Braintree Town FC 3 Lowestoft Town FC 2
A valiant Lowestoft missed out on the first round proper of the FA Cup, after losing 3-2 to Braintree.
Braintree: Naisbitt, Peters (Daley 46 mins), Bailey-Dennis, Paine, Quinton, Symons, Davis, Marks, O'Connor, Mulley, Holman (Sheppard 70 mins). Subs; McDonald, Dawkin, Daley, Sheppard, Stevens, Clark, Kabodi.
Lowestoft: Jessup, Saker, Gaughran, Crane, Ainsley (Eagle 70 mins), Smith (Cunningham 87 mins), Mitchell, Fisk, Francis (Frew 72 mins), Henderson, Defty. Subs; Eagle, Frew, Cunningham, Stone, Jones, Cockrill, Reynolds.
Lowestoft missed out on the first round proper of the FA Cup, after losing 3-2 to Braintree. It was a valiant performance though, after playing the majority of the game with ten men, following the highly controversial sending off by the referee of Defty. The effort put in by every player was admirable though and applauded by every supporter at the end.
After downpours on Friday, the game kicked off on a heavy pitch with the Lowestoft supporters outnumbering the home fans and making it like a home tie.
Lowestoft made a bright start and went right at Braintree but after 3 minutes and in their first attack, Braintree took the lead. With a defensive lapse by Lowestoft, a cross came in from the corner for the number 9 (Marks) to volley home from close range for 1-0.
Lowestoft were nervy following the goal and were struggling to find their passes, with Braintree closing them down quickly and showing a high tempo in their passing, when in the attacking 3rd.
Lowestoft started to bite back though, forcing a couple of corners and putting the Braintree defence under pressure, with Francis on his game and Defty and Henderson working hard.
Lowestoft were then left stunned though, as Braintree created their second chance of the game and their second goal. As the ball came in from the left, Crane slipped and Jessup was late to react, as Marks scored again for 2-0 (16 mins).
The two nil score line was harsh on Lowestoft but with Defty making a great tackle the ref made things worse and spoilt a great cup tie by showing Defty a highly controversial straight red!
Lowestoft heads could have dropped at this point but there was nothing of the sort, as every player stepped up and went toe to toe with Braintree.
The passion and desire from Lowestoft saw the Braintree defence come under some serious pressure and with a ball coming in from the right and Mitchell heading into the danger zone, Henderson got a touch with his head to send the ball over the keeper and into the net for 2-1 (30 mins).
Lowestoft continued to press and with Saker bombing forward and putting a great ball in, the defender just got there ahead of Francis, who was playing very well for Lowestoft.
Lowestoft were certainly not playing like they were down to ten and were showing great guts and effort in their play, as the ball was moved around midfield with class and composure.
Smith then sent a corner in and with Mitchell heading and the defender handling, a penalty was awarded. Up stepped Francis but Naisbitt guessed the right way and saved to his right.
It was a great chance to level but Lowestoft kept going and continued to play great football, with Braintree looking like a team who needed half time, as the whistle went in what was already shaping up to be a classic FA Cup game.
Braintree made a half time change, with Daley coming on for Peters and started the half sharply, with Daley involved early on and looking a lively threat on the left side of their attack.
After just seven minutes of the second half though, Lowestoft's task was made even stiffer, with a cross from the right easily put away close in by O'Connor, to send Braintree 3-1 up. This was shortly followed by Mulley dancing through the Lowestoft defence and sending a shot wide and across goal. Most teams would have probably rolled over and given up at this point, but not Lowestoft. Yet again they re-grouped, rolled up their sleeves and went to battle.
Lowestoft nearly got one back, with Henderson showing quick feet to get through the defence and popping the ball off to Mitchell at his side but the keeper got down well to save his shot.
It was such spirited stuff from Lowestoft but after playing most of the game with ten men, on a heavy pitch, Braintree started to push Lowestoft back.
Lowestoft made a couple of changes at this point, to freshen up some heavy and battle weary legs.
Braintree had a glorious chance to put that match beyond Lowestoft, with Crane not seeing the ball out and Jessup being stranded in no-man's land, Braintree unbelievable hit the post with an open goal begging!!
The 3-1 scoreline was certainly not a fair reflection of the game though and Lowestoft's fight was rewarded with Frew latching onto a long ball and coming off the defenders shoulder, racing just inside the area and sending a classy and cool finish across goal and into the far corner for 3-2 (81 mins). The travelling supporters and the Lowestoft bench went delirious and Braintree knew that they had a nervy time to see out against a Lowestoft side who just wouldn't give in.
Lowestoft legs were tired but the goal had boosted them even further, as the hoards of Lowestoft fans increased their volume and tried to will their team on to level things.
Cunningham replaced Smith with just minutes of normal time remaining.
Then each and every Lowestoft supporter took in a huge intake of breath, as Mitchell sent a stunning shot bending in on goal, only for it to be fractionally away from nestling in the top corner.
As the seconds wound down, Jessup joined the Lowestoft attack but Braintree held on and as the whistle sounded, Braintree knew that they had been in one hell of a game.
Each and every Lowestoft supporter applauded the Lowestoft squad and management at the end, as they knew that the team had given everything. It was a proud, determined and gutsy performance by Lowestoft and each and every player should have left Essex with their heads held high.
The negatives on the day were the three goals, as each one of them could have been better defended but the whole team deserve praise and can take great belief and positives in playing the better football against a Conference National side.
I though Francis was incredible in the first half and didn't let the Braintree defence have a moments rest and I thought Saker was excellent throughout, with some high class deliveries from right back. However, the Man of the Match for me was Chris Henderson, with his pace, determination and quick feet. He scored Lowestoft's first goal, to keep the belief going and he never gave the Braintree side time to breath. He was always badgering their defence and finding the gaps with an engine which never seems to run empty.
This was certainly a day to be proud and even though the result had not gone our way, nothing more could have been asked of the players. Superb!!!