Vanarama National League South

Braintree Town ended their post-Christmas clash with old rivals Chelmsford City on a high as they snatched a draw from what looked like the jaws of defeat in the final minutes of their derby encounter.

This Vanarama National League South clash was the first league meeting between the two sides since the 2010/11 season and with the first encounter of the festive season ending in a 2-2 draw, it has set the scene perfectly for the return at Melbourne Park on New-Year’s Day.

An intriguing first half ended with honours even as Michael Spillane’s early goal was cancelled out by a strike from Phil Roberts and the end period was all about Braintree pressure.

However, the start of the second half saw the home goal under pressure and Chelmsford took the opportunity that came their way.

The goal – that looked set to be the winner – came from the penalty spot in the 53rd minute as Kudus Oyenega slotted home after being fouled in the box.

But the home side rallied at the death and forced their county foes back, with Marcel Barrington proving to be their hero as he slammed the ball into the net in stoppage-time to rescue a point.

There was one change for Braintree from the side that started the 1-1 draw at Dartford on Saturday, with Roman Michael-Percil coming in for Marcel Barrington, who dropped to the bench.

The Clarets, meanwhile, were unchanged from the side that beat Welling in their previous outing.

It was a cagey start from both sides and a couple of feisty challenges went in in the opening minutes, but the warning signs were there for the home side.

The Clarets settled quicker and they worked the ball well on the edge of the home area before Chris Dickson’s eventual shot was easily claimed by Nathan McDonald.

However, the breakthrough did come in the seventh minute from a long free-kick into the Braintree area from wide on the right.

A perfect delivery by Chris Smith was met by the unmarked Michael Spillane, who connected with the ball with a thunderous volley that gave Nathan McDonald no chance.

It sent the Chelmsford fans into jubilation, but it proved short-lived as the lead lasted just three minutes.

A great break saw Roman Michael-Percil get away from the Clarets' back line and a clever ball was cut back to where Phil Roberts was waiting to tuck the ball past an exposed Sam Beasant as parity was restored.

It was a goal that allowed the game to settle down after the initial fast-paced action but play still switched from end to end and both defences were tested in the next period of the game.

Braintree's defence looked rocky from another ball into the area on 15 minutes when a long throw was allowed to bounce and Kudus Oyenega looped a shot that went just past the target.

At the other end, Samir Bihmoutine tried a shot that Beasant claimed well, before Billy Crook fired just wide after some neat interplay down the Iron left by Reece Grant.

It was then McDonald who was next in action as on the half-hour mark.

Chelmsford broke with a long ball over the top that Oyenega latched on to and forced McDonald into a smart save to keep things level.

On 38 minutes, the away supporters among the crowd of 1,465 were breathing a sigh of relief when a lovely break by Braintree saw Roberts get away and cut the ball back to Grant, but the Iron striker fluffed his lines and skewed his shot wide from a great position.

It meant the half ended level, but it was Chelmsford who came out with more purpose after the break.

On 48 minutes, the Clarets broke and Oyenega’s shot was parried behind by McDonald, who then had to fend off a shot by Daniel Green and a goalmouth scramble ended with a shot being cleared off the line.

It was a dangerous spell for the hosts and that told in the 53rd minute as they regained the lead.

It came from a penalty that was awarded as Oyenega went over the leg of Marc-Anthony Okoye and the Chelmsford striker picked himself up to tuck the ball into the net from the spot.

The away contingent were once again delighted and that was almost added to when Green fired a fierce shot in from outside the area and the ball fizzed just past the post.

Braintree knew they had to respond, but they were unable to find too much fluency in their play to put the Clarets’ back line under the same sustained pressure that their own had been subjected to.

Manager Quinton decided to ring the changes with Barrington and Karl Oliyide bringing a more muscular look to the front line as they replaced Grant and Bihmoutine respectively.

However, it was the visitors who retained the greater goal threat and a corner for Chelmsford came out to Davies whose goalbound shot was deflected wide by the head of Joe Ellul.

The changes made by Braintree did start to have an effect as the game entered the final 20 minutes and it was then Chelmsford’s turn to drop deep as the hosts kept them on the back foot in search of an equalising goal.

It almost came as the game reached 80 minutes when a great break across the edge of the Chelmsford box saw Oliyide fire in a shot that Beasant had to take at full stretch to his right.

The pressure finally paid off, but not until the board saying there were four added minutes had been held aloft.

The equalising goal came with a great run down the right by Roberts, who pulled the ball back to where Barrington was ready to unleash a trademark thunderous shot past Beasant.

It left the home fans feeling like they had snatched a winner and it set up the New Year action perfectly.

Braintree Town: Nathan McDonald, Ricky Gabriel, Jon Muleba, Joe Ellul, Marc-Anthony Okoye, Christian Frimpong (Luke Allen 77), Roman Michael-Percil, Samir Bihmoutine (Karl Oliyide 66), Billy Crook, Phil Robert, Reece Grant (Marcel Barrington 67).

Subs not used: Mahrez Bettach, Matt Baxter.

Referee: Robert Massey-Ellis.