AFTER a long hard slog of a season, Braintree Town finally ensured that they will stay in the National League South after a 3-1 win over Hemel Hempstead Town, writes RON FOSKER.

Only the third time they have scored more than twice in a league match this season, it was a game they eased their way into and sealed victory with one of the most sumptuous goals seen at the Dunmow Group Stadium for a very long while.

A long ball out of defence appeared to present no immediate danger to the Hemel Hempstead back line.

But that was not how Gio Crichlow saw it. A burst of speed gave him the advantage over the defender and as the ball came over his shoulder he killed it with the most exquisite of touches that brought it under his control.

Two more touches and he rifled the ball from the edge of the penalty area into the net.

Braintree and Witham Times:

It came in the 88th minute and ended a nervy period for the home side, who had seen a two-goal lead reduced 22 minutes earlier when Gus Scott-Morriss rose unopposed to head in from a free kick.

Immediately after that goal, Hemel had a chance to level when former Iron Alfie Cerulli ran clear of the defence but mishit his shot.

Had that gone in the story might have had a different ending, but Braintree settled down and even had a couple of chances themselves during that period when Luke Holness first had a shot charged down and two minutes later ran on to a long ball but could not find the target.

The match had begun as a cagey affair dominated by two defences.

Braintree and Witham Times:

Apart from a long shot from Matt Johnson that was not too far over the bar, neither keeper was bothered greatly in the first 25 minutes.

Then two goals in five minutes coloured the picture in Braintree’s favour.

The first was from another piece of excellent ball control, this time by Khale Da Costa, looking much more effective in a midfield role than in his previous outings on the wing.

Not much seemed on when he chested the ball down facing away from the goal, but a neat turn created space for a powerful shot into the corner.

The second goal was the first of two for Crichlow but the hard work had been done by Holness.

Braintree and Witham Times:

He took the ball down the left channel, worked his way inside and unleashed a powerful shot that keeper David Saunders could only tip on to the bar.

Crichlow was first to the rebound and poked it into the net.

It was his first significant contribution to the match - but far from his last.

Braintree: Billy Johnson; Matt Moloney (Wasiri Ola Williams 83), Kyran Clements, Jalen Jones, Jay Porter; Gio Crichlow, Sam Cox, Matt Johnson, Khale Da Costa (Alfie Payne 68), Stefan Ilic (Simo Mbonkwi 56); Luke Holness.