BRAINTREE TOWN 1 NORTH FERRIBY UNITED 0
Vanarama National League
IF anyone doubted Braintree Town's appetite for the Vanarama National League relegation fight, then this was a result that would surely have dispelled a lot of concerns.
The Iron had been shell-shocked by the dismal nature of their FA Trophy exit when losing 5-2 at Dulwich Hamlet a few days before and a game against another side looking to avoid the National League trapdoor was a tough follow-up test.
Braintree had to dust themselves down quickly and show they had the fight needed to claw themselves away from the bottom four on their return to the nitty-gritty of league action.
It may not have been the most polished of performances on a bitterly cold day, but it was the end result that was important and the Iron stood tall once more to get the three points they needed.
They rode their luck at times in the second half, with North Ferriby hitting the woodwork, but in the end, it was Reece Hall-Johnson who stepped off the bench to grab a 77th minute goal that earned a slender win for the hosts.
It put Braintree four points clear of the relegation places and manager Hakan Hayrettin was relieved to see his team bounce back from the disappointment of their Trophy exit.
"We had to bounce back from the two games we played against Dulwich," he said.
"My players knew they could have done a lot better in those games but they showed a lot of determination against North Ferriby.
"Yes, we rode our luck a little bit but we got the three points and we could have scored more at the end as well.
"It's how you come back from a defeat and how you show your strength as a squad to come back and get a victory that counts.
"We always knew it was going to be a difficult game because North Ferriby are an unpredictable team - they have beaten some teams who are very decent.
"So we had to combat that.
"They got in a few times, but so did we - and we got the goal.
"The players know they have to dig in week-in week-out.
"I said before the game that there are going to be loads of twists and turns and we have to be persistent in what we do.
"I think the majority of the time we are.
"There are going to be times when we're not but it's my job to pick them up and go again.
"It was a war cry for this game that we owed it to ourselves.
"More to ourselves than anybody else because we know what we're capable of as a group."
Braintree made four changes from the side that had lost in the Trophy at Dulwich on Tuesday.
Ian Gayle came in for the suspended Sean Clohessy, while Michael Cheek returned to the side from an ankle injury as Lee Barnard dropped to the bench.
There was also a start for Monty Patterson, who had rejoined the club on loan from Ipswich Town, and Millwall loanee Kyron Farrell got his first start.
Harry Lee wasn't involved and Hall-Johnson was among the substitutes.
The game started with North Ferriby looking to get on the front foot and Curtis Bateson's fourth minute attempt was just wide of the target.
It was a warning shot across the Iron's bows, but one they responded to as they built possession and pressure at the other end with a number of corners and free-kicks.
With so much at stake for both sides, it was an understandably tense game, but the hosts looked to have the edge and went within a whisker of taking the lead on 23 minutes when Patterson turned and fired the ball against the post.
They couldn't find the breakthrough and North Ferriby worked their way into the game either side of half-time.
The ball was scrambled away from the Braintree goalline twice in quick succession just before the break and there were further chances for the visitors after the restart, including full-back Sam Topliss hitting the woodwork from close range.
Having ridden the storm, though, Braintree gradually reasserted themselves and started to press again and that culminated in Hall-Johnson turning the ball in after good work by Patterson with 13 minutes to go.
North Ferriby threw all they had at Braintree in the closing stages, but the Iron weathered that and could have had a second as they caught their foes on the break.
Michael Cheek skewed a shot across goal when through one-on-one with keeper Rory Watson, but in the end it didn't matter to the final result as the Iron kept their lead intact for a vital three points.
Braintree Town: Sam Beasant, Ian Gayle, Jerome Okimo, Jake Goodman, Manny Parry, Kyron Farrell (Sam Corne 68), Chez Isaac, Monty Patterson, Kris Twardek (Reece Hall-Johnson 62) Jack Midson, Michael Cheek. Subs not used: Alex Henshall, Lee Barnard, Claudio Dias. Referee: Simon Barrow.