settle in?
A. The lads, George and coach have been great. They're a good group we work well together in training. I feel right at home here.
Q. Which player in our squad has the hardest shot?
A. Arisfide Bassele
Q. Who is the worst finisher in training?
A. Steve Sheehan
Q. Which player hates losing the most?
Q. Where will Braintree finish?
More progress, but Iron have to be patient
Renaissance continues under George Borg
Braintree's renaissance under manager George Borg continues, despite a single-goal defeat at Maidston on Saturday. Justin Amaluzor scoring the only goal of the game to ensure the Kent club collected all three points in what was an entertaining game.
Amaluzor picked up a midfield cross ball out to him on the right wing on 16 minutes before cutting inside and unleashing a fierce low drive into the far corner of the Iron net giving keeper Billy Johnson no chance.
Although the home side had the better of the exchanges in the first half and created three more possible goal scoring opportunities it was the impressive Johnson who pulled off fine saves to keep his own side in the game at the interval.
The second 45 minutes though saw a more dominant Iron side take the game to their hosts and, but for some inconsistent finishing, they could have equalised. Early on with both Jordan Chiezozie and Aristicle Bassele going close while in another threatening Iron attack Brendan Ocran forced a tremendous save from home keeper Chris Lewington.
The arrival of young Iron substitute Alfie Curelli on 57 minutes added a new impetus to the visitors' attack and they frequently forced the home defence into some desperate long ball clearances.
The longer the half progressed the more likely the Iron seemed certain to grab that important equaliser and point they deserved. Eight minutes from the end with the charismatic Curelli's surging run, into the area, round the keeper and shoot, only for retreating defender Zihni Temelici to kick the ball away almost on from his own goal line.
At the other end young Iron keeper Johnson pulled off two fine saves to keep his side in the game and when he was beaten the ball skimmed off the top of the crossbar and behind for a corner.
Two minutes from time and twice again the Iron were denied a possible equaliser as the home side held on for the win and three points.
This much improved Iron second half display failed to gain them a point they deserved over the 90 minutes and they will be looking for a win and three points when they entertain Hemel Hempstead at home on Saturday, kick off 3pm.
Braintree Town: Johnson; Clements (83 Russell), O'Keefe, Matsuzaka, Sheehan; Jack Smith, Gardiner-Smith, Ocran (76 Kirkpatrick), Liam Smyth (57 Curelli); Bassele, Chiedozie. Unused subs: Stone, Ryan. Attendance: 1,875 (53 Iron supporters). Referee: Wayne Cartmel.
Match Preview - Saturday 8 February 2020
Vanarama League - Maidstone United v Braintree Town
Maidstone United are currently 8th in the Vanarama National League South on 39 points. Their home record this season is: P 13 W 5 D 6 L 2 F 24 A 14 Points 21. Last 4 home League games: Won 1-0 v Oxford City, Drew 1-1 v Hemel Hempstead Town, Drew 2-2 v Tonbridge Angels, Won 4-1 v Dulwich Hamlet. Top scorers: Ibby Akanbi - 11, Matt McLure - 10, Dan Wishart - 9. Form last 6 games: WDWDLW.
Braintree Town are currently 18th in the Vanarama National League on 31 points. Away record: P 14 W 5 D 1 L 8 F 22 A 34 Points 13. Last 4 away League games: Won 1-4 v Oxford City, Lost 6-0 v Dulwich Hamlet, Lost 4-1 v Chelmsford City, Lost 1-0 v Slough Town. Top scorers: Alfie Cerulli - 3, Liam Smyth - 2. Form last 6 games: LLLWLD.
The last meeting at the Gallagher Stadium came last season on 19 April 2019, with Braintree continuing their fine form with a comfortable 2-0 win. Mo Sagaf got the Iron off to a great start when he put away a second minute penalty. The points were sealed late on when a quick thinking Ben Killip launched a long goal kick deep into the Stones half, which Korrey Henry was able to control and finish.
When the two sides met at Cressing Road in October, former Iron player Iffy Allen gave the visitors a half time lead with a close range finish. The second half saw Stones midfielder Ross Marshall sent off on 65 minutes. In the last seconds of added time, Josh Urquhart headed home a corner at the far post to gain a point.
Braintree battled hard last time out to earn a creditable point against high-flying Weymouth. Another battling display will be required once again as they line up against some familiar faces for Iron fans.
Iron denied by play-off hopefuls Weymouth
George Borg's side continues to make progress
George Borg's young Iron side continue to improve in every game and, against promotion hopefuls and third placed Weymouth, they almost stole all three points in a hard fought encounter at a blustery Cressing Road on Saturday.
They took a deserved early in the second half lead and only some tired legs and a little inexperience saw them concede an equaliser 13 minutes from time to at least pick up a valuable point as they bid to move up the table.
Manager George Borg was delighted with the way his youngsters played adding: "I'm really proud of them because they listened and did what I wanted them to do in the game, worked their socks off and should have won the game.
"I feel now over the past four games we've improved tremendously and playing better as a unit and again in this game fully deserved at least a point in the end," he continued. "Again they were up against an experienced Conference South side but showed they were more than a match and as a team they are growing in confidence."
Borg, who said he hoped to add at least one more player to his squad this coming week, added: "We've now been able to work on things in training during the week and it's now paying dividends in matches."
Iron almost had the best possible start when young full-back Charley O'Keefe's long left wing shot just dropped on to the top of the visitors' net on three minutes and two minutes later a terrific long range shot from the impressive Jacob Garner-Smith forced keeper Callum Ward into a full length save.
Iron were proving more than a match for the visitors but it nearly went all wrong on 37 minutes when they conceded a penalty after being caught in possession in their half with Dan Matsuzaka bringing down the nippy Jordan Ngalo in the area.
But Iron keeper Billy Johnson chose to dive the right way and force Josh McQuoid's spot kick away with a brilliant save and twice before half time both Jordan Chiedozie and Liam Smyth went close with goal bound efforts scrambled away at the last minute by defenders.
The break through though came on 50 minutes when a series of Iron attacks cause mayhem in the visitors' backline before finally Smyth was able to turn and drive the ball low into the left-hand bottom corner of the net with Ward beaten and so giving the youngster his debut club goal.
Generally, the second half saw the Iron have more of the ball, looking far more solid in midfield than in recent weeks, but they still have a need for an out and out experienced striker.
Young striker Alfie Curelli was introduced just past the hour and his persistent chasing down defenders created more openings and he, Chiedozie, Smyth and Lucas Kirkpatrick all went so close to adding a second goal for the Iron
With young legs tiring the visitors did manage to get themselves back in the game on 77 minutes when a low right wing cross was not dealt with leaving substitute Yemi Odubade unmarked on the edge of the area to drive the ball past the exposed Johnson for the equaliser.
