Vanarama National League

It would be easy to blame the wind for a first-half display from Braintree Town that set Harrogate Town up for an easy three Vanarama National League points.

However, that would be merely papering over the cracks of a poor Iron performance at Cressing Road.

It was a fierce breeze that the hosts found themselves playing into in the first 45 minutes and Harrogate took full advantage of that along with some distinctly benevolent defending from the Braintree back line.

At just 362, it was the Iron’s lowest home gate of the season, but although their faithful fans made plenty of noise in the first half, their players were unable to respond on the pitch.

Three goals in a one-sided opening 45 minutes meant the game was effectively over by the break and with Braintree unable to utilise the conditions themselves in any way after the restart, it proved an afternoon to forget.

They eventually lost 4-0 as their losing run was extended to five games and a place through the relegation trapdoor inched ever closer.

There were two changes from the Braintree side that started the 3-1 defeat by Chesterfield in midweek.

First of those was that there was no Callum Morton.

The West Brom loanee was stretchered off in the game against Chesterfield and a scan had shown that he had suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury to his left knee.

It was an injury that could keep him out for up to nine months and meant an end to a loan spell with the Iron that had been profitable for both parties.

Also coming out of the starting line-up was Dan Matsuzaka, who dropped to the bench, while those back in were Sam Kelly, who was available again after missing the last two games and Korrey Henry.

The game started with Braintree unusually attacking the Clubhouse End of the ground and into a blustery wind.

With the conditions likely to favour the visitors in the opening 45 minutes, Braintree knew they would have to contain the threat and hope to profit themselves after the break, but that game plan was soon blown away.

With less than two minutes on the clock, they were a goal down.

It came as the home defence hesitated and a ball was slipped through to Jack Emmett, who curled it past an exposed Ben Killip into the back of the Iron net.

It was certainly not the opening Iron had hoped for, but worse was to come.

They showed a bit of attacking intent through a good break by Mo Sagaf, but it was a brief respite and they fell two behind after ten minutes.

Harrogate doubled their lead when an attempted clearance rebounded - somewhat fortuitously – into the path of Harrogate striker Mark Beck, who strode through and stroked the ball past the advancing Killip as he tried to narrow the angle.

It was soon almost 3-0 as Beck took advantage of more poor defending and got clear again, but this time Killip was able to make a good stop.

It still wasn’t a healthy position for the Iron to find themselves in, though, and they continued to live dangerously.

Jonathan Muldoon turned a ball from the left just past the post and on there was another let-off for the hosts on 20 minutes when Muldoon got clear again but the wind whipped the ball off his toes this time and on to Killip, who was quickly out of his goal.

Braintree knew they had to do something to get themselves back into a game that was slipping away from them very quickly and they did try to show some better attacking intent.

Ifeanyi Allen got away on the right and lofted a ball into the middle that eventually fell to Luke Allen but he was off balance and lifted his shot over the bar.

With Braintree getting forward more, their defence was given respite and Harrogate looked far less threatening for a spell, but the hosts regressed to square one again on 37 minutes as they fell three behind.

The third goal came from a simple ball punted upfield by keeper James Belshaw that wasn't dealt with by the home defence.

After an initial save from a shot by Muldoon by Killip and with the Iron defenders unable to react, George Thompson fired in the rebound to give Harrogate a healthy lead to defend with the wind in their faces after the break.

The teams emerged for the second half with Braintree knowing it was their turn to use the wind and the big question was could they make as much use of it as Harrogate had.

The simple answer was no.

Braintree started the half positively enough and most of the early play was in the Harrogate half, but with keeper Belshaw not tested, it allowed the visitors to settle into the game with the elements in their faces and they went further ahead ten minutes into the second period.

It was Beck doing the damage again for Harrogate as a cross from the right was not dealt with by the home defence again and he poked the ball in from close range.

It really was game over for the Iron and should have been five soon after as a free-kick was fired into the Iron area and headed down to Muldoon, but he dragged a shot wide from inside the six-yard box.

Far from using the wind to their advantage, Braintree continued to be pressed back and they lived dangerously with two clearances off the line in quick succession on 70 minutes.

First it was Atkinson heading clear before the ball was parried away by Killip and from the resulting corner, Andrew Eleftheriou then headed off the line.

It took until the 78th minute for a first save to be required by Belshaw as Cameron James tried his luck from 35 yards and the ball skipped off the pitch, into the Harrogate keeper's face and away to safety.

At least it was an effort of goal from a player in an orange shirt but that was about it on another chastening day for the Iron.

Braintree Town: Ben Killip, Andrew Eleftheriou, Rob Atkinson, Cameron James, Kodi Lyons-Foster, Sam Kelly (Aaron Eyoma 45), Oscar Borg (Jayden Gipson 67), Mo Sagaf (Courtney Richards 45), Ifeanyi Allen, Luke Allen, Korrey Henry. Subs not used: Dan Matsuzaka, Danny Rowe.

Referee: Carl Brook