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Braintree make sure of a happy homecoming
BRAINTREE Town moved to within eight points of the 50 that boss Alan Devonshire feels will secure Skrill Premier survival this year with a 1-0 win against Cambridge United.
It was the Iron's first home league action of 2014 and the U's arrived sitting second in the table, but the hosts made sure of a happy homecoming thanks to Dan Sparkes' goal midway through the second half.
Braintree named an unchanged starting 11 from the side that drew 2-2 at Kidderminster on Saturday.
That meant home debuts for Watford loanee striker Bernard Mensah and also midfielder Josh Laurent, who is on loan from Queens Park Rangers.
It was a bright start from the visitors in front of a sizeable and vocal travelling support, but the best early efforts came from the hosts' loan duo.
Laurent fired straight into U's keeper Will Norris' arms when well-placed in the sixth minute and Mensah then lifted a shot over the bar from a good knockdown by Alan Massey.
However, once the game settled down the goal threat at either end diminished ahead of the break as neither side really established any significant period of dominance.
It was a similar story after the break with both defences remaining on top and clear-cut chances remaining limited.
And when they did come along, they weren't taken, with Cambridge's Ryan Bird just unable to connect with a spinning loose ball in the home box on 55 minutes.
That was the case until the 67th minute when a tremendous run in from the left by Mensah ended with him laying the ball off to Dan Sparkes and he side-footed the ball home for a 1-0 lead.
It proved to be a telling moment as the hosts held off some late Cambridge pressure to take themselves up to 16th in the table.