Cup matches over the years May 20, 2020 13:36:28 GMT
Post by ronfosker on May 20, 2020 13:36:28 GMT
This was in last week’s Braintree and Witham Times. See tomorrow’s paper for a piece on managers over the years
Braintree Town’s cup matches in recent years have been a remarkable collection of ups and downs. Ron Fosker looks back at the successes and failures in his 18 years of covering their matches.
For every Shrewsbury or Millwall, there has been a Yate or Brackley. Particularly Brackley.
Braintree supporters have rarely seen the best of their team in cup matches. There have been highs, but the lows also linger in the memory.
Braintree have reached the first round proper of the FA Cup six times and have gone out of the competition at that stage five times, always to a Football League club.
The first time they reached the first round proper in their history was in 2005-06, the season they won the Ryman League.
Their run to that stage had started with wins over Cheshunt and Didcot before a tough tie against neighbours Heybridge Swifts, who were to finish runners-up that season.
It was a slightly curious double-header, a draw at Scraley Road which Braintree largely dominated, followed by a 3-1 win at home in which they were essentially matched by their visitors apart from the important statistic of putting the ball in the net.
Two goals from Carl Griffiths – who had also scored in the 1-1 draw – and one from Louis Riddle were enough to see them through.
This was followed by a fourth qualifying round tie at Crawley, then in the Conference Premier, two divisions higher.
In what was arguably Iron’s best performance in the FA Cup in recent years, they came away with a 1-0 win thanks to a goal from Eugene Ofori.
That led to the momentous visit to Shrewsbury, a mid-table League Two side, in their first ever match in the first round proper.
There was no fairy-tale ending as two goals conceded in the first five minutes put paid to any hopes of a giant-killing act but it is a match that will remain etched in Brad Quinton’s brain as the day he put a goal past Joe Hart, the soon-to-be England keeper.
Braintree had to wait another seven years before their next encounter with a Football League club.
By now in the Conference Premier they had failed to take advantage of their exemption until the final qualifying round in their first season at the higher level when they suffered a disappointing defeat at Newport, who were promoted the following year but at the time were in the relegation places.
The next season, they made up for it by reaching the first round proper for the second time in their history.
By this time they had shown their propensity to struggle against lesser opposition, about which more in a moment, and it was true to form when they were nearly shown up by a spirited Lowestoft side in the final qualifying round.
The boot was firmly on the other foot in their first home tie in the first round proper against Tranmere Rovers, then top of League One.
Iron, who were only just above the relegation zone at the time, had followed the Lowestoft win with their traditional defeat against Lincoln City but boosted their confidence with a win the next week against Gateshead, then eighth.
In the match against Tranmere, 66 places above them, Braintree produced one of the best performances Cressing Road has witnessed from them and this despite losing influential winger James Mulley after 28 minutes and the even more influential centre back Dean Wells after 37 minutes.
They opted to play the ball on the ground rather than attempting to harry their illustrious opponents out of their stride.
The ITV cameras and a crowd of 1,503 witnessed a performance of spirit and endeavour, one in which every player raised his game, refused to lie down and showed the utmost determination to ensure that the League One side knew they had been in a game.
Braintree won seven corners to Tranmere’s one and the 3-0 scoreline gave no indication of the skill and effort they had put in.
(Tranmere fell from grace quite quickly after that and Iron gained their revenge in the 2015-16 season when they beat them in the Conference Premier).
After Tranmere came Newport, now a Football League team, who were the visitors in 2013-14 after a 2-1 win at Weymouth had taken Iron into the first round proper for the third time.
And for the first time, they went into the hat for round two after holding their opponents to a draw.
After a goal from Chez Isaac in a first half they largely dominated, they were pegged back after the interval and had to rely on some backs-to-the-wall defending from Dean Wells and Alan Massey.
Their exit came after a creditable performance in a 1-0 defeat in the replay.
The next year, however, was something of a nadir. Having, for the second successive year, beaten Weymouth in the final qualifying round, they faced Chesterfield, then in League 1, 52 places above Braintree and every one of them seemed like a chasm as they scored three times in each half to rack up an embarrassing 6-0 home defeat.
In 2015-16 Braintree came within a whisker of making the second round.
To be fair, Oxford United had pretty much outplayed them for much of the game after taking the lead in the 15th minute. But Iron stuck to it and gradually got back into the game so much so that their equaliser, a neatly placed Kenny Davis shot just inside the post, did not seem out of place.
The drama came in the final minute of added time when substitute Taylor Miles let fly from outside the penalty area. The ball appeared to be heading for the top corner but keeper Benjamin Buchel brought off an excellent save to deny Iron their moment of glory.
Oxford showed their pedigree in winning the replay 3-1.
