BRAINTREE Town made a welcome return to winning ways with an impressive 3-1 victory over Hampton & Richmond, writes DAVID WARD.

The Iron triumphed at the Rare Breed Meat Company Stadium with a vastly all-round improved performance in National League South that ended the second-placed Beavers'17-match unbeaten run.

It was no fluke either because victory was fully deserved.

The Iron players knew it would be a tough encounter against certainly one of the best sides in the league.

But refreshingly they they took the game to their visitors from the first whistle and never let up, with the bonus being they at last scored goals which had been a missing ingredient in their previous three games.

Two up by the interval, Braintree naturally knew the well organised and strong visitors would come back strongly in the second period which they did.

Braintree and Witham Times:

And even when they grabbed a goal back on 73 minutes to their credit the Iron players didn't lose their nerve, worked hard to deny conceding any more goals and then six minutes into added time added a superb third goal to finally settle the game in their favour.

Braintree manager Angelo Harrop was delighted at the turnaround of the Iron's performance on the day but added a note of caution amidst the euphoria of both players and Iron fans in the 605 crowded.

He said: "Yes, we've done really well but it's only one game and we must keep our feet on the ground, not running around celebrating.

"There's a long way to go and many equally tough games to face like the one today so we must stay calm, keep our consistency that we had before our recent three game blip.

"They are without doubt a really good side and will be up there in the play-offs come the end of the season so it's equally important we now maintain the high standard we have previously set.

"We only really made one change from our starting line-up with Ipswich youngster Matt Ward, who yesterday we agreed to extend his loan period, coming in otherwise it was basically the side that lost on New Year's Day."

Braintree and Witham Times:

Harrop praised his players for showing renewed resilience when up against a bigger, more experienced side compared to the previous three games.

"It's all about the individual player's mental approach to such strong opponents and in this game they all did show that and also the substitutes coming on in the second half quickly fitted in with the same ethos," he said.

"Having taken a two-goal lead by the interval we knew that if we could get a third goal that would be a bit of breathing space but when they pulled one back you know it's going to be a real battle.

"But to all the players' credit they stuck to their guns, failed to be intimidated and then right at the death we scored a fantastic third which I feel we fully deserved."

Braintree deservedly took the lead on 32 minutes when young Ward had a little luck in firing a long, high shot towards the visitors' goal where keeper Adam Desbois appeared to let it go over him into the net.

Braintree and Witham Times:

The Iron made it 2-0 in the final seconds of the first half when Ward crossed the ball over from the wing and Shaquille Coulthirst did so well to dive low and head the ball into the net.

Hampton and Richmond came more into the game in the second half but Braintree stood firm.

And although the Beavers scored a goal on 73 minutes the Iron kept a tight grip, particularly in midfield.

Both Aaron Blair (twice) and Coulhirst saw their shots narrowly miss the target whilst three times the stretched visitors' rearguard were struggling and leading to some last-minute desperate penalty area clearances.

Once the Iron finally scored a deserved third through Coulthirst in stoppage time the game was all over, ensuring a three vital points.

Braintree have no game next Saturday; their next match is at home to Weymouth on Tuesday, January 16, 7.45pm kick-off.