LUKE Allen says consistency is going to be the key if Braintree Town are to stay in the heart of the Vanarama National League South promotion race.

The 24-year-old midfielder made his first start since an ankle injury at the end of October and scored a goal as Braintree beat Essex rivals East Thurrock United 4-0 last weekend and he is looking to press on when the Iron head to Chippenham Town on Saturday.

Their win against the Rocks took Braintree back up to second in the National League South table and while that is a boost, Allen said the tightness at the top of standings means up and down form may not be enough to stay in the promotion race.

Just six points separate the top eight teams in the division and Allen knows any inconsistency could be harmful to the Iron’s hopes.

He said: “It seems like it’s a crucial period coming up so we have to look to win as many games as we can to get ourselves away from the pack.

“It is so tight up at the top and if you win one or lose one then that can be a big difference.

“We know we can’t have an off week.

“There are times where we’ve won one and then lost one and we are just trying to be a bit more consistent and trying to put a run of four to five wins back-to-back together. That’s the target now.

“We’ve started 2018 well and we’re targeting a win at Chippenham now to back that up.

“We had tough games around Christmas as Dartford and Chelmsford are good teams but I felt we were the better side against Dartford and better against Chelmsford over the two games. We showed character to come back from behind in both the games against Chelmsford and we want to push on from that now.”

Allen scored the third of Braintree’s four goals against East Thurrock as he made his first start since injuring ankle ligaments against Havant and Waterlooville on October 28 and he is now looking to make up for lost time.

“It was good to get back out there with a start,” he added.

“I’d had a couple of appearances off the bench recently but it was good to start again.

“The legs were going a little bit in the second half, with my calves giving me a bit of cramp as the pitch was getting a bit heavy, but I enjoyed it and scoring a goal was nice.

“It’s nice to be actually on the pitch having an impact rather than having to watch from the sidelines.

“Before I got the injury, I had played every game and then to miss about eight or nine was frustrating, but I think the boys have done well while I was out.

“It was my ankle ligaments that I injured in the Havant game when a player landed awkwardly and my ankle got trapped underneath him.

“We weren’t too sure how long it would be when it first happened but it was a grade two ankle ligament damage and that’s six to eight weeks out.

“I think I got back in the sixth or seventh week but you don’t want to force it.

“For the first two or three weeks when I was injured, it was fine, but getting into the fifth and sixth week, you start to lose your head a bit.

“Especially when you are watching games week-in week-out, you just want to be out there again playing.

“It feels good to be back now, though.

“It felt a bit sore, which it was always going to be, but it’s a relief to be back out there.”