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Promising start from Braintree, but Welling end winning run
10:52am Wednesday 9th October 2013 in Sport
By Ron Fosker
BRAINTREE TOWN 2 WELLING UNITED 3
Braintree Town's four-match winning run came to an end in a game they drifted out of after a promising start.
To be fair, it was a patched-up side that took the pitch, missing four regulars – Ryan Peters, Kenny Davis, Sean Marks and Dan Holman – as well as Luke Daley, who might be regarded as a first reserve.
They also lost the influential James Mulley at half-time after he took a blow to his side during the opening 45 minutes.
Some absences were more crucial than others.
In Charlie Strutton, manager Alan Devonshire has found an excellent temporary replacement for Holman and will surely be hoping to extend his loan period beyond the original four weeks.
And Jordan Cox, in for Marks, who aggravated a groin strain at Hyde on Saturday, did enough to justify his elevation above Liam Enver-Marum in the strikers’ pecking order.
He matched Marks for strength in the air as well as displaying some neat skill on the ground, in addition to scoring for the second successive match.
Sam Griffiths continued to deputise competently and confidently for Peters, but Devonshire will be hoping Davis’s absence is not a prolonged one.
Chez Isaac, who has been brought in from the wing, continues to exercise a feisty presence in midfield but he and stand-in captain Matt Paine are too similar in style and the skipper’s more measured approach can produce the unexpected as well as being able to change the pace of the game.
Dan Sparkes, who took Isaac’s place on the right, was largely anonymous and appears unsuited to Devonshire’s preference for inside-out wingers, a right-footer on the left and a left-footer on the right.
As at Hyde, Strutton and Cox were the men who got the ball in the net.
Strutton fired Iron into the lead after 26 minutes with a beautifully cushioned volley from Sam Habergham’s cross, but Cox’s contribution, slamming the ball into the net after a cross had been headed out to him by centre-back Fraser Franks, came in the 90th minute when Iron’s hopes had been all but extinguished.
It was what happened in between that had the major bearing on the game.
Iron’s lead lasted only four minutes before the visitors’ player-manager Jamie Day took centre stage.
He had already tested Nathan McDonald with a free-kick from the left, which the keeper palmed away after making good ground across his goal.
But McDonald had no answer to his second effort, from the opposite side, which flew round the wall and into the net at the near post.
Braintree came close to retaking the lead early in the second half when a cross from Sparkes, for once popping up on the left, was just nipped off Strutton’s toe as he aimed to shoot.
But it was shortly after that that Welling took a lead they were not to lose.
A cross from the right from the busy Loick Pires eluded the Iron defence and found its way across to Lee Clarke, who had a virtually open goal to aim at.
Their third goal was not dissimilar.
This time Alex Dyer was on the end of a cross from the right, which McDonald may have been able to deal with had it not flicked up off Alan Massey’s desperate attempt to clear.
The defeat was a disappointment rather than a disaster.
Welling, Conference South champions last year, are a disciplined, strong-willed and nippy side who look set to keep up the record of all but one of that division’s winners in finishing in the top half the following season.
Iron, of course, were one of those but will not forget that their early burst of form in their debut season at the higher level was followed by a miserable run of nine points from 14 matches.
That took them from second place down into the bottom half of the table before they rallied to finish 12th.
Devonshire will be hoping their most recent unbeaten run won’t suffer from a similar anti-climax.
Braintree: McDonald; Griffiths, Wells, Massey, Habergham; Sparkes (Holman 73), Isaac, Paine, Mulley (Enver-Marum 45); Cox, Strutton.
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