Vanarama National League South

An all-action game where fortunes ebbed and flowed finally ended with Braintree Town and Wealdstone sharing a single Vanarama National League South point apiece.

Much of the game was played like a cup tie, with both sides going for it full tilt on an increasingly difficult pitch and it showed what a three-point haul would have meant to both.

If anything, it would be Wealdstone who would feel more satisfied as the visitors and having overturned a two-goal deficit in the second half.

Braintree had looked in control at the break as a Luke Allen goal and a Billy Crook penalty in the five minutes before half-time gave them hopes of a second consecutive victory.

However, two goals – one from another penalty – in five minutes just after the hour mark saw Wealdstone hit back.

It set up a blood and thunder last 30 minutes and both sides threw caution to the wind, but nothing could separate the two at the final whistle.

Having been denied any action last week by the wintery chill, Braintree returned looking to build on the 1-0 win they had in their last outing when they played Poole Town two weeks previously.

There was just one change to the starting line-up from that game for the Iron with Diaz Wright, who had joined on a loan deal from Colchester United, coming straight in and Roman Michael-Percil dropping to the bench.

Wright was employed in a central midfield role in front of the back four and alongside Luke Allen and Billy Crook and the U’s man was kept busy in a hectic opening spell.

Both sides showed they wanted to get on the front foot, but neither was able to dominate in terms of possession or territory in the early stages.

The closest either side went was on 13 minutes when Braintree almost unlocked the Wealdstone defence.

A fortunate bounce of the ball allowed Ricky Gabriel to surge clear.

Rather than take on the shot himself, he squared the ball to where Dan Thompson slid in but Wealdstone keeper Jonathan North made a stunning stop with his legs to keep it goalless.

The game wasn’t helped by the heaviness of the pitch.

It had been badly affected by the persistent rain of the day before and began cutting up pretty badly as the first half wore on.

That had an impact on the game as it got scrappy and both teams were finding it difficult to impose themselves.

Braintree looked most threatening when playing the ball forward to Thompson and building attacks from the impressive platform that he provided for others to work off.

On 29 minutes, lovely play by Thompson set up an attack that saw Gabriel get free again on the left but a last-ditch covering tackle denied him.

From the resulting corner, though, Wright headed the ball in to Thompson who tried an audacious flick over his shoulder but the ball was cleared off the line by former Iron man Ian Gayle.

He was one of two ex-Braintree players in the Wealdstone line-up, with the other being Jerome Okimo, who was also at the Essex club last year.

It was the hosts who started to look more threatening as the half drew to a close, though.

Lovely play from Iron almost unlocked the Wealdstone defence in the 38th minute when a great ball from Wright out to the left set Gabriel clear again and North had to make an excellent save at his near post.

However, North could do nothing to stop Braintree from taking the lead on 42 minutes as they got their reward for an excellent spell of football.

The breakthrough goal came as the ball broke to Allen on the edge of the six-yard box and he made no mistake in planting it firmly into the back of the net.

It was nothing more than they deserved after a strong spell when they had been building in confidence, but better was to come for the hosts before the end of the half.

In the second of two minutes added on at the end, the ball had looked to be running out of play, but in trying to get to it, Thompson was brought down by North and referee Jacob Miles pointed to the spot.

Crook has proved consistently reliable from the penalty spot this season and this was no different as he sent North the wrong way to give the Iron a two-goal lead at the break.

In truth, it was an advantage they deserved after a strong finish to the opening 45 minutes and was one they held on to comfortably at the start of the second period.

Wealdstone, knowing they had to chase the game started to press forward though and a moment of quality put them squarely back in the game on 60 minutes.

From a seemingly innocuous situation, Matthew Whichelow picked the ball up on the edge of the Iron box before turning and curling the ball into the top corner of the home goal.

Braintree almost restored their two-goal advantage instantly when Bettache surged into the box and squared ball to Crook, but his shot deflected just over by a last-ditch tackle.

It meant the wind was still in Wealdstone’s sails and they drew level on 65 minutes from the game’s second penalty.

It was awarded as a ball over the top exposed the Iron defence and David Pratt got clear before being caught by Iron keeper Nathan McDonald.

Referee Miles was quick to point to the spot again and Daniel Green stepped forward to ram the ball home to level the game.

It really was on a knife-edge now and, having got themselves back in the game, it was Wealdstone who looked the greater threat.

They were twice within inches of taking the lead as a header across the Iron goal from a corner just eluded a despairing dive by Mustafa Tiryaki and Pratt the guided the ball wide after a dangerous cross by Ryan Sellers.

The hosts were also throwing everything into it, though, and Allen curled a free-kick inches wide, while Jon Muleba strode forward and hit a firm shot into North’s midriff.

However, there was no further breakthrough and a pulsating game ended with the sides somehow locked together at 2-2.

Braintree Town: Nathan McDonald, Mahrez Bettache (Marcel Barrington 64), Ricky Gabriel, Josh Hill, Christian Frimpong, Jon Muleba, Diaz Wright, Luke Allen (Matt Baxter 83), Billy Crook, Dan Thompson (Reece Grant 83), Ben Wyatt.

Subs not used: Roman Michael-Percil, Jack Curtis.

Referee: Jacob Miles.