LET us for the moment imagine an alternative universe in which Diaz Wright’s winning penalty in the 2018 promotion play-off final is saved.

Hampton score with their next kick, Iron miss another and return home still in the National League South.

Brad Quinton is given a Gareth Southgate-type reception as the manager who did far better than expected even though he failed at the final hurdle.

He keeps the team together and heads into the new season with renewed vigour, enjoying a Christmas with the team perhaps in the play-off positions with everything to play for.

But a few inches in the trajectory of a football changed all that.

Instead of a settled side, a settled manager and uncomplaining fans, Iron enter 2019 with exactly the opposite.

The side changes weekly, many fans have made it clear they are unhappy with the manager and even the chairman, without whom the club would probably still be in the Ryman League, has come in for criticism.

For the second time in three years, they have paid the price for being too successful.

In 2015-16, they shook the National League by finishing third but their players had taken a prominent place in the shop window and rival managers with more cash in their pockets were not slow in persuading them that life would be better off elsewhere.

As a result Jamie Day had to fight off relegation with a completely new team for the 2016-17 season, something that proved beyond him and his successor Hakan Hayrettin

This time they have over-reached themselves, found themselves at a level they had not expected and did not have the quality to sustain.

Quinton lasted no longer than the first week in October, a sad moment for the club and for one of its favourite sons, a departure that in hindsight, and indeed at the time, seemed premature.

Hayrettin returned as a caretaker and immediately had a set of impressive results, a draw at high-flying and high-spending Salford City followed by wins over Dover and Bromley.

It was to prove another case of success biting them in the backside.

The club found it difficult not to give him the job on a permanent basis, but since that point they have gained only six points out of a possible 33.

There have been times when Braintree have matched their opponents in most areas but it has largely come down to the areas that matter most, in front of both goals.

A secure defence and a potent striker have been lacking all season and with the loss of strikers Mo Bettamer and Reece Grant plus the recent departure of powerful centre back Joe Ellul, the situation has deteriorated further.

To his credit, Hayrettin has been busy in the transfer and loan market but has yet to come up with the right round pegs to fit in the round holes.

His desperate quest has uncomfortable echoes of Garry Kimble’s constant changes at Witham Town in their unsuccessful attempt to avoid the drop in their one season in the Ryman premier division in 2014-15, or indeed Iron’s infamous 2003-04 season of 55 players when they were saved from relegation from the Ryman premier only because of the formation of the Conference North and South above them.

Hayrettin has seldom played the same side in successive matches and of the current squad only Ricky Gabriel has played in all of the last nine matches.

Miracles can happen.

When Dover were beaten at Cressing Road at the end of October, they dropped to the bottom of the table.

Since then a run of results has taken them up six places and for the moment at least out of trouble.

They started their run at the end of October.

We are now in January.

This column pointed out at the halfway stage of the season that a run of points equal to the team in eighth place would be needed to reach the alleged safety point of 50 points.

The requirement has now risen to 1.82 points per match, a figure that only the top three teams can match in their results so far.

Braintree’s draw at Halifax on Saturday, albeit a creditable one, only served to increase that figure.

But it could, just possibly, have benefitted them in the long run.

As things stand, Iron are likely to be put in the National League North next year.

By creating a new division at step three to correct the imbalance between northern and southern teams being promoted into the National League’s regional divisions, it had appeared that that threat had been removed.

But that did not take account of the possibility of a clutch of southern-based teams being relegated from the premier division.

All the teams currently in the National League South are further south than Braintree so Iron’s only hope of going into that division rests on two northern teams accompanying them down.

It still seems somewhat incredible that Chesterfield, relegated last year, could be one of them after winning their first three matches and looking set for an instant return.

But an amazing run of just one win in their next 25 games has left them looking increasingly vulnerable.

The next team up is Halifax, so taking two points off them could - just possibly - help to pull them down.

Paradoxically therefore, it is now in Iron’s interests that the likes of Maidenhead, Dover, Aldershot and Maidstone start picking up points to pull Halifax down into the mire.

It’s a long shot, but not so long as Braintree escaping relegation themselves.