Despite this setback Iron kept pressing hard in the final minutes for a possible winner and again Curelli, Smith, and Stevie Sheehan with a header all went so close to scoring.
Overall this was a much improved display by the Iron with Borg adding: "We have so many positives from the game and the boys really deserved to win all three points because they were the better side."
Braintree Town: Johnson; Howard, O'Keefe, Matsuzaka, Sheehan; Smith, Gardner-Smith, Kirkpatrick, Smyth; Bassele (71 Curelli), Chiedozie (86 Ocran). Unused subs: Stone, Ryan, Pappel. Referee: Ben Atkinson. Attendance: 405
Next up for the Iron is a visit to Maidstone this coming Saturday, 8th February, with kick off 3pm.
Match Preview in association with LV BET
Vanarama League - Saturday 1 February 2020 - Braintree Town v Weymouth
Weymouth are currently 3rd in the Vanarama National League South on 50 points. Their away record this season is: P 13 W 5 D 6 L 2 F 18 A 12 Points 21. Top Scorers- Abdulai Bell-Baggie - 10, Yemi Odubade & Jake McCarthy - 8, Ben Thomson & Brett Williams - 7. Last 4 away League results: Won 0-1 v Hemel Hempstead Town, Won 1-2 v Concord Rangers, Won 1-3 v Welling United, Lost 1-0 v Dorking Wanderers. Form last 6 games: LWDWWW.
Braintree Town are currently 17th in the Vanarama National League South on 30 points. Their home record this season is P 14 W 4 D 2 L 8 F 18 A 26 Points 14. Last 4 home League results: Lost 0-1 v Slough Town, Lost 0-1 v Tonbridge Angels, Lost 1-2 v Chelmsford City, Lost 0-1 v Concord Rangers. Form last 6 games: LLLLWL. Top Scorers - Alfie Cerulli - 3, Tyler Christian-Law - 2
Last meeting was on 26 October 2019 with the Terras winning 3-0. Jake McCarthy put the home side ahead after 25 minutes. McCarthy scored a second goal on 72 minutes, before Ben Thomson wrapped up the scoring with five minutes left to play.
The last time the two teams met in the League at Cressing Road was on 5 December 2009. George Purcell scored after only two minutes to give the Iron an early lead. Twenty minutes later and the Iron were two up courtesy of a Sean Marks strike. A minute before half time, Purcell scored his second to give the home side a three-nil lead. Two second half goals from Llewellyn and Reid reduced the deficit, but the Iron held firm to pick up all three points. As with last week's home fixture against Slough Town, the Iron now face a top three team and the other team in the VNLS with the joint second best defensive record. It was close last time out after Slough had scored late on in the first half. An improved second half display from the home side was good enough to earn a point, but it wasn't to be.
Talking to Dan Matsuzaka
This squad is hungrier
DOB: 13/8/97 (22) Born: Barnet
Previous clubs: Southend U, Harlow T (L), Kataller Toyama, Braintree Town, Sutton United
Position: Centre Back
Q. Do you have a job?
A. I am doing an Open University course in psychology
Q. Who do you support?
A. Manchester U
Q. Is Ole Solskjaer doing a good job?
A. He's not done badly, he's weathered the storm.
Q. What is your favourite food?
Q. What is your favourite holiday destination?
Q. Which social media do you use?
A. Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook
Q. You were here last season, what memories do you have of that time?
A. I have very good memories, we finished the season with a good run of games, beating some good teams and almost stayed up.
Q. Are you still in contact with any of the players from last season?
A. Yes, Kodi Lyons-Foster, Cameron James and Mo Sagaf.
Q. You went to Sutton United, why did you choose them?
A. I live in London and they're a London team, they're also full time and it was a good opportunity for me.
Q. You played with a few ex-Iron players there, Jamie Butler, Kenny Davis and Ben Wyatt, tell me about them?
A. Jamie is good on the ball with his distribution, he knocked me out in a game, I didn't know anything about it, I was out for 2 weeks. Kenny is a very good player and a nice guy. Ben and I used to travel in together a good mate and player.
Q. So how did you end up coming back to Braintree?
A. I left Sutton and had one game for Wealdstone when Jerry called me and told me that Braintree needed at centre back as there were lots of players leaving. I'd also spoken to Glen earlier in the season.
Q. When we spoke last season, your aim was to represent Japan at the 2020 Olympics, how's that working out?
A. At the moment it's not looking great. I've just have to try to keep playing well, but you don't get noticed at this level. They scout players all over Europe.
Q. Who do you turn to for advice?
A. A friend of mine who I work with and plays for Ipswich - Kane Vincent-Young, gives me footballing advice.
Q. How does this new squad compare to the one you played in last season?
A. Both teams are positive and enthusiastic. I'd say this squad is hungrier. We now play a different style; we played more football under Danny Searle.
Q. You must have experienced varying coaching methods are there many differences?
A. In Japan you only get one day a week off, whilst in England you get two. Japanese training is all about technique and tactical. All the teams from top to bottom play the same way and play out from the back.
Q. What would you say are the differences between Danny and George's methods?
A. Danny's game was more tactical based. He liked to encourage players. George gives you more direct information.
Q. Having stepped down a League, what is your ambition for the next couple of years, how do you achieve that?
A. I have to be the best player on the pitch. It would be a dream to play in the football League.
Q. Which player in training is the hardest to mark?
A. Jordan Chiedozie
Q. Which player takes the longest over his appearance?
A. Brandan Orcan
Q. Where will Braintree finish in the League?
Strong second half goes unrewarded
George still looking to bring in players
Despite a strong second half fightback by the Iron side they were edged out of a possible draw and point in this entertaining tussle at Cressing Road on Saturday allowing the visitors to maintain their own play-off push.
It was a game of two halves with the visitors in control over the first forty-five minutes and only a tremendous one-handed save by their keeper Billy Johnson midway through the first half looked to have kept the scoresheet blank.
But just two minutes before the interval the deadlock was finally broken when the ball was swept in from the right wing by the visitors and the unmarked Warren Harris slid the ball into the Iron net.
Three minutes after the restart though Iron had a great chance to equalise when Jordan Chiedozie broke clear down the right, round visiting keeper Jack Turn only to see defenders scrambling back helping to clear the danger at the last moment.
In what turned out to be a more impressive and workmanlike second half performance for Iron fans it was the crucial double substitution on 65 minutes with youngsters Alfie Curelli and Charley Barker coming on which almost paid dividends as they started to cause serious problems in the visiting rearguard.
Despite repeated good build ups and creating several potentially good goal scoring openings it was that final ball into the danger area that let them down.
It was all Iron attacking as the half progressed with Curelli, ChiedozIe, Liam Smyth and Jack Smith all going close to scoring.
Iron's caused was not helped either by some decisions made against them but to their credit the youngsters didn't drop their heads and kept plugging away and never giving up but determined to try and pull back the one goal deficit.