Having twice gone into the second round draw, but with an ‘or’ before their name, the next season they made it on their own.
It was a miserable season overall, ending in relegation after six years in the top flight, but the FA Cup brightened up the early part of the season.
An immediate exit looked on the cards when they trailed Bromley, five places above them in the league, 2-0 with 55 minutes gone, but a stunning turnaround produced a totally unexpected 4-2 win to take them into the first round.
For the first time they avoided a Football League club and instead ended the hopes of National League South Eastbourne in a 7-0 thrashing.
That led to a second round tie at Millwall, who had been relegated from the Championship two years earlier and would return there at the end of the season.
Iron had a number of players out injured or ineligible and it was a fragile looking team that took the field, including debutant centre back Zak Jules, signed during the week.
But they did not play with an inferiority complex and looked Millwall’s equals in all areas apart from a porous defence, which proved their undoing.
They actually had the temerity to take the lead, a well-taken goal by Michael Cheek, but three goals in eight minutes immediately after (the first only 13 second after the restart) proved their undoing.
The 5-2 scoreline looked like a hammering but it was never that.
It was, though, the last highlight – and it’s now time to turn our attention to the lowlights.
For every exciting moment there have been rather more embarrassments, matches where lower level teams have put Braintree in their place, and often in their own backyard.
The year after the visit to Shrewsbury came Brackley, a name that was to haunt them over the years.
Brackley were two divisions lower but were the more lively and purposeful side from the first whistle and had three decent chances inside the first five minutes.
Braintree were disorganised and uninspired and the 2-0 win was no less than Brackley deserved.
Two years later it was Kingstonian and Farnborough, both from lower leagues, who ended Iron’s hopes in the FA Cup and FA Trophy respectively and by distinctly unflattering scores, 4-0 at Kingstonian and 6-2 at Farnborough after a 1-1 draw at home.
The 2010-11 season, the year they got promoted from the Conference South, was a pretty impressive time in all sorts of ways. But not in the FA Cup. Put out by another lower-league team, Carshalton, and with another embarrassing score, 4-1.
Newport knocked them out the following year, but then came another low point. It was a win this time, but not one they will wish to remember.
When referee Daniel Cook showed a red card to Lowestoft striker Jack Defty in the 24th minute with Braintree 2-0 up at home, few people would have expected that as 5pm approached Braintree spectators would be desperate for the final whistle.
But the visitors had rolled their sleeves up after that dismissal and came at Braintree with such verve and courage that Iron were desperately hanging on at the end. The last 16 minutes, after Lowestoft pulled it back to 3-2, seemed like an age.
The FA Trophy offered no respite. This time it was Havant and Waterlooville, struggling in the relegation zone a division below Braintree, who came to Cressing Road as the underdogs and went home with their tails wagging joyously after a 2-1 victory.
Two years later another Suffolk team proved to be another Lowestoft. A month after the humbling 6-0 hammering by Chesterfield, Sudbury came to town. Braintree beat them, but it was never easy.
As I said at the time: Any neutral observer would have had difficulty deciding which was the Conference Premier side and which was three divisions lower as Sudbury fought bravely, and with no little skill, as they attempted to continue the giant-killing that had seen them get this far.
Iron were indebted to a goal from Simeon Akinola for their narrow 1-0 win and more especially a combative and authoritative performance from Matt Paine at centre back. The fact that Paine was man of the match says much for the efforts of the visitors, not to mention the efforts of the rest of Paine’s teammates.
The FA Trophy was the humbler the following year as well.
This was the season Braintree finished third in the Conference Premier, but that meant little to visitors Stourbridge – 47 places lower this time and just as effective at bursting Iron’s bubble.
A wet winter meant that Iron hadn’t played for three weeks and it looked more like ten as they turned in yet another sub-standard performance.
They started well enough, and should have scored after 20 seconds when Cheek raced clear of the defence but had his eventual shot smothered by the keeper, but they ran out of ideas as the match wore on and it was no surprise when Stourbridge got the only goal.
Next season it was Dulwich Hamlet, two divisions lower, who played out a goalless draw at Cressing Road before adding another embarrassing defeat, 5-2 this time, in the replay.
Royston, giving away 27 places, were added to the list of scrapes the following year, 2-2 at home and a narrow 2-1 win away.
This was the year when there was a double dose of Brackley, a defeat in both the FA Cup and the FA Trophy, but at least Brackley were now Iron’s equals, having made their way up to the National League North.
Last season, back in the Premier Division, Iron found Southern League Salisbury too much for them and in the current season it was Enfield, from the Isthmian League, and finally Yate Town, who brought the unhappy roster up to date with a very unhappy statistic.
Their position at the time of 19th in the Southern League South meant they were exactly 100 places below Braintree.