Vanarama National League South

Braintree Town made a monumental statement to the rest of the Vanarama National League South by travelling to second-placed Havant & Waterlooville and coming away with a 3-1 victory.

Both teams were relegated from the top-flight at the end of last year in a season where their two meetings had both been won by the Hawks with late goals from Alfie Rutherford.

However, it was Braintree who were left laughing this time.

Havant have made a good opening to the season and were sat second at the start of the day, but Glen Driver’s Iron side are on a superb run of form and their 3-1 win means they have now taken 13 points from the last five games.

The win came courtesy of a Tom Richardson double and a late Femi Akinwande strike, but Braintree also had goalkeeper Michael Johnson to thank after a penalty save kept them ahead when the game was finely poised at 2-1.

There was just one change for the Iron from the side that had started their 2-1 victory against Dulwich Hamlet seven days earlier.

It saw the scorer of the winner in that previous game – Alfie Cerulli – handed a first Braintree Town start after a number of impressive displays after coming on as a substitute.

Cerulli’s introduction saw Jason Banton move to the bench, where he was alongside Adam Mills, who was returning from a three-match suspension.

However, it was another member of the Iron’s attacking unit who made the headlines in the first half and there were just four minutes on the clock when Richardson opened the scoring for Braintree.

Manager Glen Driver had said in the wake of the win against Dulwich that his striker hadn’t had the fortune in front of goal that his play had deserved in recent games, but he made up for that by twice getting on the scoresheet in the first half.

The first came when Ade Cole played the ball across the Havant penalty area and Richardson headed it unchallenged into the back of the net.

It was the start Braintree wanted, but the lead lasted only for 13 minutes.

The Hawks had been forced into an early substitution when Wes Fogden picked up a knock and his replacement, Brad Tarbuck, took just three minutes to make his mark and level the scores.

The equaliser came when Tarbuck cut into the penalty area and curled the ball into the bottom corner of the goal and it was now Havant who were buoyant.

They almost took the lead in the 23rd minute when Sam Magri headed against the woodwork from a corner and when Josh Taylor fired in the loose ball, a Braintree boot was required to clear it off the line before Johnson could gratefully claim it.

Johnson also needed to be alert to keep out a strong volleyed effort from Jonah Ayunga and headed efforts from Ayunga and Tarbuck were just off target as the Hawks kept pressing.

The hosts were ruing those missed chances at the break as Braintree regained the lead before the interval.

It was Richardson who did the damage again as he weaved his way into the heart of the Havant penalty area and slid the ball past Hawks keeper Ross Worner from close range.

With a 2-1 lead at the break, it was almost 3-1 four minutes after the restart when Cerulli hit a volley from the edge of the area that thundered off the crossbar and on to the line before bouncing clear.

The lead stayed at just one and it looked as though it would be wiped out when Havant were awarded a 66th minute penalty, but the Hawks hadn’t bargained on Johnson.

Just as he had at Dartford, the Braintree keeper was more than a match for a spot-kick and made a save low to his right to keep out Anthony straker’s shot and maintain the Iron’s lead.

Havant tried to keep pressing and dominated the play, with Johnson having to make smart saves from efforts by Danny Kedwell, Benny Read and Tarbuck, but an equaliser just wouldn’t come.

With the hosts’ efforts in vain, further salt was rubbed into the wounds when yet another of Braintree’s powerful attacking group added a third goal for the Iron.

This time it was Akinwande getting in on the act as he made the points safe when, just as the game was set to enter seven minutes of added time at the end, he broke through and slotted the ball past Worner.

It made the final minutes that much more comfortable and sealed an eye-catching win that moved Braintree up to sixth in the table and just three points off second place.

Braintree Town: Michael Johnson, Harry Osbourne, Cameron Green, Josh Urquhart, Michael Clark, Jake Hutchings, Femi Akinwande, Ade Cole, Tom Richardson, Alfie Cerulli, Tobi Coker (Adam Mills 58). Subs not used: Charley Barker, Harry Donovan, Jason Banton, Christan Tyler-Law.

Referee: Lee Brennan.