In the end they ran out of time leaving manager George Borg a frustrated figure on the touchline but he praised the youngsters for their second half performance.
"After such a disappointing first half, to come back in the manner they did was tremendous and I felt we should have taken at least a point from the game," he declared. "Naturally it's really difficult having so many youngsters in the side because you are going to get mistakes from them but that's part of their learning.
"The opposition were stronger and had vastly more experienced players but in that second period we showed so much character and played some good, attacking football but didn't get any reward on the day," he added. "I know where we want to strengthen and hopefully in the coming weeks we can have a couple of more experienced players in the squad which will help us push up the table."
Braintree Town: Billy Johnson; Howard, O'Keefe, Matsuzaka, Sheehan; Jack Smith, Gardner-Smith, Kirkpatrick (65 Barker), Liam Smyth (85 Ocran); Oyinsan (65 Curelli), Chiedozie. Unused subs: Christian-Law, Stone. Attendance: 494
Next up for the Iron is another home game on Saturday with Weymouth the visitors, kick off 3pm.
Match Preview - Vanarama League
Saturday 25 January 2020 - Braintree Town v Slough Town
Slough Town are currently 4th in the Vanarama National League South on 46 points. Their away record this season is: P 11 W 4 D 4 L 3 F 18 A 15 Points 16. Top Scorers - Ben Harris - 10, Matt Lench - 8, Warren Harris - 7, Dan Roberts - 6. Last 4 away League results: Drew 2-2 v Billericay Town, Lost 2-1 v Wealdstone, Drew 1-1 v Hemel Hempstead Town, Won 0-3 v Chippenham Town. Form last 6 games: WDLDDW. Braintree Town are currently 17th in the Vanarama National League South on 30 points. Their home record this season is P 13 W 4 D 2 L 7 F 18 A 25 Points 14. Last 4 home League results: Lost 0-1 v Tonbridge Angels, Lost 1-2 v Chelmsford City, Lost 0-1 v Concord Rangers, Drew 3-3 v Havant & Waterlooville. Form last 6 games: LLLLLW. Top Scorers - Alfie Cerulli - 3, Tyler Christian-Law - 2.
Last meeting was on 7 December 2019 saw Slough Town winning with a late Matt Lench strike in the eighty third minute. This was George Borg's first game in charge following the departure of player manager Jake Hutchings. Much has changed in the seven weeks since that meeting with a virtual overhaul of the Braintree squad. After a sequence of defeats, the new players put in a top performance last time out at Oxford City to show that they are now beginning to come together as a team.
Slough will provide a stern test for the new look Iron with them having the joint second best goals conceded record in the League. In fact, they have only lost once in the League in the last three months and that was to table topping Wealdstone. Let's get behind the boys as they set out to maintain the progress of last week.
Talking to Steve Sheehan
The gaffer has been a big positive, makes us work hard, but good at building morale
DOB: 14/7/90 Born: Orsett. Position: Centre Back
Career history: Waltham Abbey youth - U18, East Thurrock Unite (3 spells), Canvey Island, Billericay Town.
Q. Do you have a job?
A. Yes - Mastic Sealant Man
Q. Who do you support?
Q. Favourite player?
A. John Terry
Likes - Music - House, 80's soul.
TV - Only Fools & Horses, Ozark, NFL and football
Holiday - Florida & Ibiza
Social Media - Instagram & Twitter
Q. Tell me about your career
A. I'd just turned 17 when I joined Waltham Abbey Youth as a centre back and was captain for 2 years. Sometimes I'd be in the first team squad on a Saturday and play for the U18's on a Sunday. I then had 2 months at Leyton before I had my first spell at East Thurrock United. Their manager, John Coventry had coached me at U14. I won the Essex Senior Cup with them and also with Canvey Island and also won the League with East Thurrock United.
Q. How did you end up at Braintree, did you know George?
A. Yes I've known George a few years as I'd played against his teams in the past. He wanted me as he said I fitted what was needed here.
Q. You were made captain on your debut, what do you bring to that role?
A. Stability, leadership, organisation, team morale. I've captained every team I've played for.
Q. There have been a lot of comings and goings in your short time here has it been hard to settle?
A. Not for me. George, the Chairman and the supporters have made me welcome. It's more stable now and we shouldn't see so many changes and we have a solid core of players. Along with Lucas, we'll be implementing player fines!
Q. Is it difficult to get results when the team changes so often?
A. Definitely, it's not been anyone's fault. Sacrifices have had to be made to get to where we want to be. It's taken a few weeks to get there, but it's a different changing room now. Previously it had been made up of smaller factions of 2 or 3 players.
Q. It's a young squad, we've looked physically weaker in some games, would you agree?
A. I would agree but we have technically better players. We're playing well drilled teams who have been settled sides for the whole season and are organised. The young lads here are learning quickly and help us to play on the counter.
Q. What are the positives going forward?
A. A settled side, we get to work on things together in training with the same players. The boys are beginning to know each other and building partnerships on the pitch. They're all buying into what we're trying to do. The gaffer has been a big positive, makes us work hard, but good at building morale.
Q. Who has been the best player you've played with or against?
A. He's my best mate, but I've played with him and against him - Sam Higgins. Playing with him, he scores goals, won the golden boot. Against, when I was at Billericay and he was at East Thurrock United, he got me sent off after 10 minutes.
Q. Which coach/manager has had the biggest influence on your career?
A. Del Robinson, he was a coach at West Ham and he ran our U11-U16 teams. He was ahead of his time, one of the first coaches teaching kids about technique, shape, positioning. He got the most out of you and made it a learning activity.
Q. Which Braintree player is the laziest in training?
A. Josh Oyinsan, he's there in body, not in mind!
Q. Who is the biggest moaner?
A. The Gaffer, he moans about everything, then turns it into a positive.
Q. Which player is the most intelligent?
A. Jacob Gardner-Smith
Q. Where will Braintree finish?
A. Mid table.
Four-goal Iron power to victory
Borg pleased for the Iron fans
Braintree Town ended their recent run of poor results with an emphatic 4-1 victory at Oxford City on Saturday. After an even first 45 minutes, which saw both Chiedozie and Smyth fire over the bar, Iron stepped up a gear after the break and took a 53rd minute lead.
A clearance from skipper Stevie Sheehan found Jordan Chiedozie in plenty of space on the right. Breaking forward he then drilled the ball into the roof of the net (see picture above) past the stranded home keeper Matt Harris. Iron continued to push forward.
Despite a horrendous two-footed challenge on Lucas Kirkpatrick, play was allowed to continue by the referee and Charley O'Keefe broke down the left before steering the ball past Harris for 2-0 and then, moments later it was 3-0 when Liam Smyth got himself on the score sheet.
