Vanarama National League South

In the week when his strong early-season form had been rewarded with a club contract, Alfie Cerulli stepped off the substitutes’ bench to fire Braintree Town to a third consecutive home victory.

Iron manager Glen Driver had called on his team to turn their Cressing Road home into a “fortress” and after wins against Eastbourne Borough and Dorking Wanderers, Dulwich Hamlet were the latest side to be beaten in a 2-1 win for Braintree.

Braintree had to come from behind this time, but it extended their unbeaten run to four games in Vanarama National League South and they had homegrown talent Cerulli to thank for their winner.

After a tame opening half, Iron were trailing at the break, but the introduction of former Braintree Academy striker Cerulli seemed to energise them and proved crucial to their success.

Having got back on level terms with an equaliser by Ade Cole, Braintree went ahead when Cerulli headed a second in and although Dulwich piled on pressure late on, they couldn’t get back and Iron won on home soil again.

It was the second weekend running that Cerulli had stepped off the bench and fired in a winner in a 2-1 victory.

There was just one change for the Iron from the side that started the 2-2 draw at Concord Rangers in midweek.

That saw Harry Osbourne return to the line-up in place of Tyler Christian-Law, while there was also a spot for new signing Harry Donovan on the bench.

While the game against Dulwich Hamlet saw Braintree, who started the day sat 11th, taking on a side above them in the National League South table, they were at opposite ends of the form table.

Braintree were third after losing just one of their previous six games, while Dulwich had won only one of their last six outings, picking up one point from three games heading into the clash at Cressing Road.

Despite the divergence in form heading into the game, though, there was little between the pair in the opening exchanges and neither goalkeeper was unduly troubled.

The first sight of goal for the hosts came on 13 minutes when Ade Cole broke forward and had a shot from the edge of the box only to see a deflection take the ball wide.

Other than that, there was little to excite the home fans.

However, Dulwich, who hadn’t scored in their previous two games, did get on the scoresheet on 19 minutes when they took advantage of some poor defending from Braintree at a set piece.

A free-kick by Jack Connors midway inside the Iron half was played into the Braintree area and deep to the back post where the ball found an unmarked Danny Mills, who slotted it under an exposed Michael Johnson for his fifth goal of the season and a 1-0 lead.

It was a setback for the Iron and one they found tough to really hit back from before half-time and it was clear that they would need more quality in the final third to break down a big and physical Dulwich back line.

Iron boss Glen Driver identified that a change was needed, replacing Jason Banton with Alfie Cerulli for the start of the second half and the switch had an almost instant impact.

Braintree’s energy was improved from the start and they got themselves level inside two minutes with an impressive equalising strike from Ade Cole.

He carried the ball in from the left and drove hard towards the Dulwich area before firing a shot into the top corner of the visitors' goal to give the hosts the start to the second period that they wanted.

It began a spell of pressure from the hosts as play was almost exclusively towards the Hamlet goal and Braintree pinned their opponents effectively into their own half.

There were a number of chances for the hosts to get ahead, but they were unable to make more of their spell of dominance and Dulwich inevitably came back into the game more.

Having recovered their poise, the visitors went desperately close to a goal on 68 minutes when the ball was played into the feet of Connor Hunter in the box and he swivelled before firing a shot that flew across the face of the Braintree goal and wide.

Braintree were suddenly under the cosh and living dangerously as Dulwich continued to threaten, with Reise Allassani firing in a shot that Johnson had to be alert to keep out.

But it was at the other end where the next goal action came in the 77th minute.

Cerulli had already made a big impact since coming on and his growing reputation was enhanced further when he headed in from close range after a brilliant cross to the back post from the left by Femi Akinwande.

Braintree now had a lead to defend and it quickly became clear that they would have to be strong at the back to hold on to it as Dulwich pushed forward in search of an equaliser.

They went close on 83 minutes when, despite home calls for offside, Reise Allassani broke clear and fired in a shot that Johnson had to be at his best to keep out.

As Dulwich pressed forward for an equaliser, though, an opportunity presented itself for an Iron third late on.

Cole raced clear of the Hamlet defence and through on the Dulwich goal, but while he showed good composure, Ashley Maynard-Brewer saved brilliantly and the Hamlet keeper kept out the follow-up from Akinwande.

It left Hamlet still having a sniff of a way back in and they threw everything at Braintree, including a last-gasp effort from Dominic Vose that went agonisingly wide, but the hosts held on for another three-point haul on home turf.

Braintree Town: Michael Johnson, Josh Urquhart, Michael Clark, Jake Hutchings, Harry Osbourne, Cameron Green, Jason Banton (Alfie Cerulli 45), Ade Cole, Femi Akinwande, Tom Richardson (Sean Bonnett-Johnson 84), Tobi Coker (Rob Harvey 82).

Subs not used: Charley Barker, Harry Donovan.

Referee: Sunny Gill.