BRAINTREE Town slumped to a disappointing home defeat at the hands of fellow strugglers St Albans City, at Cressing Road.

Joe Iaciofano’s first-half strike proved the difference between the two sides, to leave relegation-threatened Iron second from bottom in the southern division of the National League, who went ahead with the weekend's games despite the Premier League and EFL and other non-league bodies suspending their fixtures.

St Albans made the brighter start and looked the most likely side to make the early breakthrough.

Harry Forster’s effort from the edge of the area sailed harmlessly wide for the visitors in the opening stages, while Braintree centre-back Arthur Iontton made a crucial block in the six-yard box to foil the unmarked Iaciofano in the area, soon after.

Braintree had a glimpse of goal when Jack Smith’s tame effort from the edge of the area was easily collected by keeper Dean Snedker after the hosts had broken quickly.

But St Albans made the breakthrough in the 16th minute through Iaciofano, who slotted home at the far post after being picked out by Forster’s low cross from the right, despite Braintree goalkeeper Billy Johnson’s efforts to keep it out.

Iron were largely second best and boss George Borg took swift action, bringing on Charlie O’Keefe and Liam Smyth on for Tommy Cooney and Alfie Cerulli just before the half hour in a bid to get his side back into the game.

Frankie Musonda’s header from a corner flashed inches wide of the far post for the visitors before Braintree began to threaten, with Darelle Russell’s header deflected just wide after good play by Jordan Chiedozie had set him up.

Braintree captain Steve Sheehan’s header flew wide when he should have really hit the target soon after but St Albans finished the first half strongly.

Braintree keeper Billy Johnson made a superb save to palm away Forster’s fierce shot at point blank range before the visitors were controversially awarded a 43rd-minute penalty when Jacob Gardner-Smith was controversially penalised for a foul on Musonda in the area.

But Johnson made a brilliant save from Iaciofano’s resultant spot-kick, diving to push the ball away to his left.

The on-loan Norwich City keeper then made another good save at his near post to block Iaciofano’s close-range shot in first-half stoppage-time, as the Iron went in behind.

Iaciofano hooked a shot over in the opening stages of the second half and Zane Banton’s cross-shot flashed inches wide of the far post, as the visitors pressed for a second.

Braintree found it hard to get out of their own half at times, increasingly pushed back by a well-drilled St Albans side.

There was a moment of concern in the 68th minute when St Albans centre-back Tom Bender was left in a heap following a fully-committed challenge with Jordan Chiedozie, just inside the visitors’ half.

Chiedozie was booked for the tackle but after several minutes of treatment, the former Colchester United defender was thankfully back up on his feet and back in the action.

Forster scooped a close-range shot over for St Albans but Braintree came agonisingly close to a precious equaliser with 14 minutes to go when David Longe-King’s clearance whistled just wide of his own goal, following substitute Brendon Ocran’s cross from the right.

Smyth curled a shot over with five minutes remaining for Braintree but a solitary goal proved enough to win it for St Albans.

Braintree Town: Johnson, Kitzpatrick, Cooney (sub Smyth, 27), Smith, Sheehan, Iontton, Guerfi, Gardner-Smith (sub Ocran, 59), Russell, Chiedozie, Cerulli (sub O’Keefe, 27). Substitutes (not used): Matsuzaka, Pappel.