TORQUAY UNITED 3 BRAINTREE TOWN 1
Vanarama National League
Despite their quick start out of the blocks and Manny Parry’s early goal, Braintree Town’s long trip to Torquay United ended in the disappointment of a 3-1 defeat.
The Iron were looking to build on their encouraging win against Guiseley on Good Friday, but there was little good about how things worked out at another of their Vanarama National League relegation rivals.
Parry’s only previous Iron goal had come in a 5-4 win at Southport earlier in the season, but his second strike put them in the driving seat.
There was then controversy in the 37th minute when Brett Williams had a goal controversially chalked off for the Gulls, but it was the home side who gathered their thoughts best.
Williams fired them ahead before the break and added a second seven minutes into the second half.
Braintree were suddenly chasing the game and despite hitting the woodwork, ended as 3-1 losers thanks to Jordan Lee’s strike in stoppage time at the end.
Braintree went with an unchanged side and bench for the third consecutive game and following the 2-0 win against Guiseley at the other end of the Easter weekend.
That win on Good Friday had filled the Iron with confidence and they looked to build in the opening stages of their game in Devon.
They made use of the long throw-ins supplied by Harry Lee and put the home defence under pressure and the opening blow came from one of those in the ninth minute.
It was the breakthrough that the Iron craved and the powerful presence of Manny Parry made itself felt as the former Margate centre half headed in to put Braintree ahead.
The goal would have calmed visiting nerves and they looked confident going forwards, with Michael Cheek prepared to run at the home defence.
However, the Gulls remained a threat with long balls forward and after a ball from Aman Verma into the middle, Brett Williams tried his luck, but he hurried his shot in the end and pulled it wide of the target.
It was then Torquay’s turn to try a long throw in and Iron keeper Sam Beasant had to make a save at his near post from a header by home striker Jamie Reid.
They went even closer on 26 minutes when a corner saw Giancarlo Gallifuoco not picked up and his powerful header appeared to be finding the back of the net until it was cleared off the line by Parry.
It was end-to-end play as both sides realised the importance of the next goal and as play switched to the other end, home keeper Brendan Moore had to be alert to make a clearance with Jerome Okimo waiting to slot the ball home.
Leading scorer Cheek then had the goal in his sights just after the half-hour mark, but he was taken out as he advanced towards the Torquay area.
Rather than award a dangerous free-kick, though, referee Craig Hicks allowed the advantage to be played and Sean Clohessy’s shot was eventually blocked to safety as the chance went away.
Torquay thought they had got themselves level on 37 minutes when Williams muscled his way through and fired the ball into the back of the net past Beasant.
However, the linesman’s flag was raised for an infringement to cut home celebrations short and leave the Gulls fans incensed at what they saw as a huge injustice.
If things were tense in the ground already, the atmosphere was cranked up a few notches.
However, within the cauldron-like surroundings of Plain Moor, Williams did fire the hosts level with 42 minutes on the clock.
This time there was no doubt as he turned smartly on the edge of the Iron box and drilled in an effort with a goal that sent the teams in level at the break.
Both knew that a fast start was important after half-time and it was the Iron who made the better opening, but they were unable to capitalise in terms of goals.
Instead it was Torquay who went ahead with just seven minutes of the half gone and it was Williams who found the target again.
He fired home from close range and very nearly completed his hat-trick in the next minute as a stunned Braintree were glad this time to see a header come away off the post from a Luke Young free-kick.
Home tails were up and as they looked to hit a shell-shocked Iron side further another goal-line clearance was needed by Parry from an effort by Ruari Keating.
Beasant then made a great save as Reid kept the visitors on the ropes but Braintree worked their way back into the game.
The Iron looked most threatening from set pieces and only the woodwork preserved the hosts’ lead from a corner as the ball pinged off the crossbar and to safety from Jake Goodman’s header.
Braintree kept pressing to try to get back into the game, but that meant they were exposed at the back and as they pushed, Jordan Lee made the game safe for the hosts with a close-range third in stoppage time at the end.
It was a bitter way for a game that had started so promisingly to end and while Braintree stayed ahead of their hosts by a point, they are still in the drop zone and positive results for relegation rivals Woking and Solihull Moors have made things tougher for the Iron with two games to go.
Braintree Town: Sam Beasant, Sean Clohessy, Jerome Okimo, Manny Parry, Jake Goodman, Sam Corne (Lee Barnard 79), Chez Isaac, Harry Lee, Craig Braham-Barrett (Reece Hall-Johnson 67), Jack Midson, Michael Cheek.
Subs not used: Jon Ashton, Kyron Farrell, Kris Twardek.
Referee: Craig Hicks.