The home side pulled a goal back on 88 minutes, before Josh Oyinson added Braintree's fourth in time added on.
After the game Iron boss George Borg was delighted: "The lads have work hard today. Oxford are a good side and beat leaders Wealdstone here a fortnight ago. I felt we coped well with the early pressure and got ourselves into the game before half time. Second half we played with confidence and were good value for our goals and the win. Pleased also for the fans who have backed us through thick and thin."
Braintree: Johnson, Howard, O'Keefe, Matsuzaka, Sheehan, Smith, Gardner-Smith, Kirkpatrick, Oyinson, Chiedozie, Smyth. Un-used subs: Christian-Law, Ocran, Stone, Barker and Papple. Referee: Scott Tallis.
Next up for Iron is the visit of Slough Town to Cressing Road, this coming Saturday, 25th January, with kick-off at 3pm.
Match Preview - Saturday 18 January 2020
Vanarama League - Oxford City v Braintree Town
Oxford City are currently 13th in the Vanarama National League South on 33 points. Their home record this season is: P 12 W 5 D 3 L 5 F 20 A 26 Points 18. Last 4 home League games: Won 3-2 v Wealdstone, Won 3-2 v Hungerford Town, Drew 3-3 v St Albans City, Lost 1-4 v Maidstone United. Top scorers: Zac McEachran - 9, Nana Owusu - 5, Elliot Benyon, Josh Ashby & Kyran Wiltshire - 4. Form last 6 games: DWLWWL.
Braintree Town are currently 16th in the Vanarama National League on 29 points. Away record: P 13 W 4 D 1 L 8 F 18 A 33 Points 13. Last 4 away League games: Lost 6-0 v Dulwich Hamlet, Lost 4-1 v Chelmsford City, Lost 1-0 v Slough Town, Lost 6-2 v Welling United. Top scorers: Alfie Cerulli - 3, Tyler Christian-Law - 2. Form last 6 games: DLLLLL. Last meeting at Cressing Road was on 28 September 2019 when an Ade Cole penalty in the 34th minute, was enough to secure all three points. There have been changes to both sides since that meeting. City had won only one of their opening thirteen fixtures; this resulted in the resignation of manager Mark Jones to be replaced by former players Justin Merritt and Andy Ballard. They have overseen a steady climb to their current mid-table position. Meanwhile the changes at Braintree have seen them slip down the table as manager George Borg tries to put together a new team. Iron fans will be hoping that at the city of dreaming spires, dreams of three points will become a reality.
Talking to Lucas Kirkpatrick
George has got some new lads in now and we're starting to gel
DOB: 18/3/95 (24) Born: Luton
Previous clubs: Youth - Luton Town, Bedford Town, Biggleswade Town, Cambridge City, AFC Kempston Rovers, Langford, Hitchin Town
Q. Do you have a job?
A. Yes, I'm a PE Teacher
Q. Who do you support?
Q. Favourite player?
A. Frank Lampard
Q. Likes: Music old school 80's, Luther Vandross
TV/Film - Match of the Day, Law Abiding Citizens
Food - Nandos, spaghetti
Social Media - Instagram and Twitter
Q. Tell me about your career, highs and lows.
A. I started at age six with Luton Town as a right back. As I got older I was moved into midfield as I was more technical and love a tackle. I had a few loans whilst I was there. Then I spent the best times and about four/five years at Hitchin. I won the League Cup with them, two Herts Senior Cups and played in a play-off final for hem, which we lost.
Q. How did you end up at Braintree?
A. I knew Michael Johnson from my time at Hitchin. He's a good friend and he spoke to Glen about me. He gave me a trial and after one training session he signed me.
Q. There's been a lot of comings and goings in your time here, how does that affect you/the squad?
A. It doesn't affect me that much, but more so the squad. We'd built up good team morale, and then there was uncertainty over who's staying or going. George has got some new lads in now and we're starting to gel.
Q. Have you ever known so many changes in one season?
A. No I've never been at a club with so many changes, but players are versatile and want to win games. At this level a lot of players hop from club to club.
Q. How has George changed training/match tactics?
A. He's old school which I like. He gets us up for games. Training is hard, but if we can play on that training pitch, we can play on any pitch. He wants us to get in the opposition's faces. He's given players confidence and put his trust in us.
Q. You've had to slot in at right back a few times, are you comfortable with that?
A. It's not my favourite position, but I'm happy to play anywhere as I feel I'm quite versatile. In one game I started off at right back, and then played in midfield before ending up at left back.
Q. What are your strengths/weaknesses?
A. Strengths - Leadership skills, attitude, giving 100%, my nasty side, technically good. Weaknesses - my height and stature and I'm quite slow.
Q. Who are the best players you've played with?
A. From my time at Luton, Cauley Woodrow who's now at Barnsley, Lewis Bkaer who went to Chelsea and is now at Fortuna Dusseldorf. From Non-League, Kane Smith a midfielder who's at Boreham Wood who I think is good enough to play in the EFL.
Q. Which player has any superstition or quirk?
A. Alfie Cerulli, his boots, if he scores or has a good game he wears them every game. If he has a bad game, he'll chuck them and go out and buy some new ones.
Q. Where will Braintree finish?
A. Comfortably mid-table just below the play-offs.
Early Bird details released
for Promotion Final on Sunday 10 May at Wembley
The Vanarama National League has released details of the opportunity for all football fans to purchase Early Bird tickets for their Promotion Final on Sunday 10th May 2020 at Wembley Stadium connected by EE. Tickets are now on sale and will remain available as outlined below direct from Wembley Stadium Ticketing Portal. This offer is only available on-line. There is also an option for 'Print at Home' (PAH).
EARLY BIRD offer - up to and including 29th February 2020:
Seniors (Over 60): £10
Under 16: FREE **
(** 1 free U16 ticket can be ordered for each ticket sold at Adult or Senior price).
Additional tickets for Under 16 over the above allowance can be purchased at £5 each. Early Bird sales are made even more attractive as no booking fee is charged. Please be advised no ticket is refundable once purchased through the Early Bird option. Disabled seated allocation is available directly through Wembley Stadium and details are also available on-line.
WEMBLEY STADIUM TICKET PORTAL - CLICK: HERE
Notes: General Admission Ticket prices for the Promotion Final will be announced in April. Early Bird tickets will NOT be forwarded to purchasers until the two competing finalist clubs are confirmed. This will allow for ticket allocation to be made in blocks for any group of supporters of a neutral club wishing to be in the same area. Initial purchase therefore will be placed into holding blocks for the time being. In order for this to be offered, each purchaser will be required to nominate which National League member club they align themselves to or they may indicate a 'No Preference' neutral option. Supporters of the two clubs who do reach the Promotion Final and who purchase Early Bird tickets will be allocated their tickets for the correct area of the stadium when allotted to each finalist club.
