BRAINTREE TOWN 0 DULWICH HAMLET 0
FA Trophy third round
Braintree Town’s name will be in the quarter-final draw for the FA Trophy for the first time, but they may feel a touch fortunate to be there.
Dulwich Hamlet – a side who play their league football two levels below the Iron – were left ruing not making more of scoring chances they created in a pulsating cup tie at the Ironmongery Direct Stadium.
To be fair to Braintree, there were chances at both ends, particularly for Jack Midson and Michael Cheek, in the first half, but the visitors had some great opportunities after the break.
Some fantastic goalkeeping by Sam Beasant, though, coupled with some wayward finishing from the Hamlet forwards meant the game remained deadlocked and the pair will have to face off again in a replay on Tuesday.
There were no changes for Braintree from the side that had drawn 1-1 at Forest Green Rovers in the Vanarama National League in their last outing two weeks previously.
Despite that enforced break in action, there was no rustiness and the Iron made a lively start, but then so did Hamlet and both sides looked to get on the front foot early.
There was certainly plenty to keep the 231- strong Dulwich contingent in the crowd of 608 entertained and they cheered their team on with a vocal presence from the Quag End of the gorund.
Ashley Carew and Nyren Clunis in particular kept the home defence busy in the opening stages with some intelligent movement.
Their best chance came when Clunis broke clear through the middle but under pressure from Jake Goodman, he over-ran the ball and Sam Beasant was able to come out to claim it It was a let-off for the Iron, but they crafted some excellent opportunities at the other end.
In the 11th minute, a ball through the middle saw Jack Midson race away but a fantastic opening went begging as his stabbed effort was saved by Dulwich keeper Preston Edwards Then three minutes later a corner resulted in leading Braintree scorer Michael Cheek getting his head to the ball and forcing Edwards into a great goal-line save.
The play remained end-to-end in the first half an hour as both sides looked to grab the initiative.
Dulwich were left feeling they should have had a penalty when Chez Isaac tussled with Gavin Tomlin after the Iron midfielder had lost possession, but referee Carl Brook was unmoved.
At the other end, a Braintree break ended with Cheek cutting in before trying an effort from a very acute angle but Edwards was down to make the save.
There was then a more central chance for the Iron striker after good work by Henshall had released Jerome Okimo on the left.
The full-back did well, but his ball into the centre was just behind Cheek and he couldn't direct his shot on target.
With Braintree ending the half on top, lovely movement between Jack Midson and Sean Clohessy opened space for Henshall and his curling effort was just past the post.
It meant the opening half ended in a stalemate, but Braintree were unable to resume their dominance after the restart.
Instead, it was Dulwich who were out of the traps quicker and there was a massive let off for Braintree in the 49th minute.
Nathan Green got in behind Iron defence, before cutting ball across the middle and with the home players unable to clear the ball, Carew fired a low effort that cannoned off the foot of the post.
Dulwich were well on top as they moved the ball effectively across the pitch and kept the Iron pinned back.
The only thing missing was an end product to their impressive build-up play as Braintree lived dangerously on a number of occasions.
Iron boss Hakan Hayrettin made a double substitution on the hour mark to try to engineer a change, with Reece Hall-Johnson and Kyron Farrell replacing Alex Henshall and Sam Corne respectively.
Braintree did start to get more of a hold on the game, but they were thankful to some more wayward shooting from the visitors in the 75th minute.
Poor understanding between Twardek and Okimo had gifted the ball to Hamlet, who broke and only a shot well over the bar from Carew stopped them from taking the lead.
The game remained on a knife-edge and it was then Hall-Johnson’s turn to lift the ball over from close range as he stretched to reach a pass from Midson.
There was almost a last-gasp strike from the visitors as Braintree had to be thankful to the goalkeeping of Beasant in the final stages.
It came about after a mistake by Isaac, who misjudged the run of the ball and it came to Tomlin, who picked his spot only to see Beasant get down to make a wonderful save.
The visitors ended the game looking strong and would have felt disappointed not to have wrapped things up in the 90 minutes, but their failure to finish things off meant it was destined for a replay on their home turf on Tuesday.
Braintree Town: Sam Beasant, Jerome Okimo, Sean Clohessy, Jake Goodman, Manny Parry, Jack Midson, Chez Isaac, Alex Henshall (Reece Hall-Johnson 61), Kris Twardek, Sam Corne (Kyron Farrell 61), Michael Cheek.
Subs not used: Harry Lee, Lee Barnard, Ian Gayle.
Referee: Carl Brook.