Braintree Town promoted after dramatic play-off success

Worthing v Braintree Town – Vanarama National League South Play-Off Final – Sussex Transport Community Stadium – Report

Worthing 3-4 Braintree Town 

Braintree Town returned to the fifth tier of English football for the first time since 2019 following a scintillating 4-3 Vanarama National League South Play-Off Final victory over Worthing at the Sussex Transport Community Stadium, with sub-Reggie Lambe heading the Iron’s winner three minutes into the second period of extra time. 

Angelo Harrop named an unchanged line-up following Braintree’s 3-2 Play-Off Semi-Final win at Chelmsford City on Saturday, April 27.

With both teams starting at a frantic pace, Worthing had a wonderful opportunity to open the scoring in the third minute when Kane Wills blocked shot rebounded back to Danny Cashman, only for the former Rochdale striker to be brought to ground in the box before being able to steady himself to shoot.  Despite strong appeals for a penalty from the Rebels players and fans, referee Ross Martin was unmoved and waved play on.

Almost immediately after the restart, Leon Davies’ twenty-yard strike was deflected just wide of the post and away for a corner as Braintree looked to counterattack quickly. 

With the ball flowing from end to end, in the sixteenth minute Jack Sims was forced into action to palm away Cashman’s effort from outside the box before from the resulting play, Joel Colbran threaded a low ball through to Joe Felix to fire high over the crossbar.

Braintree opened the scoring in the twenty-third minute when Worthing keeper Oliver Wright misjudged the flight of Tom Blackwell’s corner to let in Dominic Odusanya to head home powerfully at the far post and make it 1-0. 

Ollie Pearce drew the scores level in the thirty-seventh minute when after showing a deft touch to bring the ball under control following Wills’ long clearance out of defence, the prolific sharpshooter strode forward powerfully to spectacularly fire home into the bottom right-hand corner past Sims to record his forty-sixth goal of the season.

Just after the resumption, Colbran’s long pass freed Pearce down the right to cleverly hold up play before slipping in Jack Spong to curl the ball into the left corner of the net from the edge of the area and put the hosts 2-1 up.

Following prolonged treatment, full-back Davies was carried from the pitch on a stretcher and replaced by Lewis Miccio just before the hour mark but despite the obvious setback to the Iron, Aaron Blair brought the scores level in the sixty-first minute when after running on to a pinpoint lofted pass over the top of defence by Odusanya, the former Dagenham & Redbridge striker clinically volleyed the ball over Wright into the centre of the net to make it two apiece.

With the game continuing to ebb and flow, just five minutes later Charlie Wakefield fired Braintree into the lead with a magnificent solo goal after cutting in from the right to arrow a powerhouse strike high into the top corner of the net.

The Rebels restored parity just two minutes after when Cashman slammed Pearce’s drag back past Sims to make it 3-3 and despite pushing on and piling further pressure onto the Braintree defence in the final few minutes, they were unable to force a further breakthrough with the game finishing all square in regulation time.

With the Iron having to play extra time in both of their previous play-off matches, they entered familiar territory once again but were extremely fortunate not to fall behind early in the opening minutes of the first quarter, when Sims got down well to deny substitute Brad Dologhan at close range with his outstretched leg only to then thwart Worthing again with point blank saves from both Cashman’s diving header and Pearce’s follow up effort. 

Alfie Payne thought he had won the game for Braintree in the hundredth minute, only to see his ‘goal’ ruled out after he was adjudged to have knocked the ball out of Wright’s hand, but the drama that had constantly ensued throughout the afternoon still had one final twist in its tail when, three minutes into the second period of extra time, Bermudan international Lambe’s low diving header from Wakefield’s cross found its way through Wright’s legs at the near post to make it 4-3 and win the game – and promotion – for Angelo Harrop’s charges. 

A magnificent game of football that will live long in the memory of those fortunate enough to have witnessed it and although Worthing can perhaps consider themselves unfortunate to have missed out on promotion yet again, it is the Iron who now deservedly look forward to reaping the rewards of today’s success – Vanarama National League football and with it, the right to welcome the likes of Oldham Athletic, Southend United, Barnet, Rochdale and Hartlepool United to the Rare Breeds Meat Co Stadium next season.       

Worthing: Wright, Colbran (Capt) Young (Chadwick 105’) Lyons-Foster (Rye 90’) Felix, Wadham, Wills, Spong, Wheeler (Dolaghan 75’) Cashman (103’) Pearce Sub not used: Rees

Braintree Town: Sims, Davies (Miccio 59’) Altintop (Capt.) Grimwood, Blackwell (Davis 87’) Payne, Blair, Sears (Lambe 95’) Wakefield, Rendall, Odusana Subs not used: Brothers, Roberts

Referee: Ross Martin

Assistants: Jack Nield and Harley Hetherington

Fourth Official: Sam Reed