BRAINTREE Town were denied a notable victory over high-flying Dartford after conceding a last-gasp equaliser, writes DAVID WARD.

The Iron were cruelly robbed of a win and much-needed three points in their National League South survival battle when the visitors grabbed a dramatic equaliser eighth minutes into time added on, at the Dunmow Group Stadium.

Forced into a makeshift and generally inexperienced side due to injuries, Covid-19 cases and suspension, the Iron nonetheless put in a fantastic performance against their title-chasing opponents.

Indeed, for long periods of the game they were far the better team playing some decent football, fighting for every ball and never allowing the visitors to take control of the game.

It was really tough on the Iron and manager Ryan Maxwell said he felt absolutely gutted for all the players.

He said: "The players put in a tremendous shift all game and simply didn't deserve not to win a game where they had clearly been the better side.

"Football we know can be a cruel game and this one was certainly one for my players who never gave an inch all game and fought so hard and played some great football.

"We knew it would a tough game because the visitors are a vastly experienced side compared to the Iron because we were forced again to have a makeshift team due to injuries, Covid and suspension.

"But what my team lacked in experience they more than made up for it committing themselves and were determined to win and in reality any neutral watching it would have to agree.

"I'm really gutted for them because they were up against a side that had far greater depth in their squad than ourselves bur for long periods of the game we were always looked the more likely side to score.

"I'm so proud of each and everyone because we had players new to this level of the game and they had to and did adapt to the situation."

Braintree took a deserved lead on 48 minutes when Gabriel Piorkowski's half volley from just outside the area beat keeper Daniel Wilks.

The Iron further consolidated their lead and control of the game on 72 minutes when the effervescent and busy Gio Crichlow held off three defenders by turning them inside out before delivering a tremendous low right foot drive across the face of the goal and into the far corner of the net.

It was a fully-deserved two-goal lead, much to the surprise and agitation of the visitors, and Iron look set to pull off one of the biggest surprises of the season but at this level, it is all about game management.

Sadly, hard though they all worked late on to keep their lead their inexperience showed all too easily as the visitors grabbed a goal back on 81 minutes with a Jake Robinson penalty.

Worse was to come for Braintree, in the eighth minute of stoppage time.

They conceded a harshly-given free-kick on the edge of the area from which substitute superbly fired the ball into the top corner of the net giving keeper Tommy Dixon-Hodge no chance.

Dartford simply couldn't believe their fortune in going home with a point they didn't deserve.

Maxwell admitted that the lack of game management right at the end due to their inexperience took it toll but added: "They will learn from this I'm sure but we've now set them such a standard of play we have to ensure they maintain that standard."

Maxwell, who now looks forward to a home game against local rivals Chelmsford City on Sunday, went on: "I even felt that in the first half we had two decent, clear cut chances to have taken the lead and that would have given the younger players more confidence.

"Having been decimated with injuries, Covid and the like for such a makeshift team to play so well is a credit to every player.

"We now need to build on all this and starting winning game and we will then move up the table."