Vanarama National League South

A FIRST goal in Braintree Town colours for Marc-Anthony Okoye made sure it was a good end to the Bank Holiday weekend for the Iron as they ended St Albans City’s perfect start to the season.

Having completely dominated the first-half, the hosts had to wait until the second half to score what proved to be the winner in the 64th minute.

It came from the head of Okoye and capped a merited three points as Braintree finished their long weekend on a high after being held to a draw at Whitehawk on Saturday.

The result brought an end to the visitors’ six-game winning start to the campaign and also maintained Braintree’s unbeaten start to the season on home turf.

Braintree boss Brad Quinton opted to make three changes from the side that started the 1-1 draw at Whitehawk on Saturday.

Central defnder Christian Frimpong returned after a one-match suspension and then being on the bench at Whitehawk, with Osa Obamwonyi moving to the list of substitutes.

There were also places in the starting side for Tyler Campbell and Alfred Mugabo as Phil Roberts and Dernell Wynter dropped to the bench.

The game kicked off in front of a crowd of 706 and in glorious sunshine with temperature in the high 20s Celsius, but that didn’t deter Braintree’s players from a lively start.

While there was a strict back four of Jon Muleba, Christian Frimpong, Okoye and Ben Wyatt, the Iron were very fluid in their attacking formation and the front unit were inter-changing with each other to keep St Albans on their toes.

That led to some excellent early pressure from the home side.

In the seventh minute, a beautiful ball forward by Billy Crook was almost perfect for Tyler Campbell's run but St Albans keeper Dean Snedker came out just in time to make the block.

Snedker was definitely the busier of the two keepers and he had to be alert to cut out a good cross from Muleba and when Karl Oliyide slid in a shot from the edge of the box.

Oliyide was keen to power forward and after a great cross-field ball from Campbell, the Iron striker opened space for himself but his final shot flew over the bar.

At the other end, home keeper Nathan McDonald was possibly the quietest man on the pitch as the Iron defence stayed resolutely strong and denied the visitors any clear-cut chances.

With so much domination going forward, though, Braintree knew they needed a goal to make it count.

The breakthrough almost came as lovely forward play from Braintree split the visiting defence wide open.

Allen set Muleba free with a well-weighted ball and the full-back then laid it into Oliyide, who got a shot away but his effort was blocked by Harold Joseph as the hosts were denied again.

They then went even closer in the 37th minute thanks to a wonderful run forward by Campbell that had the crowd on its feet.

He turned the St Albans defence inside out, going past three or four challenges, and got clear of the back line but his final shot agonisingly came back off the crossbar.

It would have been a truly remarkable goal, but underlined the confidence, power and skill that Braintree had going forward in the opening 45 minutes.

In fact the only thing missing for them was a goal in a first half that they totally dominated.

They probably knew that such control wouldn’t be easy after the break and St Albans came out looking far more like the side who headed the table at the start of the day.

The opening minutes of the half saw Braintree on the back foot and McDonald was called into action for the first time from a Layne Eadie effort and Okoye had to head behind from a dangerous free-kick into the Iron box.

Braintree remained lively going forward, though, and they got the goal they craved in the 64th minute from the head of Okoye.

It came from a corner that was played into a dangerous area in the middle and the Iron centre-half used his height and power to get to the ball and head it in.

Braintree now had a lead to defend and they almost built on it in the 76th minute when a cross to the back post was met by the sweetest of scissor kicks by Allen but Snedker made a stunning save at full stretch.

It wasn’t the only thing that was getting stretched as the play was all over the pitch as players clearly tired in the sapping heat and mistakes started to come.

It meant the closing stages were scrappy, but St Albans kept pushing for a way back in as the Iron dug in and tried to add to their tally on the break.

That almost saw Roberts add to the tally in the 86th minute but Snedker’s smart save at his near post kept it out.

It didn’t matter, though, as the game was played out without too much further incident and Braintree held on to their slender, but decisive, lead.

Braintree Town: Nathan McDonald, Jon Muleba, Ben Wyatt, Christian Frimpong , Marc-Anthony Okoye, Scott Shulton, Luke Allen, Billy Crook, Al Mugabo (Osa Obamwonyi 82), Karl Oliyide (Phil Roberts 59), Tyler Campbell (Roman Michael-Percil 73).

Subs not used: Marcel Barrington, Dernell Wynter.

Referee: Lloyd Wood.