Monday, 10 November 2014

Braintree Town 0 v 6 Chesterfield

Sunday 9th November 2014
FA Cup 1st Round
Cressing Road, Braintree
Admission: £15.00
Programme: £3.00
Attendance: 1,206
Match Rating: 4

With this game being moved to the Sunday for television coverage, I had the opportunity to make the long journey up to northern Essex to take in some FA Cup 1st Round Action, for a tie that had all the makings for a major giantkilling.

Cressing Road is about a 15 minute walk from either Braintree or Braintree Freeport railway stations – the latter providing the opportunity to walk around the Designer Outlet village en route. The ground is rather unremarkable in truth, not having a great deal whilst its facilities are far inferior to what is often found elsewhere in the Conference National. However, it is also worth pointing out that it is a great achievement for a club like Braintree to find itself in such an elevated position in the football pyramid. One enters the ground behind one of the goals, where there are a collection of buildings of varying sizes and shapes housing the clubhouse, clubshop and tea bars. There is also an uncovered terrace behind the goal, with a separate smaller terrace stretching towards the corner flag. Behind the opposite goal, where visiting fans were housed today, is another uncovered terrace. Straddling the half way line on one side is an all-seater stand, with uncovered terraces either side, whilst on the opposite side, a terrace stretches along the length, with the middle section covered by a stand with a fairly low roof – which was ideal today with the low sun shining into the eyes of people along this length. Credit to the club for keeping ticket prices in the lowest band of £15 for standing for this high-profile match, £1 more for a seat, thanks to the local district council sponsoring the game. The 36 page programme was reasonable, a colourful and glossy effort which was quite informative and contained some interesting FA Cup history stats and articles.

Two divisions separated the two clubs, with Braintree Town in 15th place in the Conference National against Chesterfield, reigning League Two champions and currently in eleventh place in League One. Both clubs came into this game not in the best of form, with Chesterfield having picked up just two points from their last six league games, whilst Braintree were winless in their previous nine league games, and had failed to score in eight of their last eleven league and cup games. They did buck this trend to reach this round of the FA Cup, winning 5-3 in a replay against Southern League outfit Weymouth after a goalless draw in Dorset.

Following recent prolonged heavy rain, including overnight, the pitch was heavy and slippery, but otherwise in surprisingly good condition.  On a bright and sunny afternoon, following an immaculately observed period of silence and rendition of the Last Post on Remembrance Sunday ahead of kick-off, if Braintree were to have a hope of causing a shock, they would need to start on the front foot, and that they did, taking the initiative in the opening minutes, having the first shot on goal on 5 minutes and forcing a good save from the visiting keeper. Unfortunately, that was as good as it got for the home side, as Chesterfield soon stamped their authority on the game, playing good incisive, passing football, and they eventually took the lead on 20 minutes. Sam Clucas ran onto a ball from the right wing, and his shot from a tight angle took a deflection into the path of Eoin Doyle, who guided the ball into the net from a couple of yards. Chesterfield doubled their lead on the half hour. Jay O'Shea took a pass towards the edge of the box with his back to goal, before spinning round and curling a lovely shot into the top corner. The visitors were completely dominant now, and they pretty much put the game to bed in the third minute of added on time. Some slick passing into the penalty area ended with Tendayi Darikwa sending in a cross which took a deflection off the keeper into the path of Clucas, who tapped the ball home from close range.

Braintree came out in the second half with renewed impetus, and looked like they might be able to get a goal back with a couple of sights of goal, but Chesterfield soon extinguished that impetus with their fourth goal on 53 minutes. Tandiya Darikwa ran at the Braintree defence, and his cross took a sizeable deflection and looped up and to the feet of Gary Roberts, who let the ball bounce before thumping a half volley into the net. After having a goal ruled out for offside, Chesterfield added a fifth on 74 minutes. Roberts sent in a powerful low cross from the left, and defender Remy Clerima deflected the ball into his own net. Braintree then managed to create their best chances of the game, forcing an excellent save from the keeper and having a shot headed off the line, but it was Chesterfield who scored the final goal of the game and their sixth. Dan Gardiner played a perfect ball low forward into the path of Doyle, who took the ball forward before slotting the ball low just inside the post from just outside the area.

So, a convincing scoreline and one that fairly reflected proceedings. This was a much more entertaining game than the one-sided scoreline might suggest, and full credit to Chesterfield for that, as they kept up their intensity throughout and delivered a very professional performance. Braintree will surely be disappointed with a poor performance on their big day, with particularly their defence too often slow to react and soft in the challenge, although at least they did not completely throw in the towel in the second half and battle gamely to try and at least get a consolation goal - they were just completely outclassed.

Video highlights of this game can be found here

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