Thurlow Nunn League division one

A DISPLAY of discipline and resolve against one of Thurlow Nunn League division one’s free-scoring high-rollers showed the growing maturity within the Braintree Town Reserves side.

Whitton United arrived at the IronmongeryDirect Stadium as division one’s form side, having won their previous ten matches in the league, during which time they had scored 50 goals.

That run had carried them up to second in the table, however, they were also aware that the last team to beat them had been Braintree, with a 5-2 victory at the end of November.

And it looked as though the Young Irons would do the double over them as the hosts led with a Marcel Barrington goal until four minutes from time when Whitton managed to grab an equaliser to make it 1-1 at the end.

The game was being played as a rearranged fixture seven days after the original date for it when the winter weather had led to a postponement.

Braintree had won their previous game 6-0, but that had been more than two weeks before and they made two changes with the addition of first-team strike duo Reece Grant and Barrington as Joe Jones and Jordan Sargent moved to the bench. It was the Iron who made the early running, with Grant looking lively and making runs that stretched the United defence.

However, there was no breakthrough in terms of goals and, having ridden the early storm, Whitton began to pose questions themselves.

The visitors’ movement around the Braintree area caused a few problems and it took some scrambled clearances to prevent United getting a clear sight of goal in a short period of pressure.

The opening goal did come on 11 minutes, but it was at the other end of the pitch.

It arrived when a long clearance flew over the top of the Whitton defence and Barrington’s pace and power showed as he outstripped the covering defenders and got a touch to nick the ball past advancing Whitton keeper Ross Welton.

It left the Iron striker with the simplest of tasks to guide the ball into the open net to give the Young Irons the lead.

That was almost doubled twice in five minutes just before the half-hour mark, but Welton came to the rescue on both occasions.

Firstly, Alfie Cleal got clear but his shot from an acute angle was parried away by Welton at his near post.

Then a wonderful curled cross into the box by Regan Farley-Hearn was almost turned into his own net by Whitton defender Harry Wales and Welton had to make a save at full stretch to spare his team-mate’s blushes.

However, there was then an equally alert piece of goalkeeping at the other end as a cross into the Iron box was glanced on by the head of Jamie Cole, but an excellent stop by Lewis Hawley denied United an equaliser.

Cleal went close again on 38 minutes when he got clear of the Whitton back line again and although he steered the ball past Welton, it was also wide of the target as the difference stood at just the single goal at half-time.

Whitton knew they needed a response after the break to keep their run going and pressed forward at the start of the half.

However, Braintree’s back line worked hard and good discipline saw them limit the chances that the visitors were able to create.

The central defensive partnership of Danny Nesbitt and Jack Hurley were particularly impressive with both making some timely interceptions to frustrate the Whitton attack.

And when the visitors did get through, like with a headed effort from a 67th minute corner, Hawley was well-positioned to maintain the Young Irons’ lead.

With Whitton committing men forward, it left space at the back and Barrington nearly capitalised when he outmuscled Welton to claim the ball and curled it just wide with the United keeper out of position.

The bulk of the play remained towards the home goal, though, and the hosts’ resolve was finally broken in the 86th minute.

From a corner, the hosts failed to clear their lines and a ball back into the danger area caught them flat-footed as Whitton’s Josh Hubert poked it in from close range.

The way the visitors celebrated their goal showed what it meant to them and also demonstrated how hard they had been made to work for it.

It meant Braintree were denied the home and away double over their high-flying opponents, but they could be proud they had brought United’s winning run to an end.

Braintree Reserves: Lewis Hawley, Regan Farley-Hearn, Jack Hurley, Matt Travell, Jett Hogan, Danny Nesbitt, Mark Dallinger, Alfie Cleal (Jordan Sargent 81), Lewis Stantiall (Joe Jones 67), Reece Grant, Marcel Barrington (Aaron Dyson 88). Subs not used: Jamie Bennett, Jack Martin. Referee: Chris Hastings.