Vanarama National League

If Braintree Town are at least going to take their battle against relegation into the last few weeks of the season, they are going to have to be far better than they were in the first half against Bromley.

The Iron know the odds are against them escaping the clutches of the Vanarama National League drop zone and the way they performed in a lacklustre opening 45 minutes showed just why they have found themselves in that position.

It was a poor display from Braintree as the visitors were allowed to dominate possession and territory, while suffering very little threat towards their own goal.

A definitive five-minute spell early in the first half led to two goals and a third just before the break put them out of sight.

And while a goal eight minutes after the restart and a stunning late strike from Mo Sagaf gave the Iron and the home fans in the crowd of 673 something to cheer, the damage of that opening 45 minutes proved decisive as the visitors eased home in the end.

There was just one change for Braintree from the side that was beaten 2-1 at Solihull Moors seven days earlier as Kodi Lyons-Foster returned to the starting line-up and Dan Matsuzaka dropped to a youthful-looking bench.

The opening quarter of an hour was fairly uneventful as both sides settled into the action, but it took a sudden turn in the 16th minute – for the worse for Iron - and led to a horrible five minutes for the hosts.

It started when a ball was played low into the penalty area from the right by the influential Reeco Hackett and found an unmarked George Porter, who side-footed the ball goalwards.

Lyons-Foster raced out to try to close him down, but the ball deflected off him and took it past Ben Killip in the home goal to give Bromley the lead.

There was almost a second for the visitors three minutes later as a long throw into the box landed at the feet of JJ Hooper whose shot was well-saved by Killip low to his left.

However, it was only a brief respite as a second goal did come on 21 minutes as the visitors’ pressure proved unrelenting.

Hackett was again the provider as a ball was slid through to Luke Coulson, who showed good composure to take it round Killip and slide it into the open net.

It capped an ugly five minutes for the home side when they had been unable to gain any possession whatsoever and were dragged apart by Bromley’s movement up front.

They knew they desperately had to gain some kind of foothold in the game and there was better from them when good work in the Bromley box by Luke Allen saw him get the ball away to Ifeanyi Allen on the right.

He tried a volleyed effort but skewed it wide of the target and that was pretty much the closest that a Braintree player went in the first 45 minutes.

Instead of the hosts halving the deficit, the threat of a Bromley third remained far greater and they ramped up the pressure as the half drew to a close.

Number three looked a certainty on 41 minutes but Braintree keeper Killip, fresh from appearing for the England C team against Wales in midweek, pulled off a truly stunning stop.

It came as the ball was laid off to Hackett inside the six-yard box by Hooper.

Killip had moved to close down Hooper, but somehow recovered to get across and block the shot away when it was fired in from point-blank range by Hackett.

It was an awesome piece of goalkeeping from the Braintree man, but he could do nothing to prevent another strike in time added on at the end of the half.

This time, in the 48th minute, he was badly let down by those in front of him again when the ball fell to Bromley’s Frankie Raymond 25 yards out.

With no orange shirts around him, he had time to pick his spot and unleash a drive past Killip into the top corner to put the visitors in a commanding three-goal lead at half-time.

They almost made it four within two minutes of the restart when Hackett was again given ample time just outside the box to curl an effort inches wide of the target and only a last-ditch challenge by Ifeanyi Allen denied Hooper a chance soon after.

Things looked forlorn for the Iron, but they suddenly lifted themselves and the crowd with a goal in the 53rd minute.

It was now Bromley’s turn to have some suspect marking as Luke Allen’s corner from the right found an unmarked Lyons-Foster, who absolutely powered a header into the top corner to make it 3-1.

Braintree knew they had to follow that up quickly to keep the pressure on, while the visitors recognised the need to take the sting out of any home revival and the game suddenly took on a new look.

The Iron’s confidence was clearly boosted by the goal but any optimism was brought to a shuddering halt in the 65th minute when Bromley restored their three-goal lead.

It was a clinical bit of play that exposed the Iron defence.

Quick feet by the impressive Hackett saw him skip clear of a couple of challenges wide on the right before slipping a lovely ball in to Coulson, who fired a cross low into the Iron box that was tucked away by Hooper.

It also took the wind out of the Iron sails.

They did keep pressing, though, and, to their credit, they tried to be positive in the closing stages.

That saw a stunning finish when, in time added on at the end, substitute Mo Sagaf unleashed a thunderbolt from 30 yards into the top corner of the Bromley goal.

The assist was provided by 16-year-old Shane Temple, who had only just come on to make his Iron debut and teed up Sagaf perfectly for a wonderful strike.

It at least gave the hundreds of youngsters from Braintree Town Youth FC who had been invited to the ground on the day something to cheer at the end, however, the damage had been done in that opening half and Bromley eased to the three points.

Braintree Town: Ben Killip, Kodi Lyons-Foster, Andrew Eleftheriou, Rob Atkinson, Cameron James, Ifeanyi Allen, Aaron Eyoma (Shane Temple 90), Oscar Borg (Dan Matsuzaka 45), Courtney Richards (Mo Sagaf 72), Luke Allen, Korrey Henry.

Subs not used: Ikechi Eze, Alfie Cerulli.

Referee: Declan Bourne.