Most memorable matches Apr 17, 2020 13:49:37 GMT
Post by ronfosker on Apr 17, 2020 13:49:37 GMT
For those of you not able to see the Braintree and Witham Times, I thought I'd share this. Those who did read it will have spotted that it ended rather abruptly. It got chopped from the bottom and lost the final eight paragraphs, which are restored here.
While sport continues to be locked down, we asked Ron Fosker to choose his five most memorable Braintree Town matches.
The current truncated season was my 18th covering Braintree Town, during which time I have reported on 360 matches, mostly at home, though enlivened by the occasional away trip.
There have been plenty of ups and downs in that time, with defeats by lower-league teams in the cups a regular feature of the latter.
But there were more ups than downs, and even a couple of the downs were memorable, as you’ll see below
5 Braintree 0 Grimsby 2 (aggregate 1-2). National League semi-final play-off 2016, May 8, 2016
This has to go down as memorable even though it ended in defeat. To be 1-0 up, five-sixths of the way through the semi-final and within 15 minutes of Wembley can’t fail to be a highlight.
To finish third in the National League is a pinnacle no one could have foreseen just a few years earlier, and certainly not 12 years before when Braintree were second from bottom of the Ryman League.
It followed three increasingly successful years under Alan Devonshire as Iron moved from 12th to ninth to sixth before a relatively disappointing 14th in Devonshire’s last season (and how ironic that ‘relatively’ looks now).
After Devonshire departed, Danny Cowley took over and instilled a work ethic, confidence and flair that knocked off some rough edges and produced a consistent and very watchable team.
They were the form team in the semi-final, having taken 13 points from their last six matches, whereas Grimsby had somewhat run out of steam with only five points from their last six.
But of course, they were the ‘big’ team, not long down from the Football League, whose supporters made up around threequarters of Cressing Road’s biggest crowd for more than 60 years. One got the feeling they regarded it as their right to be where they were while Iron were still a bit dazed as to what they were doing there.
Braintree had been impressive in the first leg, winning 1-0 at Blundell Park in a match where they had produced some attractive football. Although Grimsby had most of the possession, it was Iron who had more corners and more shots on target.
The second leg was a different proposition. The visitors were the more menacing side from the start and as the match wore on, there were periods when the ball hardly ever came out of the home half. It wasn’t clear whether Cowley had opted for a defensive operation or whether Braintree were overawed by the occasion, or maybe Grimsby were just that bit better.
Iron’s defence repelled attack after attack but there was always the feeling that the dam would burst.
Iron managed to hold out until the 165th minute of the two-leg tie when they were undone by a penalty.
It was a pointless one to give away, Mark Phillips tugging at centre back Josh Gowling’s shirt as the ball came over from a corner – right in front of the referee’s nose.
Phillips then compounded his felony by getting himself sent off for two ill-advised tackles and Braintree found themselves facing 30 minutes of extra time with ten men.
They almost achieved the impossible and lasted 20 more minutes before a ball was swung over from the right, Omar Bogle rose higher than everyone else, planted his header in the back of the net and the dream was over
4 Braintree 7 Eastbourne 0, FA Cup first round November 5, 2016
It will come as no surprise that this was the only time I saw Braintree score seven goals.
And it came completely out of the blue.
True, Eastbourne were in the division below them although that has never stopped Braintree giving woeful performances in the past.
But Iron were 22nd in the table (where they would finish) and had been in a bad run, surrendering meekly to an 85th minute goal at home the week before and losing 6-1 the week before that.
This time they just couldn’t stop scoring.
Against a team that had gone six matches without defeat, they scored in the sixth, 12th and 21st minutes.
Supporters were not able to relax, knowing their team’s propensity to mess things up when in a good position and for the rest of the half and the first 23 minutes of the second half Eastbourne mounted some threatening flurries that could have tipped the game into dangerous territory.
But once goal number four went in it was time to sit back and enjoy. And enjoy some more.
Centre back George Elokobi, on loan from Colchester, scored a hat-trick, his only goals for the club, while Lee Barnard scored twice and Monty Patterson and Simeon Akinola once each.
Aside from the score the match made history as the only time Braintree have won a first round FA Cup match. They went on to lose at Millwall, where the 5-2 scoreline was not a fair reflection of the contribution they made to the match.
3 Southport 0 Braintree 4, April 2, 2014
I’ve included this one as it’s the furthest I’ve travelled to watch Braintree in action.
