BRAINTREE Town maintained their push for a National League South play-off place with a narrow but fully deserved 1-0 win at St Albans City, writes DAVID WARD.

It was a game where had they taken several of their comparatively easy looking second-half chances they would have returned home from Clarence Park with a far bigger winning margin.

The crucial winner came in the 21st minute when Freddie Sears hassled home defenders as they tried to play the ball out and saw his goalbound shot saved by ex-Iron keeper Michael Johnson only for the rebound to fall kindly into the path of Aaron Blair, who headed into the empty net.

Blair could have comfortably wrapped the game up in Iron's favour in the second half but somehow managed to fail with his final shots on 68, 76 and 79 minutes with each time the ball being agonisingly scrambled clear at the last moment.

Blair said: "Yes, I'm disappointed with not taking those chances and hard though I tried the ball just seem not to cross the line and I know I could have had a second half hat-trick.

"But I'm pleased to have scored the first half goal that got us back to winning ways and again we had a another clean sheet, three points and stay in third place."

Iron boss Angelo Harrop though was full of praise for all the players including those that came on as second-half substitutes.

He said: "Everyone put a shift in and we knew it would be hard coming here because they are a good side, playing feet football but the players stuck to their tasks and we deservedly come away with three crucial points.

"The desire and commitment from the players was clear to see today and I'm happy with our performance and yes we rode our luck at times and it was a tactical game from both sides.

"It shows we have a much stronger and more close knitted squad this season with real quality in the side too.

"We only had three fit subs on the bench because Shaquille Coulthirst has a slight groin strain and could not be risked and of course we lost Ben Tomkins with a broken collar bone in the Yeovil match so he is out for the season.

"We've let two of the younger players go out on loan to gain match fitness and we have brought in 22 year-old defender Trent Mahorn from QPR on loan and we have been trying to get one or two others in but it simply didn't work out in our favour."

Rendall, who has been out at Eastleigh on loan this season, made an immediate impact receiving a yellow card for a foul in only the fourth minute.

But he went on to play a key defensive role alongside his new partner and the ever reliable and impressive Jo Grimwood.

"He's only trained with us a couple of times this past week but to go straight into the side and play the way he did was tremendous," added Harrop.

"Make no mistake this was a big win for us and in all my time at the club this was one of the most satisfying for me."

The other key factor for Iron keeping a clean sheet is the continued impressive performance of keeper Jack Sims who twice in each half brilliantly denied the home side.

Harrop added: "Jack has been immense for us the season and in games like this has kept us in the winning frame."

Other impressive performances on the day came from skipper Baris Altintop, Dominic Odusanya and midfielder Alfie Payne, making his 150th appearance for the club.

"Yes, we will enjoy this win for an hour or two but we'll be straight on to preparing for our home game against Hemel Hempstead on Easter Monday (kick off 3pm) and I hope as many fans will come to the game and support the lads as they did against Yeovil," added Harrop.

"Again today in this bumper crowd of 2,401 the Iron fans were in full voice and continued to be heard and I know the players really appreciate it."