Braintree Town 1 Harriers 3 (FA Trophy 3rd rd replay)
Venue: Cressing Road
away fans: 50 approx
Harriers triple whirlwind sinks Braintree
The Harriers finished the job that they didn't do on Saturday when they finally put paid to plucky Braintree's FA Trophy hopes with an emphatic 3-1 win. It still took us until late on in the second half to score but once we did there was no stopping us.
Braintree had taken a half time lead through a Russ Edwards goal but the Reds hit back with a three goal rout in just four minutes. A goal from Michael Blackwood and a third from Simon Russell were sandwiched around an own goal from Adedeji.
The rumours before the game were centered around Iyseden Christie and Gavin Hurren being fit enough to play but that was never going to materialise and we went with the same team that started in the first game with the exception of Brian Smikle making way for Russ Penn, back from his two game suspension.
In frosty, hard conditions underfoot it was Braintree on the attack right from the start. In an effort to get an early goal they took the game to the Harriers and put Scott Bevan under pressure with a shot from Baker that went just wide but we answered that with a rising shot from Simon Russell that the keeper just about managed to get a hand to and stopped it from going in.
We had another chance from Mark Creighton but, although perfectly placed, his header went well over.
The Iron came close again when Quinton got on the end of Bevans poor punch out but his shot was wide from six yards out and then Bertie Brayley beat Jeff Kenna for pace to send over a cross into the box that was far too hard and went out of play on the other side of the ground.
The home side were starting to gain the upperhand now and their nippy winger, Martin, was the one doing the most damage to us. His fast runs, spurred on by the home crowd, were causing plenty of heart stopping moments in the Harriers defence. The closest came in the thirtieth minute when he found the head of 'Nelson' Riddle but thankfully Bevan was quick out of the traps to grab the ball safely.
It wasn't all going Braintrees way though because at the other end Russ Penn was performing acrobatics to send in an overhead shot from eight yards out that got blocked on the line.
With half time approaching disaster struck. Brayley broke down the left and picked out Russ Edwards with a pin point ball that the centre half powered past Scott Bevan from fifteen yards out to put the home side one goal to the good.
HT: 1 - 0
At the start of the second half the Harriers were forced into a change when Jeff Kenna was withdrawn from the game after he had picked up a knock in the first half. Brian Smikle replaced him at right back.
Apart from a couple of chances from Michael Blackwood we were struggling again in this half and looking very unlikely to score. The Iron had a handful of attempts on the Harriers goal with Martin coming the closest with a shot that flew over the bar.
Braintree were starting to employ hard man tactics now in an effort to break the away sides spirit and sent in some hefty challenges on Simon Russell. We were getting no protection from the local referee and Russell made his feelings known to him but was ignored for his efforts.
In the seventieth minute it all changed for the better. A quick break was played out to Andy White at the far post to knock the ball down for Blackwood to sweep home and then a minute later we grabbed a second goal.
A free kick on the edge of the area was played in to Blackwood to take the ball into the area. It was then played on to James Constable but the Braintree defender Adedeji got there first and sent the ball towards his own net only for Constable to swoop and force it over the line for the last two inches. In a blink of an eye we had gone from being a goal down to a goal to the good but better was to come.
On seventy five minutes Simon Russell had given us an un-assailable lead with the third goal. He ran onto a pass from White and sent a superb shot past Nick Morgan in the Braintree goal. James Constable almost added a fourth soon after but his shot went just wide.
Braintree looked a broken team now and the manager, George Borg, did a triple substitution in an effort to salvage something from the game but it was too late. The Harriers class and fitness started to show and we played out time with some substitutions of our own, one of which was for an injured looking Russell still feeling the after effects of the earlier crunching tackle on him.
Again we made hard work of beating a 'lesser' side but eventually made it at the second time of asking, again. We're now into the last eight of the competition and a visit from tougher opposition awaits with Halifax in the Quarter Finals on the 24th of this month.