A VASTLY-IMPROVED second-half performance helped play-off chasing Braintree Town secure a vital 2-0 win over Hemel Hempstead on Easter Monday, writes DAVID WARD.

It was an important win for Iron in their National League South clash at the Rare Meat Stadium and a game they should have won by a far more comfortable margin.

After a pedestrian first-half display, Braintree upped their game after the break and dominated play, producing some of their best passing at home this season, much to the delight of the bumper 947 crowd.

Hemel Hempstead, still hovering around the relegation zone, rarely caused any problems for the Iron's back line but their tall, commanding defenders managed to keep the home forwards at bay for a while in the first half, before some tough half-time tough talking by manager Angelo Harrop spurred the side into a higher gear.

Harrop said: "We needed to up our game which I know we're capable of doing and really in the second half I felt we were well in command and once we had scored one goal we could go on to win.

"This league as everyone knows is a really tough one and every game is hard and we need to keep going in the manner and style we were in this game until the end.

"In effect, every game for us now is a cup final and the players again showed today how committed they are as a solid, workmanlike unit and although we didn't score in the first half I always felt we could break the deadlock. 

Braintree and Witham Times:

"Two well-taken goals from Aaron Blair gave us the springboard and in reality he should have had a hat-trick with the chances he had in that second half.

"Every player played their part in this win and it goes to show what a good bunch of players we have who never give up even when the expected goals, such as in the first half, never materialised.

"We continue as the old adage says taking each game as it comes and we can now prepare for the long trip away next Saturday to in-form Weston-Super-Mare which we know will be a difficult game," he added.

Although Blair won the player of the match award after his brace, there were also some impressive individual performances from the likes of skipper Baris Altintop, Leon Davies, Joe Grimwood and newcomer Trent Rendall.

Braintree and Witham Times:

Braintree went ahead on 53 minutes when Grimwood headed the ball on to the far post from a corner, where the unmarked Blair slotted into the net.

The only surprise for the Iron fans in the Bank Holiday Monday crowd was that it took some time for the hosts to add their expected second goal and this came on 67 minutes when the darting Blair escaped his marker to slot the ball home.

Braintree missed several chances to add to their total and the visitors' misery was complete in the 85th minute when their goalkeeper Craig King was sent off after being shown a second yellow card for again rushing out of his area to voice his displeasure at referee Nicholas Dunn.