Very much as they had done last season, United dominated the chances at Braintree and came away from Essex with a 1-0 victory that moved us to third place in the table.
Garry Haylock made one change to his starting line-up from Saturday with Josh Scott returning for the injured Danny Allen-Page which saw James Mulley move to full-back and Staforde Palmer to the right side of midfield.
An early Dale Binns run and cross nearly drew first blood as Palmer met his far post cross with a first time strike that flew across the goal and just wide of the far post. Minutes later United had what was to be one of very few scares when Danny Hockton held off Tom Cadmore only for Delroy Preddie to race from goal to kick clear.
On 16 minutes Iron keeper Craig Holloway was called into action, a part cleared United attack fell to Ram Marwa just outside the area, he bounced his shot into the ground and it fell to centre-back Matt Ruby who tried an audacious overhead kick that looked destined to open the scoring but for a fine reflex save from Holloway.
United continued to push forwards and could have had a penalty when Josh Scott outpaced Ryan Moran into the Iron area only for the defender to escape justice with a blatant push which forced the striker to fire wide. Just after the half hour mark Preddie was to be troubled for probably the last time, Brad Quinton trying his luck from 35 yards providing a routine catch for the United stopper.
The half drew to a close with another fine piece of goalkeeping from Holloway ensuring that the score sheet remained blank. Gary MacDonald played the ball in from the left, Marwa cushioned a header back into the six yard box and Scott met it with his head only for Holloway to dive sharply to his left to palm it out and the danger was cleared.
The second half started much as the first, with United firmly in control. An early run and cross from Scott saw Palmer just clear the crossbar with a volley, Palmer then raced forwards from halfway but his shot from 20 yards was off target.
The defining moment in the game came just before the hour mark when United were awarded “two” penalties. Will Hendry received the ball in the area with his back to goal only to be wrestled to the ground by Billy Burgess and referee Hyde duly pointed to the spot. Scott stepped up only for Holloway to make a fine diving save, Scott was first to the rebound but once again Holloway foiled his attempt and as the ball ran to the far post Mr Hyde once again pointed to the spot and ordered a re-take, it appears due to Holloway moving too far from his line when saving the original kick.
This time Scott took the not so subtle approach and hammered it down the middle giving Holloway no chance and United a much deserved lead.
The final half an hour saw chances come and go for United with the post being the main defender for the Iron as twice it kept them in the game. MacDonald went close from a Binns cross before Palmer fed the ball into the run of Scott who tried his luck with his weaker right foot only for the shot to hit the upright and go wide of the target.
Seconds later Hendry sprung the offside trap by running through with the ball, Holloway came out to meet him and although his effort beat his dive it also just beat the far post. Substitute Steve Perkins then rose to loop a header goalwards from the edge of the area but Holloway managed to stretch and catch the ball just under his own bar.
Three minutes remained when the woodwork came to Braintree’s rescue again. Binns played the ball inside to Hendry, he exchanged passes twice with Palmer before Palmer himself fired a shot from the corner of the area that beat Holloway only to crash back into play off the far post.
Report by Kevin Watts. Photos by Ray Peploe.
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Website United Man of the Match: Gary MacDonald.