Match Preview - Vanarama National League
Saturday 11 January 2020 - Braintree Town v Tonbridge Angels
Tonbridge Angels are currently 19th in the Vanarama National League South on 24 points. Their away record this season is: P 12 W 0 D 4 L 8 F 8 A 22 Points 4. Top Scorers - Joe Turner - 8, D'Sean Theobalds - 7, Tom Derry - 6. Last 4 away League results: Drew 2-2 v Maidstone United, Lost 3-0 v Dartford, Drew 1-1 v Hemel Hempstead Town, Lost 1-0 v Hungerford Town. Form last 6 games: DLDLDW.
Braintree Town are currently 17th in the Vanarama National League South on 27 points. Their home record this season is P 12 W 4 D 2 L 6 F 18 A 24 Points 14. Last 4 home League results: Lost 1-2 v Chelmsford City, Lost 0-1 v Concord Rangers, Drew 3-3 v Havant & Waterlooville, Lost 0-4 v Hampton & Richmond Borough. Form last 6 games: LDLLLL. Top Scorers - Rhys Murrell-Williamson - 5 (2 for St Albans City), Alfie Cerulli - 3, Tyler Christian-Law - 2.
Connections: After his short spell at Cressing Road, Harry Donovan moved on to the Angels in November 2019. Last meeting was on 12 October 2019 where the hosts came out victors 5-1. After 20 goalless minutes, three goals in eight minutes from Derry, Theobalds and Hession-Harris gave the away side a mountain to climb. Just past the hour Hession-Harris got his second before Adam Mills pulled one back for the Iron. Rian Bray completed the scoring in the eightieth minute.
During our visit to Darenth Avenue, I learned that former Tonbridge players included former Aston Villa and League Champion winner Ron Saunders and former Newcastle United, Arsenal and England striker Malcolm MacDonald who turned out for the Angels - at left back! This week Tonbridge have recruited Dartford striker Ban Greenhalgh to their squad.
Braintree's defeat at Dulwich Hamlet last time out now means they have dropped into the bottom six of the VNLS. With Iron without a league win in eight attempts and Tonbridge without a league win away in twelve, something has to give! C'mon The Iron!
Iron taught lesson in finishing
Early wasted chances set up emphatic Hamlet victory
Braintree were given a hard lesson in clinical finishing in front of goal at Champion Hill on Saturday where the rampant home side ran away with the game so much so that by being four goals to the good at the interval it ended the game as a contest.
This was one of the most lacklustre performances from an Iron team for many a long time and there can't be any excuses with some players clearly not up for it on the day.
It was a little ironic though the Iron could have been a couple of goals up within the first five minutes when the woodwork and home keeper Charlie Grainger twice denied them in their first attacks.
But when the unmarked Quade Taylor headed in the home side's first goal from a corner on six minutes it was all downhill for the Iron from then onwards as the home side opened up the Iron at will and showed what finishing in front of goal is all about.
On 20 and 28 minutes Shamir Mullings punished sloppy Iron defending to score a brace past keeper Michael Johnson and, in first half stoppage time, Iron conceded a fourth goal from the penalty spot by Jeffrey Monakana after a needless foul in the 18-yard area had been committed.
By then it was game over and although the Iron battled in the second half there was clearly no way back and with the home side playing at their own pace two further late goals from substitute Danny Mills (80th minute) and a superb strike by Monakana (86th minute) ensured home fans in the bumper 2,730 crowd went home happy with their side's performance.
For the Iron, if they are to stem their recent bad run and avoid a slipping towards a relegation battle in the weeks ahead, they will need to improve considerably over this performance and start showing the lethal finishing lessons learnt in this match from the free-flowing home side.
Next Saturday's home game against another struggling side, Tonbridge Angels, is a game in which Iron will be looking to respond positively.
Braintree Town: Johnson; Kirkpatrick, Stone (29 Frimpong), Sheehan, Matsuzaka; Orcan (Barker 75), Gardiner-Smith, Christian-Law, Chiedozie; Oyinsan, Murrell-Williamson. Subs unused: Hinds-Cadette, Papple, Skubich. Referee: Ross Martin.
Match Preview - Saturday 4 January 2020
Vanarama National League - Dulwich Hamlet v Braintree Town
Dulwich Hamlet are currently 16th in the Vanarama National League South on 25 points. Their home record this season is: P 10 W 2 D 3 L 5 F 12 A 16 Points 9. Last 4 home League games: Lost 1-2 v Hampton & Richmond Borough, Drew 1-1 v Dartford, Lost 0-1 v Billericay Town, Lost 1-3 v Bath City. Top scorers: Danny Mills - 12 Ade Yussuf - 6 (2 for Tonbridge A), David Ijaha & Dylan Kearney - 4. Form last 6 games: DLWLLW.
Braintree Town are currently 15th in the Vanarama National League on 27 points. Away record: P 12 W 4 D 1 L 7 F 18 A 27 Points 13. Last 4 away League games: Lost 4-1 v Chelmsford City, Lost 1-0 v Slough Town, Lost 6-2 v Welling United, Won 0-3 v Hemel Hempstead Town. Top scorers: Rhys Murrell-Williamson (2 goals for St Albans City) - 5, Alfie Cerulli - 3. Form last 6 games: LLDLLL.
Last meeting at Cressing Road was on 7 September 2019 when the Iron triumphed by two goals to one. Dulwich took the lead on 19 minutes; a free kick 30 yards out was sent into the box where top scorer Mills had time to chest the ball down and shoot past Johnson. Braintree made a quick start to the second half and although Akinwande thought he had levelled, he was ruled offside. The next attack though saw Ade Cole stride forward to blaze in a powerful strike high into the net giving the keeper no chance. The Iron grabbed the winner on 77 minutes; Coker had a shot blocked, but with the blocking player down injured, Akinwande crossed the ball back in to the box where Cerulli was left unmarked to guide home a simple header. Dulwich made a bright start to the season winning their first three games, two of which came at home. They have not won at home in the League since the 2-1 victory over St Albans City on 10 August 2019. With an improved showing against Chelmsford City last time out, Iron will be heading to Champion Hill hoping to compound their hosts to more home misery.
Disputed penalty decision costs Iron
New look Braintree continue to improve
A disputed penalty 11 minutes from time for the visitors saw them return home with all three points in this highly entertaining local derby at the Cressing Road Stadium on New Year's Day.
The controversy centred on a 79th minute tackle from the Iron's Stevie Sheehan on a City forward which referee Ben Atkinson deemed to be a spot kick and Shaun Jeffers duly converted.
It was an unlucky outcome for the Iron who had battled hard throughout the game coming back from conceding a Tom Knowles goal a minute into the second half with their pressure paying off and Rhys Murrell-Williamson netting a tremendous equaliser on 70 minutes.
