By Ron Fosker
BRAINTREE TOWN 2 GRIMSBY TOWN 0
Blue Square Bet Premier
IT may not have matched last season’s 5-0 but this win must rank as Braintree’s most impressive since they joined the Blue Square Bet Premier in August 2011.
Not only were Grimsby top of the league, but they had gone 18 league and cup games without defeat, a run that stretched back to November 6.
And make no mistake: This was no fluke.
Braintree were the better team throughout the match.
Not only were they combative, as one might expect, they also had pace, directness and no little skill.
Their non-stop effort was exemplified by the magnificent James Mulley, whose speed took him all over the field - from a sprint down the line early in the game simply to concede a throw-in rather than a goal kick, to a chase back in the game’s dying phases to get in a timely tackle and prevent the visitors from setting up an attack.
Braintree entirely deserved their 1-0 half-time lead, achieved when Sean Marks crossed from the left to an unmarked Luke Daley whose shot into the ground looped up and over a vainly air-grasping keeper James McKeown.
They could have had more.
Towards the end of the half, Marks nipped in front of his marker to meet Kenny Davis’s cross, but the defender’s presence was just enough to ensure he did not get a clean contact and his header passed over the bar from close in.
And in the last meaningful action of the half, Marks again got into a good position but McKeown got down to snaffle his attempt to flick in Mulley’s cross.
Nathan McDonald, who had another excellent match, played his part in keeping the lead when he went full length to keep out a drive from Lenell John-Lewis.
One-goal leads have proved insufficient in the past, especially when chances have been missed to increase it and Iron fans would have been forgiven for expecting the tide to turn in the second half.
But it was Braintree who returned to the attack with early shots from Dan Holman, Alan Massey and Mulley that were wide, saved and just over the bar respectively.
The decisive moment in the game came in the 75th minute when Craig Disley slipped through the home defence but with only the advancing McDonald to beat, pulled the ball wide of the post.
Within a minute, Braintree were two ahead.
Daley fired in a corner that gained no height and appeared to be a wasted opportunity as it headed to areas untenanted by orange shirts.
But keeper McKeown completely misjudged it and, possibly put off by a defender’s failed attempt to clear just in front of him, allowed the ball to bounce off him into the net.
Instead of sitting back, as they have done in the past, Iron kept pressing and only a minute later came close to making it three when McKeown brought off a flying finger-tip save to deny Matt Paine.
Four minutes later substitute Dan Walker hit the bar and then Marks, with a gaping goal at his mercy, headed wide.
It did not matter.
The league leaders were a spent force.
Iron had brought off a famous victory.
Braintree: McDonald; Peters, Wells, Massey, Habergham; Daley, Paine, Davis, Mulley; Marks, Holman (Walker 72).