Braintree fail to benefit from referee's decision

Braintree and Witham Times: Michael Gash was a popular figure when appearing in Braintree colours earlier in the season, but he scored against the Iron when he faced them on Boxing Day back in Cambridge United's ranks. Picture: ALAN STUCKEY Michael Gash was a popular figure when appearing in Braintree colours earlier in the season, but he scored against the Iron when he faced them on Boxing Day back in Cambridge United's ranks. Picture: ALAN STUCKEY

By Ron Fosker

Braintree Town 0 Cambridge United 3

Blue Square Bet Premier

Much of the conversation leading up to this match was how long it would last before the referee abandoned it.

Unfortunately for Braintree, he chose to play the full 90 minutes.

Rain had begun falling on an already soggy surface at 2.00 and continued steadily for the next three hours.

While the match descended into something of a lottery, referee John Hopkins decided that the surface remained playable.

But Cambridge worked out a way of playing on it more successfully than their hosts.

The match was effectively killed as a contest by a devastating two-minute spell in the second half.

Already 1-0 up, Cambridge went further ahead after 59 minutes and two minutes later added a third.

Iron were given a semblance of hope after 67 minutes when the visitors' Tom Shaw was sent off for a dangerous and painful tackle on Sam Habergham but it was a numerical advantage they were never able to capitalise on.

Their ideas ran into the sand as much as the ball ran into the mud, and Cambridge comfortably played out time.

They had taken the lead after 25 minutes when Michael Gash, a popular figure at the Amlin Stadium in his month's loan earlier in the season, turned in a cross.

The mud played its part in the second goal, scored by Sam Smith after the ball had got stuck on its passage.

Andy Pugh made it three when he beat the defence to the ball after Danny Naisbitt had punched clear a shot.

Up to the second goal, Iron had matched their hosts in their approach play and endeavour.

Without rising to the heights of their performance against Forest Green the previous week, they had looked sharp and keen and applied consistent pressure to the extent that they forced eight corners to Cambridge's one.

But that remained a meaningless statistic as the pitch dominated the game the longer it went on.

Frequently the mud prevented a pass from reaching its intended target, or stopped a player in his tracks as he tried to take it with him.

It was, of course, the same for both teams, but it would be wrong to judge Iron too harshly on this performance.

Braintree : Naisbitt; O'Connor, Wells, Massey, Habergham, Daley, Paine, Symons (Hunt 73), Mulley (Sparkes 64); Marks, Holman (Sheppard 64).

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