Actually it was only an hour’s drive as I was staying with my daughter in Lancaster that week. When I saw that it coincided with the match at Southport, I couldn’t resist popping along.
In addition to its location, the match was memorable in its own way. A 4-0 away victory doesn’t come along very often, although they seemed to enjoy playing at the Merseyrail Community Stadium. They had won 4-0 there two years earlier, 2-0 the previous season and went on to win 2-0 again the next season.
The match was in the middle of a busy week of travel for the team as they effectively went on a tour of some of their outermost venues, Gateshead on the Saturday, Southport on the Tuesday and Halifax the following Saturday.
There were, I think, 12 Iron supporters at the match and it was the first time I’d seen a team go over at the end and shake hands with all of them personally.
Diehard supporters Gill and Steve Archer had made a week of it and attended all three matches while taking in some local beauty spots in between.
The game didn’t really come to life until the second half.
Sean Marks had put Braintree into the lead in the first half with a poacher’s goal after six minutes but the teams were evenly matched for the rest of the half.
Braintree took control in the second half with goals from Dan Holman and James Mulley in the sixth and 15th minute of the half and Holman completed the scoring with a cracking shot from outside the area.
The downside was that I faced another hour’s drive back to Lancaster and then had to write up the report that night to meet the paper’s Wednesday deadline. I crawled in to bed after midnight more than a little weary.
2 Chelmsford 0 Braintree 2, April 17, 2006
What better way can there be to win a league title than on your closest rivals’ ground?
This win, on Easter Monday, put Braintree beyond reach at the top of the Ryman Premier.
The match itself was nothing special. Two goals within two minutes in the first half from James Hawes and Eugene Ofori gave Iron a half-time lead that could have been more. In the second half, the home side came at them but a stiff rearguard action, with the superb centre-back pairing of Ollie Adedeji and Paul Lorraine at the heart of it, kept them at bay.
It was the scenes of joy at the end that made it most memorable. The players joined hands to form a long line that repeatedly ran and dived towards the fans at the away end.
Afterwards a disgruntled Chelmsford supporter shouted ‘You’ll be straight back down next year’ as the team filed off. Not quite. The next year Braintree finished third in the Conference South.
1 Luton Town 2 Braintree 3, April 12, 2014
This surely was their finest hour - quite literally. They beat the eventual champions after playing for an hour with ten men.
Nearly 10,000 Lutonians had crammed into Kenilworth Road to see their team clinch the title. All that was needed was a win over the upstarts from Essex and the trophy, sitting in the stand, would have been theirs.
But they had not studied their history books. Braintree enjoy spoiling promotion parties – they had done it to Mansfield the previous season – and they turned in a performance that can only be described as heroic.
This was another match that featured a towering performance at the heart of the defence, this time from Dean Wells and Alan Massey, especially after Luton had pulled the score back to 3-2 and appeared to have the momentum to take something from the game.
But the drama had come earlier.
Iron shocked their hosts by taking the lead after a quarter of an hour when a Wells header rocketed into the net from a Dan Sparkes corner.
Five minutes later, as Dan Holman cut in from the left, James Mulley nipped in front of two defenders to slip the ball into the net.
Shortly after that, with only half an hour gone, came what could have been the match’s decisive moment.
Nik Hamann, normally a reliable keeper, advanced beyond his area to meet a long ball over the top.
But he misjudged speed and distance, failed to make the ball in time and instead brought down Luton’s Paul Benson.
It was a clear goalscoring opportunity and referee Lee Swabey produced the inevitable red card.
An hour to go, with ten men against the best team in the league, Iron could have crumbled.
Instead, almost unbelievably, they scored again.
Jordan Cox cleverly controlled a long ball in the centre circle and slipped it through to Chez Isaac, who had charged through from midfield.
The diminutive Isaac against Luton’s man-mountain defender Steve McNulty seemed no contest, but the midfielder had the strength to keep his adversary at bay and guided the ball off the outside of his boot into the net.
At last Luton got themselves together but it took two fortuitous goals to lift them back into the match.
The first came from a penalty after the ball had bounced up and hit Ryan Peters on the arm, the kind of situation that would have been deemed accidental 20 or 30 years before, and the second came after a shot took a wicked deflection off Wells and looped up over substitute keeper Nathan McDonald.
That left 25 minutes, plus an agonizing six minutes of added time, but Iron held out – magnificently.