Well that, was buttock gripping tension, drama and excitement, the best of professional sport. But enough of the Twenty20 finals day. As for us, we had to be patient but ended up winning a touch cosily, although in the early stages, we lacked the zip in our play to cause problems for the Barcelona of Essex. However, we re-discovered our pace to go forward in numbers and the quality of football was very good at times in another decent game. Difficult to break down a big physical side from the small town in Bocking. Their two centre halves Bailey-Dennis and Paine, were just like bouncers from their native county, hideous to look at, hard to pass.
3-1 at the break, flattered us despite having more possession. We took most of our chances, which is a lovely change. We were guilty of some sloppy, slow predictable passing, Osana taking over when Edward left off in Mansfield. However, take a bow AMS who vajazzled the Essex boys, class performer, a long way ahead of the others on the park. His movement and first touch were a joy to watch. Who would have thought any good could have come out of a horrible little dive like Ilkeston? Fully deserved his two goals, shame he can’t take penalties either.
Braintree to be fair didn’t time waste too much, weren’t negative and gave it a go, never stopped working. Broke well in the first half and caused us a few problems. Their good start appears not to be a fluke and should stay up. Delightful as ever, to see our former loanee Benjamin Wright play. He traps the ball further than he can kick it. A common assault on poor old Adam Watkins, should have seen red, as a clueless referee only produced a yellow. We won so it doesn’t matter, but where do they get, these officials from? More importantly, can they bugger off whence they came.
Second half, we were in control, Watkins helped the performance replacing Lawless maybe still not completely well from his illness, we played some pleasing one touch football between Crow, AMS, Willmott and Watkins. Although we didn’t create that many chances, when we did threat, McDonald in goal made some good saves.
Once again, we were thankful for the Oak Road woodwork ( it’s my player of the season so far), saving Paine’s bullet header, from a corner given when Tyler cleanly got nowhere near the ball from Wright’s centre. Had we been 3-2, it might have been a different story.
A good start to ‘er indoors joining the coaching staff. We might not be able to sign that elusive quick, mobile target man ( maybe that should have been sorted in June rather in the dying days of late August deadline, just a wild thought) but we do have a poisoned dwarf to put the cones out.
Brabin changed the formation back to 4-4-2. Tyler in goal, back four Osana, Antwi, Beckwith and Howells. Midfield of Dance, Keane ( off to Stevenage, according to the mouthy know nothing on my row), Lawless and Willmott. AMS and Crow up top. Kissock the Rab C.Nesbitt lookalike ( sorry Barry for nicking your line) on the bench. He’s a good little player and gives us another option in a squad full of talented creative players. My only slight gripe would be, he is a vey similar player to Watkins and would both be able to play in the same team? Sad to see Godfrey depart on loan, although it’s good for him and Dan Walker to get some regular football. Four months in Southport? Good luck, chaps. You can have my share.
It took a whole 69 seconds for Thomas, their otherwise impressive left back, to waste time at a throw in. We started rather pedistrianly , in the main, the distribution between the back four to the midfield was far too slow. with Braintree playing a very narrow 4-4-2, it enabled them to file back and keep their shape. Although Im not the biggest fan of 4-3-3 ( away it works, but don’t like it for every game), Davis their captain was able to break past Keane and Lawless, with little protection to our somewhat brittle defence, they ahve done OK so far, but as a group of four don’t fill enormous confidence. It’s fortunate that the clubs in this league who have a massive inferioty complex when they play us. As, if they were bolder and went for it, they may have more joy .
Once again, don’t think we used the width well enough at times, although Dance trotted down the right, his centre for AMS was too long, Willmott did well to keep the ball and slap a cross in , which Dance failed to get a touch at the back stick.
A simple worked move gave Braintree their first sniff. Marks flicked on to Wright on his left foot, the attempt sailed wide of Tyler’s left post. Braintree exploited the gap between our defence and midfield, which probably wouldn’t have happened playing an extra man in midfield, Wright on the right shifted the ball to Davis to hit the ball against Osana and bounce wide.
In same ways, it was against the run of play when we took the lead, a lovely slide rule pass by Dance, gave AMS the opporunity to run through and finsih across McDonald with aplomb. Willmott ( the owner at FGR needs to sell an awful lot more veggie burgers , if they wish to sign him), exploited Peters down our left, a low cross, evaded AMS but Crow should have done an awful lot better than poke wide.
