EASTLEIGH 0 BRAINTREE TOWN 2
Vanarama National League
Braintree Town backed up their crucial home win against North Ferriby with another three-point haul at Eastleigh that could go a long way to securing their Vanarama National League future.
The Iron won’t stop looking over their shoulder at the relegation scrap but they are now seven points clear of the bottom four as they climbed up to 16th in the table with a 2-0 win.
On Saturday against Ferriby, it was a single goal that won a tense and nervy game, but the Iron were more comfortable this time thanks to strikes in either half by leading scorer Michael Cheek.
Braintree made two changes from the side that started the 1-0 win against North Ferriby.
Sean Clohessy returned at right-back after a one-match suspension as Ian Gayle dropped to the bench, while Kris Twardek was out meaning a recall for Saturday’s goal scorer, Reece Hall-Johnson.
The opening exchanges were quiet as both sides attempted to find their feet and clear-cut chances were at a premium at both ends of the pitch.
The hosts thought they had taken the lead in the 22nd minute when Ben Strevens placed the ball in the back of the Iron net but home celebrations were cut short by a raised flag for offside.
Having had a let-off, the Iron then had their first real opening as Michael Cheek was set up by Jack Midson and the Braintree striker raced through one-on-one with Eastleigh keeper Graham Stack.
However, Cheek got his angles wrong and a tame effort allowed Eastleigh to make the clearance.
Cheek soon made amends, though, as he latched on to a cross and headed past Stack in the 27th minute to put the Iron ahead.
It was the breakthrough that Braintree had craved and it gave the Spitfires something to come back from.
The hosts failed to really respond to falling behind, though, and lacked the urgency that they needed as Braintree were able to consolidate their position.
Their best chance in the remainder of the half saw Tyler Garrett put through by Scott Wilson.
The Eastleigh man had a chance to pick his spot but he could only find the arms of Iron keeper Sam Beasant.
It was disappointing for the hosts and they were actually a bit fortunate to only trail by a single goal at the break.
From a 45th minute corner, Hall-Johnson had double chance but was twice denied by superb saves from Stack as the Spitfires held on and made sure Braintree’s lead was slender at the turnaround.
Knowing he had to do something to enliven his team, Spitefires boss Martin Allen looked to change things around at the start of the second half and brought James Constable on up front.
The substitute proved more of a handful and he went close with a 51st minute shot that Beasant had to make the save from.
However, with no breakthrough coming, it allowed Braintree to take the sting out of the Spitfires and the tempo of the game remained slow-paced to deny the hosts a chance to get back into it.
Chances were pretty scarce for the Iron, but when one did come along in the 74th minute, Cheek was in the right place to find the target for the second time and double Braintree’s lead.
It gave the Iron the breathing space that they wanted and they continued to take the sting out of the home side as they eased home with a very welcome points haul in their back pocket.
Braintree Town: Sam Beasant, Jerome Okimo, Manny Parry, Jake Goodman, Sean Clohessy (Ian Gayle 77), Chez Isaac, Kyron Farrell (Sam Corne 80), Reece Hall-Johnson, Monty Patterson, Jack Midson, Michael Cheek (Lee Barnard 90). Subs not used: Joe Maybanks, Alex Henshall.
Referee: Adrian Quelch.