FA Trophy third qualifying round

Braintree Town showed a clinical second-half edge to secure FA Trophy progress against Cray Wanderers and a very welcome £5,000 payday.

Their third qualifying round tie was the Iron’s first involvement in this year’s competition and it proved a success as they beat the Wands 3-0.

Braintree play their league football two levels above their visitors from the Bostik League division south, but it wasn’t necessarily as straightforward as the final scoreline suggested.

Cray matched their higher-placed hosts in the first half and had chances to go ahead as the Iron were unable to find the form that has seen them become joint leaders in their league.

However, their quality showed after the break and goals from Karl Oliyide, Marcel Barrington and Matt Baxter took them into Monday’s first round draw. Braintree made two changes to their team from the side that started their 1-1 league draw against Truro City in midweek.

Osa Obamwonyi stepped into the defence for the cup-tied Joe Ellul, who was out because of his involvement for his previous club, Billericay Town, in an earlier round of the competition.

And there was also a return to the starting line-up for Oliyide as Ben Wyatt dropped to the bench.

Despite the two-league gap between Braintree and Cray Wanderers, there was little to choose between them in a first 45 minutes that was a very open tie that saw opportunities at both ends.

On ten minutes, there was a great break by Braintree and a lovely weighted through ball from Phil Roberts to Roman Michael-Percil but the Iron striker just carried the ball too far and Cray keeper Nick Blue got down to snuff out the chance.

There was also a good chance from a corner, but Ricky Gabriel's header was well held by Blue in the Wands goal.

However, it wasn’t all the hosts with the attacking play.

A combination of Cray working hard to create chances themselves and scrappy play from the hosts meant there were periods of pressure on Nathan McDonald’s home goal.

Braintree were often the architects of their own problems and some sloppy play afforded the visitors more of the ball than the hosts would have liked.

Jay Leader headed just over from a corner and another effort whistled past the post, while an under-hit back pass from Christian Frimpong was only just cut out by McDonald with Wands striker Michael Power closing him down.

Lovely footwork by Aaron Rhule then created a chance for the Cray forward and he forced McDonald into a full-stretch save that kept it level after 30 minutes.

Braintree did see more of the ball in the closing stages of the half, with Roberts curling a shot just over, but play remained scrappy and the score stayed 0-0 at the break.

The early play after the restart indicated that the second half would follow a similar pattern as the first.

It was very open again, with play switching from end to end although Braintree began to dominate possession and craft the better of the chances.

A great run on the right ended with a nice cross by Michael-Percil that found the foot of Barrington, but Blue made a smart save from close range and Gabriel then headed over from a Billy Crook free-kick.

They were unable to take their chances, though, until the 63rd minute when they did get their noses in front.

The goal came about after a wonderful cross-field ball from Billy Crook opened the play for the Iron and Michael-Percil got free inside the Cray area before pulling the ball back for a simple tap-in for Oliyide.

Braintree’s tails were up now and it was almost 2-0 from a corner soon after but Blue made an amazing save with his legs from Oliyide's fierce driven effort.

The Wands keeper was powerless to deny the Iron a second goal on 78 minutes, though.

A superb ball from Oliyide found Roberts down the right and he fired a clinical cross low across the Cray area that was perfect for Barrington to side-foot home and double the hosts’ advantage.

The tie looked beyond Wanderers at that point and that was reinforced on 84 minutes by substitute Baxter.

The youngster, who has stepped up from the club's reserves recently and had only been on the pitch for three minutes, cut in wonderfully from the right, past a challenge and drilled in a clinical finish into the bottom corner.

It was a finish that showed what promise the young striker has and wrapped up a good second half for the Iron that saw them put a sketchy first 45 minutes behind them with a clinical finish that booked their place in the first round proper.

Braintree Town: Nathan McDonald, Mahrez Bettache, Osa Obamwonyi, Marc-Anthony Okoye, Christian Frimpong (Ben Wyatt 62), Ricky Gabriel, Roman Michael-Percil (Matt Baxter 81), Billy Crook, Phil Roberts, Marcel Barrington, Karl Oliyide (Dernell Wynter 85).

Subs not used: Samir Bihmoutine, Jon Muleba.

Referee: Amy Fearne.