FA Trophy third round replay

There may well be a part of Braintree Town wondering how they allowed a place in the quarter-finals of the FA Trophy to elude them.

They had been second-best when they met Ryman League premier division side Dulwich Hamlet at home on Saturday, but had been the better side for much of the opening hour of the replay.

Their superior ball-playing skills were evident and the Londoners were pressed into mistakes that they hadn’t been making in the earlier encounter.

However, on two occasions, when Braintree had been on top and created some good openings, they conceded disappointing goals – the first a penalty and then an own goal.

That allowed Dulwich to gain confidence both times and they gradually got the upper hand and ended up by easily putting their Vanarama National League visitors to the sword in the latter stages of the game.

And the fact that the Iron ended the tie with ten men on the pitch after the sending off of Sean Clohessy wrapped up a night to forget for the side from Essex.

Both sides were bidding to take their place in the last eight where a home tie against Macclesfield Town awaited them and Braintree made three changes from the side that had started the first meeting on Saturday.

One of those was enforced by injury as striker Michael Cheek had a swollen ankle, while Sam Corne and Alex Henshall dropped to the bench.

Coming in were Lee Barnard, Harry Lee and Reece Hall-Johnson, who had all been on the bench at the weekend.

Meanwhile, the hosts had just one change, with Nyren Clunis having picked up a knee injury in the first game and being replaced by former Iron player Ibra Sekajja.

It was the hosts who came out of the blocks quickest at the start and a long ball forward to Gavin Tomlin was only just cut out by Iron keeper Sam Beasant.

That started a spell of pressure and some hurried defending in their own area in the opening minutes by the Iron.

They rode that well and started to move the ball well themselves, though, and a teasing cross by Reece Hall-Johnson was unfortunate not to find a Braintree recipient to turn it home for an opening goal.

The former Norwich youngster was instrumental in the early stages for the Iron and looked lively in a central midfield position, getting on the ball and working openings for those around him.

The immaculate playing surface and the extra water applied just before kick-off suited the ball players in Braintree’s side like Hall-Johnson and Kris Twardek.

With Dulwich hassled into mistakes in midfield, it gave the visitors a platform to build from and all that was lacking was a final ball as the game stayed in deadlock through the first 20 minutes.

So it was perhaps a bit of a surprise that when the opening goal came in the 28th minute, it went to Hamlet.

It came from a penalty after Gavin Tomlin went over in the area under pressure from Jake Goodman and referee Craig Hicks pointed straight to the spot.

Ashley Carew stepped forward and gave Beasant no chance as the hosts took the lead against the run of play.

Home tails were back up and Braintree had to weather a bit of a storm for a while, but it wasn’t long before they began to reassert themselves once again.

They got a hold of the ball once more as they pressed forward and that led to an equaliser in the 38th minute.

It came from a corner delivered by Hall-Johnson and was a soft one for the hosts to concede as Jerome Okimo ghosted in at the near post and headed in almost unopposed.

It meant the score was level at the break and that was the very least that Braintree deserved as they had been the better of the sides in the opening 45 minutes.

They began the second period on the front foot as well and almost took an instant lead when Twardek opened space on the edge of the box and Edwards had to claw the ball away to safety.

It was an encouraging start for the visitors, but they once again fell behind after they’d got themselves on top.

This time the goal came in almost farcical circumstances in the 50th minute.

The ball had come off a Braintree boot in a challenge and span into the path of Tomlin as he raced towards the Iron goal.

The Dulwich forward was well beaten to the ball by Iron keeper Beasant, but his clearance cannoned off the back of Manny Parry and looped into the net.

With their lead back, the hosts were suddenly ebullient both on and off the pitch and Braintree rode their luck in the 58th minute to stay just a single goal in arrears.

Dulwich worked the ball across the face of goal to Nathan Green at the back post and his shot cannoned off the foot of the upright.

It was a let-off for the Iron, but they soon were two goals down.

In the 61st minute, with Braintree camped deep in Dulwich territory a long ball forward was latched on to by Tomlin.

He raced clear with pace and power, holding off Chez Isaac's robust challenge and buried a clinical finish into the bottom corner of the Iron net to give Hamlet some breathing space.

Dulwich could sense that a place in the quarter-finals was theirs and they were helped significantly on their way when Tomlin got clear again and Clohessy hauled him down to prevent him shooting.

There was no hesitation from Hicks in producing a red card and it soon got worse for the Iron as in the 78th minute, the hosts went further ahead.

The ball fell to Sanchez Ming about 30 yards out and he unleashed an unstoppable shot that flew past Beasant to seemingly put a cap on the tie.

The Iron weren’t done, though, and a free-kick saw the ball put into the Hamlet box to where Parry was waiting to steer it into the net and give the visitors a bit of late hope.

However, any hope was forlorn and when Jacob Erskine finished from close range for Hamlet’s fifth of the night, it closed a night to forget for the Iron.

Braintree Town: Sam Beasant, Jerome Okimo, Sean Clohessy, Jake Goodman, Manny Parry, Jack Midson, Chez Isaac, Reece Hall-Johnson, Kris Twardek (Claudio Dias 63), Harry Lee (Alex Henshall 71), Lee Barnard.

Subs not used: Sam Corne, Ian Gayle, Kyron Farrell.

Referee: Craig Hicks.