A DETERMINED and disciplined rearguard action brought Braintree Town the hardest of hard-earned points when they drew 1-1 with Oxford City in their opening National League South fixture on Saturday, writes RON FOSKER.

The discipline was necessary because of a lack of it at the other end of the field when Femi Akinwande was sent off after 65 minutes.

Booked in the first half for an off-the-ball incident involving his opposite number Elliot Benyon, Akinwande unwisely went in strongly in a tackle with his arm raised, seemingly unhappy that he hadn’t been awarded a free kick for an earlier foul on him.

It left Iron, 1-0 up at the time, to face 35 minutes, including nine minutes additional time, of relentless pressure.

It was not without a number of alarms, but their wall was pierced only once, ironically by a header from former Iron Dan Matsuzaka in the 86th minute.

Before Akinwande’s departure, Iron had looked good value for their lead, given to them by Alfie Payne after the visitors’ defence had failed to clear a Matt Johnson long throw.

They had taken some time to settle but the bulk of the play had been in the Oxford half in the quarter hour before half-time.

An Arjan Krasniqi shot from a Harry Hope cross was blocked and a minute later Kyran Clements headed just wide from a corner.

At the other end, Preston Edwards, who had a solid game in goal, brought off a superb double save from Lewis Coyle and Joe Iaciofano.

Earlier Akinwande had shown his value to the side when he pinched the ball from a slovenly defender, advanced on goal and saw his shot from an angle pushed on to a post by keeper Ben Dudzinsky.

Akinwande’s dismissal came 15 minutes after Payne’s goal and for a time it looked as if the sterling efforts of the back line of Ezra Ikebuasi, an excellent signing, Clements, Luke Pennell and Jay Porter would hold out for three points.

There had been a couple of close shaves immediately after being reduced to ten men but Oxford were getting increasingly frustrated by the serried ranks until Matsuzaka’s goal.

There were further hearts-in-mouth moments in time added on when first George Harmon, unmarked at the back post, hammered a cross over the bar and shortly afterwards Preston Edwards produced an excellent save to deny Reece Fleet.

Manager Ryan Maxwell’s never-let-then-settle approach was evident from the off and mostly had the desired effect although greater finesse will be needed as the season progresses and defences get used to the frequent long balls raining down on them.

But it could so easily have brought them three points, which would have been an excellent return against a team who finished fourth last season.

Braintree: Preston Edwards; Ezra Ikebuasi, Kyran Clements, Luke Pennell, Jay Porter; Harry Hope (Johnville Renee 70), Alfie Payne (Luke Holness 74), Matt Johnson, Arjan Krasniqi, Correy Davidson; Femi Akinwande.