Pre-season friendly

Braintree Town brought their pre-season fixtures to a close in a positive way with a win against a young side from Championship club Reading.

The Iron have shown great promise during their summer fixtures and there should have been plenty to encourage fans ahead of the Vanarama National League South season.

They have shown a willingness to be brave on the ball, with good creativity going forward and those traits were in evidence once again against the Royals.

It was only the outstanding goalkeeping of Reading’ George Legg that kept the Iron at bay in the first half and had it not have been for him, the hosts would have been out of sight by the break.

As it was, they had to rely on two second-half strikes to get the win.

The first came from a neat finish by Shane McLoughlin and then Billy Crook’s penalty doubled the lead as Braintree could head into their opening National League South game in good heart.

In the early stages, it was the hosts who made a lot of the early running and saw plenty of possession in the opening stages as they pressed high up the pitch, with Crook and Phil Roberts seeing efforts go just wide of the left upright.

They were unable to gain the breakthrough, though, and Reading began to get on the ball with greater possession of their own.

As expected from a group of young players from a Championship-based club, they were technically proficient, comfortable on the ball and almost grabbed an advantage in the 14th minute.

They made a quick break from midfield and Teddy Howe forced Iron keeper Nathan McDonald into a fantastic save at full-stretch.

However, that was eclipsed by a breath-taking stop from McDonald’s opposite number from a 35th minute corner.

The ball pinged around the visitors’ area before being met by a thunderous shot by Marc-Anthony Okoye that Legg forced away at point-blank range.

Legg then made a great stop with his legs two minutes later as Karl Oliyide broke clear and tried to slot the ball in with a low shot.

And as Braintree’s pressure continued, the Reading keeper had to be alert once again as Shane McLoughlin drilled a fierce effort in on the turn that had to be tipped over.

No-one could apply the killer touch, though, as it remained frustratingly goalless at half-time.

That didn’t last long into the second half as the Iron finally found a way past Legg in the 49th minute.

It came when a ball forward was headed on by Roberts and McLoughlin raced on, before showing great composure and drilling a shot into the corner of the net as they took the lead.

It looked as though there would be a similar outcome five minutes later when McLoughlin charged on to another ball over the top of the Reading defence, but this time Legg was back to his best in keeping the Iron striker at bay.

Braintree were well on top at that point and most of the pressure was directed at the Reading goal, however, the visitors squandered a good opportunity when Ben House fired over after getting clear.

The pace of the game was kept high by the enthusiasm of both sets of players despite the heavy rain that came down in the latter stages of the game as both sides showed a desire to get forward.

It meant there was an end-to-end feel to the action, but neither were able to grab a telling advantage in front of goal.

In the end, that period was ended by a penalty as Iron substitute Samir Bihmoutine was fouled by Howe and referee Carl Pearse pointed straight to the spot.

It was Crook who stepped forward to do the honours and coolly rammed the ball into the bottom corner to double Braintree’s lead.

It gave the scoreline a look that was perhaps a better reflection of the action over the 90 minutes and meant the Iron could look forward positively to the start of their season at Eastbourne Borough next weekend.

Braintree Town starting XI: Nathan McDonald, Jon Muleba, Ricky Gabriel, Christian Frimpong, Marc-Anthony Okoye, Alfred Mugabo, George Craddock, Billy Crook, Shane McLoughlin, Phil Roberts, Karl Oliyide.

Substitutes: Scott Shulton, Matt Baxter, Joe Maybanks, Samir Bihmoutine, Ben Wyatt, Dernell Wynter, Osa Obamwonyi.

Reading starting XI: George Legg, Jake Sheppard, Gabriel Osho, Axel Andresson, Ramarni Medford-Smith, Ryan East, Teddy Howe, Jordan Holsgrove, Ben House, Josh Barrett, Conor Davis.

Substitutes: Ade Shokunbi, Gabe Rosario, Cameron Green, Ethan Coleman, Jack Nolan, Shamar Moore.