Both sides had chances throughout the afternoon to score with fit again first Iron keeper Michael Johnson pulling off three excellent first half saves while at the other end new Iron striker Josh Oyinson and Jordan Chiedozie both saw their efforts scrambled clear.
Having scored the opening goal so early in the second half the visitors held the upper hand for a spell but full credit to Iron they came back strongly and forced the visitors into some desperate defending with Oyinson and Murrell-Williamson also narrowly missing the target.
Having gone behind a second time late on, Iron pushed forward and a superb right cross from Murrell-Williamson brushed the far post with three Iron players so close to getting that final touch on the ball to score.
Iron, who were without the injured Brendan Ocran, Cameron Green and Christian Frimpong, had to draft midfielder Lucas Kirkpatrick in a right-back and 18 year-old Academy player Frankie Stone at left-back as emergency replacements and both did exceedingly well against much more experienced players.
"They both did great and particularly young Frankie who was thrown in at the deep end on his first start for the team," said manager George Borg. "In fact all the players were tremendous and I felt we should have actually won the game."
"We had the better of the first half, were caught cold with sloppy marking at the start of the second half to concede a goal, but showed fantastic character to come back and equalise," he continued. "We then looked strong and far more dangerous going forward before conceding what was not a penalty - in my view.
"I thought their player dived when tackled and the referee was wrong to give them the spot kick," he said.
"I don't like criticising officials, especially after all the good work our boys did," he added. "Overall I am pleased with our performance and we can only get better."
Next up for the Iron is an away match at Dulwich Hamlet on Saturday, 4th January, with kick off 3pm.
Braintree Town: Johnson; Kirkpatrick, Stone, Sheehan, Matsuzaka; Law, Gardner-Smith, Chiedozie, Murrell-Williamson; Oyinson, Cerulli (30 Barker) . Unused subs: Skubich, Hinds-Cadette, Brzozowski. Attendance: 971.
Match Preview - Vanarama National League
Wednesday 1 January 2020 - Braintree Town v Chelmsford City
Chelmsford City are currently 12th in the Vanarama National League South on 29 points. Their away record this season is: P 11 W 2 D 3 L 6 F 13 A 19 Points 9. Top Scorers - Shaun Jeffers - 10, Sam Higgins - 8, Robbie Simpson & Chris Whelpdale - 5. Last 4 away League results: Drew 1-1 v Billericay Town, Lost 2-1 v Chippenham Town, Drew 1-1 v St Albans City, Lost 2-1 v Slough Town. Form last 6 games: DWWLWD.
Braintree Town are currently 14th in the Vanarama National League South on 27 points. Their home record this season is P 11 W 4 D 2 L 5 F 17 A 22 Points 14. Last 4 home League results: Lost 0-1 v Concord Rangers, Drew 3-3 v Havant & Waterlooville, Lost 0-4 v Hampton & Richmond Borough, Lost 0-3 v Hungerford Town. Form last 6 games: LLLDLL. Top Scorers - Rhys Murrell-Williamson - 4 (2 for St Albans City), Alfie Cerulli - 3, Tyler Christian-Law - 2
Cressing Road will no doubt be hosting its biggest crowd of the season so far as the teams meet again six days on from their Boxing Day encounter at the Melbourne Stadium. That 4-1 victory for the Clarets took them above Braintree in the League. The return fixture gives the Iron side a chance to put the record straight and go back above their county neighbours.
Braintree rue missed chances
Borg set to strengthen up front
Despite a battling display by the Iron in a game they more than held their own for most of the contest it was a goal 14 minutes from time by the Canvey Island based-team that saw them run out victors.
After Boxing Day's defeat at Chelmsford City, the Braintree players restored some pride and faith for supporters in their performance against the play-off hopefuls.
Although the visitors also had scoring chances in the game full credit to the Iron players who played better and had they a proven goal scorer up front they would certainly have taken a point from the game.
The one bright spot of the afternoon for Iron fans in the 489 crowd was the home debut of midfielder Jacob Gardner-Smith, on loan from Wycombe Wanderers, who worked hard and showed great tenacity and good passing trying to set his forwards up towards goal.
The other outstanding performance was again from central defender Dan Matsuzaka and the whole defence played well even if it meant a couple of goal line clearances to keep the visitors at bay.
With chances going begging at both ends it was the visitors who finally found the net on 76 minutes when James Blanchfield skipped through the Iron back line to drive the ball home with a fierce, low shot.
Iron's main chances came from young Alfie Cerulli and Rhys Murrell-Williamson while the hard working Gardner-Smith and Lucas Kirkpatrick in midfield tried to get the ball forward and when they did down the right wing with Williamson they always looked threatening, causing the visitors' rearguard a few anxious moments.
Even going a goal behind late on the Iron continued to push forward for an equaliser and Gardner-Smith and Cerulli both went close.
With the Iron manager George Borg hoping to have on board for the next match at home to Chelmsford City on New Year's Day (kick off 3pm) a new striker there is renewed optimism in the Iron camp.
"I thought we did better in this game and really tried to force the game on the visitors and we did create chances and hopefully with the presence of a striker up front we will be able to take those chances," said the manager. "We worked hard and could well have ended with a point against an in-form side."
Braintree Town: Brzozowski; Orcan, Green (81 Stone), Frimpong (61 Chiedozie), Sheehan; Matsuzaka, Law, Kirkpatrick, Gardner-Smith; Cerulli, Murrell-Williamson. Unused subs: Johnson, Barker, Hinds-Cadette. Attendance: 489. Referee: Aji Ajibola.
Next up is the return against Chemsford City on New Year's Day, with kick-off at 3pm.
Match Preview - Vanarama National League
Saturday 28 December 2019 - Braintree Town v Concord Rangers
Concord Rangers are currently 7th in the Vanarama National League South on 30 points. Their away record this season is: P 10 W 3 D 1 L 6 F 12 A 18 Points 10. Top Scorers - Joel Nouble & Kreshnic Krasniqi- 7, Decarrey Sheriff & Aron Pollock - 6. Last 4 away League results: Won 0-1 v Dartford, Lost 3-0 v Wealdstone, Lost 3-1 v Bath City, Lost 2-1 v Havant & Waterlooville. Form last 6 games: WLWWWW.
Braintree Town are currently 14th in the Vanarama National League South on 27 points. Their home record this season is P 10 W 4 D 2 L 4 F 17 A 21 Points 14. Last 4 home League results: Drew 3-3 v Havant & Waterlooville, Lost 0-4 v Hampton & Richmond Borough, Lost 0-3 v Hungerford Town, Drew 1-1 v Maidstone United. Form last 6 games: LLLLDL. Top Scorers - Rhys Murrell-Williamson - 4 (2 for St Albans City), Alfie Cerulli - 3, Christian-Law - 2.
