Manager Danny Cowley admitted that even he was shocked to see his Braintree Town team finish third in the Vanarama National League table.

The final game of the season – a 3-0 win against Altrincham – ended with the Iron securing not only a place in the play-offs but also a top-three position.

With Dover Athletic and also Grimsby, who the Iron now face over two legs in the play-off semi-finals, both stumbling on the final day, it allowed Braintree to surpass even what their boss thought possible.

He said: ““We finished third in the division.

“Not many things shock me in football but I can’t believe actually that we’ve done as well as we have done.

“That’s not underestimating what we have.

“We know what we are and we felt when we first came here that we could add value and be successful, but the players and their level of determination and commitment game-in game-out has been phenomenal.

“I can’t tell you how proud I am of that group.”

It was a thoroughly professional job by the Iron on the final day of a long and arduous campaign, with a Michael Cheek brace and a Mitch Brundle strike seeing them comfortably home against Altrincham, who were relegated by the result.

And Cowley was relieved to see his team’s hard graft pay off.

He added: “We’re pleased to have got over the line; it has been a long week, as you can imagine.

“I’m really pleased for the boys and so proud of them.

“They have worked so hard and it’s always pleasing to see them get the success that their hard work deserves.

“We had a really good start.

“We wanted an aggressive mindset and wanted to get on the front foot.

“I thought we did that and it was great to score through Michael Cheek early on.

“I was pleased to get off to a good start and I think the goal settled us down.

“We were good value.

“With the pressure that the players were under, I thought they were excellent.

“People may think we do better against the bigger, better and more high-profile teams but we showed that when the pressure is on us and we may be favourites – as most people saw us – we can still cope with it and play to the level that we do.

“That was really pleasing because it was another question answered.”