Vanarama National League South

Just as they had in three games over Christmas and New Year, Braintree Town finished level pegging with one of their main rivals in the race for the Vanarama National League play-offs.

Following losses against Hemel Hempstead and Welling United, the Iron made sure they avoided three defeats on the trot as they came away from Havant and Waterlooville with a clean sheet in a goalless draw.

The game had been in doubt in the morning due to a soggy Havant pitch and it took two inspections for it to be passed fit for the game to go ahead.

But as had been the case when the Iron faced Dartford and then Chelmsford City twice over the festive period, there was nothing to separate them from their play-off rivals and they secured a valuable point.

Following the mid-week departures of Joe Ellul and Karl Oliyide, there were changes to the starting line-up and bench from Braintree’s last outing in the 3-0 defeat at Welling seven days before.

As well as seeing that pair depart, manager Brad Quinton had brought four new players in ahead of the game at Havant and Waterlooville and three of them were involved.

There were places in the starting line-up for Josh Hill, who stepped straight into the middle of the Iron’s back line and Ipswich Town loanee Patrick Webber, while another loan signing from the Blues – Connor McKendry – was on the bench.

Another change from the previous game was the return of Marc-Anthony Okoye from the illness that had sidelined him at Welling, while Ricky Gabriel was suspended.

In total, there were five changes to the starting line-up and it was an encouraging start from the Iron as they started on the front foot and Okoye went close with a headed effort from Billy Crook’s cross.

Braintree maintained their good start and it took a strong challenge from Havant’s Ed Harris to prevent Marcel Barrington a scoring opportunity and Phil Roberts sent a rising effort just over the bar.

It wasn’t all one-way traffic towards the home goal, though, and Havant had sights of goal from Rory Williams and Brian Stock, but their efforts were off target.

Roberts then went close for Braintree on the half-hour mark when a throw-in was laid off to him by a neat touch from Crook, but the Iron striker was unable to catch his shot cleanly and he was unable to get the better of Havant keeper Ryan Young.

It meant there was nothing to separate the two teams at half-time, but after bossing the opening 45 minutes, the Iron knew they would have to make chances count after the break.

Their first sight of goal in the second half came on 51 minutes when Barrington was released by a good through ball from Reece Grant, but Young was able to make an excellent save that was needed to keep it goalless.

As the game entered the closing stages, it was still locked at 0-0, but Havant almost took the lead in the 78th minute when Matt Tubbs hit the Iron crossbar and the hosts were just unable to find a telling touch from a subsequent goalmouth scramble.

The hosts also went close at the death as Tubbs fired in an effort in stoppage-time, but Iron keeper Nathan McDonald was alert to make the save at his near post to make sure it finished in a goalless stalemate.

Braintree Town: Nathan McDonald, Jon Muleba, Ben Wyatt, Josh Hill, Marc-Anthony Okoye, Patrick Webber, Luke Allen, Billy Crook (Christian Frimpong 90), Phil Roberts, Reece Grant (Matt Baxter 83), Marcel Barrington (Connor McKendry 65).

Subs not used: Roman Michael-Percil, Mahrez Bettache.

Referee: Lloyd Wood.