The two sides met at Thames Road on 3 September 2019 and played out a 2-2 draw. Jason Banton gave the Iron the lead with a long range effort on 38 minutes, before Jack Cawley was shown a red card for the hosts with three minutes left in the first half. Despite being down to ten men, the home side made a good game of it and just short of the hour levelled the scores through Decarrey Sheriff. The Iron were front again through Ade Cole with twenty minutes left to play, but the Beachboys were level again with three minutes eft of normal time through Aron Pollock.
The last meeting at Cressing Road came in our surge towards the play-offs on 14 April 2018. Concord went ahead on 75 minutes through Adam Topley, but the Iron fought back with two goals in the final three minutes from Dan Thompson and Luke Allen.
Iron will be looking to put the defeat on Boxing Day behind them as they look to get a result against a resurgent Canvey Island side who enjoyed a Boxing Day victory over Billericay.
City prevail on Boxing Day
Fourth goal the turning point
Iron travelled to Melbourne Park on Boxing Day, encouraged by their dramatic late equaliser against Havant & Waterlooville the Saturday before. There was one change to the starting line-up, with loan signing Jacob Gardiner-Smith replacing Charley Barker.
After a morning of persistent rain, conditions on the Melbourne pitch were difficult underfoot. Chances were spurned at both ends. For City, Jonny Giles acrobatically fired over the crossbar, while Kirkpatrick's effort was turned around the post by Walker. From the resulting corner Stevie Sheehan's header went narrowly over.
For the most part Iron looked fairly untroubled by the home side, but with just four minutes to go until the break Robbie Simpson made the breakthrough for City. Four minutes later Chris Whelpdale burst through a static defence to power a far post header into the net and give the home side a two goal half time lead.
Iron needed to make a positive start to the second half to get back into the game, and after 50 minutes they did just that. The revitalised Rhys Murrell-Willianson cut inside down the left flank before letting in Christian Tyler-Law who slipped the ball past the onrushing keeper from a tight angle.
For a while it looked as though Iron could draw back level but the crucial next goal went to City, with Whelpdale's drive taking a wicked deflection off Sheehan to deceive Brzozowski. Iron survived a couple of scares when the referee ruled out two goals. The final goal of the day came with five minutes to go. Shaun Jeffers converted a penalty, with Lucas Kirkpatrick receiving a yellow card for his part in conceding it.
Brainstree at Chelmsford: Brzozowski, Ocran, Green, Frimpong (Chiedozie), Sheehan, Matsuzaka, Christian-Law, Kirkpatrick, Murrell-Williamson, Cerulli, Gardiner-Smith. Unused subs: Hinds-Cadette, Stone, Baker. Att 919.
Iron now look forward to their next holiday game. Concord Rangers come to Cressing Road on Saturday, kick off
at 3.00 pm.
George strengthens his midfield
22-year old joins from Wycombe
George Borg has continued his improvements to the first team squad with the addition of midfielder Jacob Gardiner-Smith from League One side Wycombe Wanderers on a three month loan. The 22-year old agreed a one-year deal with Wycombe Wanderers after doing well as a trialist in pre-season. Having started his career in Russia with Zenit St Petersburg, Jacob returned to England with Hendon and St Albans City before trailing at Adams Park.
Match Preview - Thursday 26 December 2019
Chelmsford City v Braintree Town
Chelmsford City are currently 12th in the Vanarama National League South on 25 points. Last season they finished 4th on 72 points. In the play-offs, they lost 3-2 in the semi-final to Welling United. Their home record this season is: P 11 W 4 D 5 L 2 F 24 A 19 Points 17. Last 4 home League games: Won 4-1 v Hungerford Town, Lost 2-6 v Oxford City, Drew 2-2 v Dorking Wanderers, Drew 1-1 v Dulwich Hamlet. Top scorers: Shaun Jeffers - 9, Sam Higgins - 8, Robbie Simpson - 4. Form last 6 games: WDWWWL.
Braintree Town are currently 10th in the Vanarama National League on 27 points. Away record: P 11 W 4 D 1 L 6 F 17 A 23 Points 13. Last 4 away League games: Lost 1-0 v Slough Town, Lost 6-2 v Welling United, Won 0-3 v Hemel Hempstead Town, Lost 3-0 v Weymouth. Top scorers: Rhys Murrell-Williamson (2 goals for St Albans City) - 4, Alfie Cerulli - 3. Form last 6 games: WLLLLD.
Connections: The Clarets squad includes former Iron players Chez Isaac and former loanee Ollie Muldoon. Last meeting at the Melbourne Community Stadium was on 1 January 2018. The two sides had met at Cressing Road on Boxing Day 2017 and two evenly contested games both ended 2-2. Phil Roberts gave the Iron the lead in the 35th minute. A Billy Crook free kick, taken just inside his own half, was hit long into the penalty area; Joe Ellul stretched out a leg as the ball dropped diverting it to his left where Roberts was able to side foot home into an unguarded goal. Chelmsford equalised three minutes before half time; a long throw into the area was deemed to have been handled by a Braintree defender and Kudus Oyenuga tucked away the resulting penalty sending McDonald the wrong way. Just past the hour the home side took the lead from another long throw-in. Two attempted clearances from the Iron defence saw the ball end up at the feet of Shaun Batt on the edge of the box, he hit a low first time shot into the bottom right corner of McDonald's net. The Iron came back to earn a point with seven minutes remaining. Muleba sent Barrington away down the right flank, his pace took him beyond a chasing Claret's defender and with former Iron keeper Sam Beasant hurtling off his line to try and intercept, Barrington released the ball to Roman Michael-Percil who had the simple task of running the ball home into an empty net. Highlights can be found here: https://www.thenationalleague.org.uk/archive6517-match-info/match-centre/1-2850676. This promises to be another close encounter although City's recent form would suggest otherwise; the Borg revolution saw the Iron fight back in stoppage time last time out to earn a creditable draw against title favourites Havant and Waterlooville. As we all know, on derby days, the form book goes out of the window.
Rhys brace secures Iron point
Braintree and Havant share six goals
A sensational 30 yard free-kick from Rhys Murrell-Williamson five minutes into added on stoppage time deservedly gave the Iron a share of the points at Cressing Road on Saturday in a highly entertaining game.
With the 90 minutes up it looked as if manager George Borg in his home debut game since being reappointed two weeks ago was going to end in a defeat as the Hawks had snatched what many thought was the winning goal on 89 minutes through Alfie Rutherford.
But with this newly installed 'never say die' attitude amongst the Iron players from the experienced Borg they surged forward and earned themselves a free-kick out on the right outside the visitors' area.
Up stepped Williamson to brilliantly strike the ball into the top far corner of the net giving keeper Ross Warner no chance and leading to wild celebrations amongst the Iron players.