Dance pulled down by Thomas, although the set piece was cleared, Lawless chested down and played a clever reverse pass for Klane to send a curler wide. Reason was allowed to wander down the left wing, Osana and the rest of the defence waiting for a whistle which never came, Keane alert to the danger . A clear push by Wright by Osano, went unpunished. Wright allowed to continue his run, swept in a cross from an acute angle, which was deflected in off Marks, our defending on skid row again.
A neat turn by Crow, gave Willmott another run at Peters, Howells overlapping well but his centre was too high. Efforts on goal were few and far between, as Dance’s crossing was unusally somewhat hit and miss, prouduced a quality delivery, for Crow to loop a header over.
As the game approachd the break, we were starting to get ourpassing agme toghether, with AMS the fulcrum of our play, good work between he and Lawless, a pass through found Crow in the box, he looked to round the keeper, and cleverly waited for the contact ( which didn’t look much) and he colloapsed in a heap. As he was going away from goal, the booking of McDonald was corect. Up stepped AMS to hit his penalty too straight and a nice height to save, it was lucky the rebound fell kindly and AMS tucked home.
We went further ahead, the pick of the goals, Howells overlapping on Willmott( they combine well as they always tend to, they have an extremely good understanding, Orange boots himself played Howells through to keep his composure to slot the ball under the advancing keeper. Not long before Howells was fouled by a late challange by Davis. With the referee and linesman in close attendance, no caution was in the offering. AMS was caught late by an equally late challange by Paine, play on signalled the ref, Lawless pushed the ball through to Crow only to be denied by a last gaps block by Thomas.
The interval brought about the arrival of Watkins for Lawless. With the lead, we put in a more controlled performance, looked more comfortable, playing some very good one touch approach play. Although Braintree were always a threat on the break, as Yiadom proved firing wide.
Osana, on one of his trademark rhino charges, shrugged aside Reason, stepped past Davis, only to fire narrowly wide. dance collecting an over hit cross, centred for Crow to nod wide, AMS again beat Peters before shooting wide as well. Crow seemed hell bent to grab a goal himself, slamming a drive into Thomas, but Dance was free to his right. Part of our good play, was helped by Tyler throwing the ball out and not automatically looking to hoof the ball onto our non existant aerial threat.
On came the wonderfully named Chibuzor Chilaka for Marks, he caused the odd dodgy moment with his direct approach and pace, he should have done better with his first touch , not getting much power after seizing on Yiadom’s right wing cross.
Watkins displayed no little skill holding off Davis, running past Bailey-Dennis , only to see Dance denied. Reason got the better of Keane, squaring to Thomas to drive wide of the far post.
Keane felled by Bailey -Dennis, Willmott’s whipped free kick, was beaten away by a super flying save from mcDonald. At this stage , came a heavy shower, wetter than an otter’s pocket, Braintree who looked a beaten side, had a second wind. Wright’s cross , was adjudged to have been palmed away by Tyler. He didn’t look to have got close. Wright’s corner was headed against the upright by Paine. Then Tyler had to alert to sweep up Reason’s pass aimed for the perserving Chilaka.
AMS created another chance for Dance, bit too slow to strike, and the grey shirts surrounded him. Willmott running down the left, centred for Watkins, who unfortuantely got the ball stuck in his legs and Quinton cleared. Whilst there were cameo appearances from O’Connor and Kissock, neither had time to make an impact.
All in all, completes a good week’s work. Apart from the draw aginst Forest Green , we have got the results I hoped for. With a very winnable game at Woking, we should be in a good League position by Tuesday evening. Whilst some of our performances have been hit and miss at times, the numerous changes through unavailability haven’t helped, the team is starting to gel together , there’s potential there, if well hidden on occasions and hopefully a further improvement when some of the injured players return. By the end of September , after playing a number of former League clubs, the picture will emerge whether we can challange for pole position or fall slightly short again.
Mark Tyler 6.5 , Curtis Osana 5.5 , Will Antwi 6.5 Dean Beckwith 6, , Jake Howells 7.5, James Dance 6( John Paul Kissock), Keith Keane 7, Alex Lawless 6.75( Adam Watkins 7.5) , Robbie Willmott 8, Amari Morgan-Smith 9 , Danny Crow 7( Aaron O’Connor).
Subs not used – Edward Asafu-Adjye, Kevin Pilkington . Booked – AMS.
Braintree – McDonald, Peters, Thomas, Paine, Bailey-Dennis, Symons (O’Connor ), Reason, Davis, Yiadom, Marks (Chilaka), Wright (Quinton ). Booked: McDonald, Peters, Wright