Irons' Marks ends Eastleigh's unbeaten run


Blue Square Bet South

Report by Ray Murphy

Although still relatively early in the season, this was a top of the table clash with Braintree sitting in second place in the Division and Eastleigh occupying sixth spot. It was also put on show; two of the leading goal scorers in the Division to date with Eastleigh's Jamie Slabber on six league goals so far this season and Braintree striker Sean Marks on eight.

The disappointing side for Eastleigh was that Marks added to his tally with the only goal of the game some ten minutes from time, which sealed the full three points for the home side. The positives saw a good Eastleigh performance, which was worth at least a draw on the day if not more. Also the return in the left back role of Luke Byles back from his stint in Australia where he has been playing for Heidelberg United.  In addition to that was the return of Anthony Riviere to the substitutes bench for his first appearance so far this season, the midfielder seeing out the last sixteen minutes of the game, and also on the substitutes bench, although unused, was Jason Matthews.

The game opened brightly with both sides showing their attacking ideas. Mark Jones’ cross-cum-shot made sure Gareth Barfoot was alert in the opening minutes as Braintree set about making amends for their first defeat of the season the previous Saturday at home to Dover Athletic. Eastleigh meanwhile were making their sixth visit to their Essex opponents, and before Saturday had never lost at the Cressing Road Stadium.

Barfoot produced a terrific stop on seven minutes; his strong right arm somehow managing to scoop the ball away from a Marks header after Phil Starkey’s cross had been helped on by Sam Lechmere.  Having survived the early chances Eastleigh made their own and were unfortunate not to open the scoring.

On eleven minutes a high ball into the area saw Jamie Brown challenge home goalkeeper Nathan McDonald, the ball falling for Richard Gillespie but his shot was stopped by the recovering McDonald. Three minutes later and neat footwork from Brown out wide on the right, saw his ball across the six yard area hit Richard Graham and the ball rolled agonisingly wide of the upright.

On seventeen minutes a free kick from Graham allowed Slabber a shot on goal, but again McDonald was equal to the attempt. Later in the half another Richard Graham delivery was met by a Chris Holland header but this was over the bar.

Five minutes into the second period Brown saw a header from a Graham corner saved by McDonald and six minutes later Barfoot's free kick from deep saw Gillespie also have a header saved by the Braintree keeper. Tom Jordan saw a header from another Graham corner just off target on seventy-two minutes and Eastleigh were made to pay for their missed chances with ten minutes remaining.

Substitute Jack Clark provided a cross from the right for Marks to glance a backward header just beyond the reach of Barfoot and nestle just inside the post for what proved to be the only goal of the game for his ninth league goal in nine league matches.

Eastleigh moved Jordan up into attack for the final few minutes to try and salvage the game but the closest they came was in the second minute of stoppage time when Brett Williams saw a header saved following another Graham delivery into the box.
Braintree Town - 180910


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