With the Iron starting the game with three new signings on the field - on loan young QPR keeper Marcin Brzozowsk, in for the injured Michael Johnson, defenders Brendan Ocran and Steve Sheehan - and two more on the bench this was certainly a vastly improved home performance after the last one when losing 0-4 to Hampton & Richmond.
With Borg instilling stronger discipline, particularly in defence, there was more organisation in the side against a vastly more experienced visitors who are full-time and have several former Football League players in their ranks.
The Iron took the lead on 23 minutes when Williamson surged down the left wing before crossing a low ball into the Hawks' area where at the far post young Alfie Cerulli slid the ball into the net.
The visitors quickly responded and Iron full-back Cameron Green had to scope the ball off the goal line and twice Brzozowski had to pull of excellent saves to keep his side in the lead.
The visitors though equalised on 36 minutes when Jonah Ayunga fired in a terrific shot but still the young Iron refused to surrender territory and the sides went in level at the break.
It was the visitors though who took the lead on 64 minutes when Josh Taylor beat two home defenders to drive a 25-yard shot that gave the Iron keeper no chance.
With end to end football in the final few minutes there was excitement and goals at both ends.
First on 89 minutes Hawks' substitute Alfie Rutherford powered home what looked to the winning goal but again the Iron players, re-energised under Borg, kept pushing forward for a possible equaliser in added on time.
They were rewarded when Williamson, having been fouled, stepped up and sent in an unstoppable free-kick much to the delight of team mates and Iron fans in the 430 crowd.
Borg said: "I'm absolutely delighted for the players who all put in such a magnificent shift and I felt we fully deserved to get a point.
"We know they have a big budget with loads of quality and more experienced players and are full-time looking to be champions but I told my boys to go out there, enjoy it, work for each other and never give us which has always been my motto," he declared. "They did just that and it was tremendous when you look how young and inexperienced side we are and none of them never stopped working."
Borg, who aims to bring in at least three more players next week to further boost his squad, added: "We've not even had time to work on set pieces yet in training with so many players coming and going but we are on the right track."
Braintree Town: Brzozowski; Ocran, Green, Sheehan, Matsuzaka, Frimpong; Law, Kirkpatrick, Barker (64 Chiedozie); Williamson, Cerulli. Unused subs: Hinds-Cadette, Stone, Skubich. Referee: Jack Packham.
Next up for the Iron is the away local derby match at Chelmsford City on Boxing Day, kick off 3pm.
Borg adds keeper cover
R's keeper joins through to January
George Borg has completed his third signing of the day by adding 21-year old goalkeeper Marcin Brzozowski on a sort term loan from Queen's Park Rangers.
George Borg said: "MJ's been brilliant since I've been at the Club and we all know he's won us games on his own! He remains my number one, but he's been playing with a bit of an injury for a week or two now. Bringing Marcin to the Club will allow MJ a bit of a breather to fully recover. My thanks go to QPR for helping us this close to Christmas."
Match Preview - Vanarama National League South
in association with LV BET
Saturday 21 December 2019 - Braintree Town v Havant & Waterlooville
Havant & Waterlooville are currently 3rd in the Vanarama National League South on 35 points. Their away record this season is: P 7 W 5 D 2 L 0 F 20 A 9 Points 17. Top Scorers- Jonah Ayunga - 12, Alfie Rutherford & Danny Kedwell - 7
Last 4 away League results: Won 1-3 v St Albans City, Won 1-4 v Wealdstone, Drew 2-2 v Maidstone United, Won 0-2 v Oxford City. Form last 6 games: WWWDWL.
Braintree Town are currently 10th in the Vanarama National League South on 26 points. Their home record this season is P 9 W 4 D 1 L 4 F 14 A 18 Points 13. Last 4 home League results: Lost 0-4 v Hampton & Richmond Borough, Lost 0-3 v Hungerford Town, Drew 1-1 v Maidstone United, Won 1-0 v Oxford City. Form last 6 games: LWLLLL. Top Scorers - Femi Akinwande (now Billericay Town) - 6, Tom Richardson (left the club), Jason Banton (Now Romford) & Ade Cole - 5.
The teams met just over three months ago on 14 September 2019 which saw the Hawks previously unbeaten home record fall to Iron. Tom Richardson gave the Iron an early lead in the fourth minute before Brad Tarbuck equalised for the hosts on seventeen minutes. Iron forged ahead again with a second goal for Richardson six minutes short of half time. The points were wrapped up in the final stages of the game with a goal from Femi Akinwande.
The last meeting at Cressing Road was on 18 August 2018 when the two promoted clubs played out a high scoring encounter. Rory Williams put the visitors ahead with just two minutes on the clock. Reece Grant notched his first of the afternoon just past the half hour mark before Mo Bettamer added a second shortly after. The Hawks equalised on the stroke of half time through Jordan Rose.
With just under twenty minutes remaining, Grant scored his second of the day to put the home side back in front. With six minutes of added time the Hawks managed to score in the 94th and 96th minutes through Kabamba and Rutherford and take three points back to Hampshire.
Ironically, the two sides meet again with Havant unbeaten in the League on their travels, although they did succumb last time out in the F A Trophy down the road at Chelmsford City.
There have been several changes in playing staff and a dip in form for the Iron since that game in September. No doubt George will be parading some new faces and instilling a new team spirit to upset the odds once again.
More changes to Borg's Iron squad
Striker returns plus changes to Iron defence
Iron boss George Borg continues to work on his squad. Joining the Club are 25-year old striker Jordan Chiedozie and 26 year old defender Gavin Hinds-Cadette.
Jordan Chiedozie has already played for the Club having made five appearances for Braintree on loan from Cambridge United during the 2015-2016 season, scoring twice. He started his career at AFC Bournemouth before moving on to Concord Rangers and then Cambridge United in 2014. Returned to Concord in 2016 and then spent a season at Margate before spending last season at Chelmsford.
Gavin Hinds-Cadette is an attacking right wing back. He started his career at Hoddesdon before moving on to Aylesbury United and then Berkhamsted.
Both are eligible for tomorrow's match with Havant & Waterlooville. Released by the Club are defenders Michael Clark and Jack James who we thank for their efforts and wish well in the future.
Borg brings in Sheehan
central defender added to Iron squad
Braintree Town manager George Borg has added another new face to his squad with the addition of 29-year old centre half Stevie Sheehan from East Thurrock United. Stevie has had two bouts with the Rookery Hill club, either side of two years at Canvey Island. The second spell with the Corringham based club was in the National League South last season.
Iron boss George Borg was delighted with his latest addition: "Stevie's the sort of player we need to improve our defence. He'll be a big presence in the side and also in our dressing room."
George Borg makes changes
striker in and out - more to follow
George is using the current two week break from action to review the squad. Dipo Akinyemi has been released to sign for, we understand, Welling United. George has already signed a replacement and we are currently awaiting confirmation before making a further announcement. Further signings are expected over the next seven-ten days. Watch this space!