Iron’s derby play-off joy 

Chelmsford City v Braintree Town – National League South Play-Off Semi-Final – Melbourne Park – Report

Chelmsford City 2-3 Braintree Town 

Braintree Town clinched a place in the National League South Promotion Play-Off Final against Worthing on Bank Holiday Monday following a pulsating 3-2 win in extra time over local rivals Chelmsford City at Melbourne Park.

Angelo Harrop named an unchanged starting line-up following Tuesday’s 1-0 victory over Bath City, whilst skipper Dave Winfield returned for the Clarets in place of Callum Watts after last week’s 1-1 draw at Chippenham Town.

After a tight opening half, Braintree broke the deadlock just before the hour mark with the ball falling to Leon Davies on the edge of the area to curl home a magnificent looping drive beyond keeper Dylan Berry’s reach and into the far corner of the net. 

In the sixty-fifth minute, Freddie Sears skipped past the Chelmsford defence to calmly slot the ball home past Berry again to make it 2-0 to the Iron and despite the visitors appearing to be coasting towards victory, Jermaine Francis turned home a corner to pull one back in the ninetieth minute before George Alexander’s header dramatically drew the Clarets level two minutes into stoppage time to take the game into extra-time.

Despite seemingly having the win snatched from them at the last possible moment, the Iron refused to let their heads drop – pushing forward and piling constant pressure on the Chelmsford defence. Their persistence and endeavour were fully rewarded in the ninety-eighth minute when Lewis Miccio’s cross was cleared only as far as sub-Jayden Davis to fire home – via a deflection – from just inside the area to make it 3-2. 

Aaron Blair and Davis both had chances before the end to put the result beyond doubt but with their backline standing tall and mounting a rock-solid rear guard, Braintree held on to claim victory and with it their place in Monday’s promotion final.

Braintree boss Harrop spoke to after the match: “I’m absolutely gobsmacked and can’t praise this closely knitted group of players for what they put into this game.

“We knew it would be a really tough, tight game and also having lost to them twice over the festive period we wanted to put matters right and every one of them ensured we did just that.

“All the hard work of the players and my backroom team has paid off because we’ve now won two play-off games this season by extra-time and now head for the final showdown.

Harrop added: “Full credit to all the players today particularly winning in extra-time and having had to do exactly the same as we did on Tuesday night against Bath City and whilst some understandably had tired limbs, they all kept going.

“Once we scored in extra-time, we tried to manage the game out and really we could have scored a couple of more goals at that time.

“Some of the more experienced players showed today what quality we now have in the side and now we can enjoy the moment, get back to work this next week and prepare for the final and I am confident we can win it.”

Chelmsford City: Berry, Barnum-Bobb, Jenkins, Winfield (Hockey 78’) Brookes, Ochieng (Alfa 66’) Barbrook, Francis, Ruff, Carruthers (Jones 83’) Alexander Subs not used: James, Wordsworth

Braintree Town: Sims, Altintop (Capt) (Roberts 110’) Rendall, Grimwood, Davies, Odusanya, Payne, Wakefield (Lambe 77’) Sears (Davis 86’) Blackwell (Miccio 90’) Blair Sub not used: Brothers

Referee: Jonathan Maskrey

Assistants: Drew Dutton & David Constable

Fourth Official: Harry Jones 

Attendance: 3,017 (600 from Braintree Town)