Vanarama National League

If Salford City go on to win the Vanarama National League title this year, Braintree Town can hold their heads up very high from their return this year against the champions.

After high-flying Salford required a 93rd minute leveller to peg them back as they drew 2-2 there in October, the Iron grabbed last-gasp glory with a stunning and dramatic finale in the reverse fixture at Cressing Road.

An entertaining 95 minutes of action had seen two sides at very different ends of the table go head-to-head and match each other.

It was 0-0 deep into time added on at the end when a tackle by Scott Wiseman took out a free-flowing Ifeanyi Allen and gave the chance for new signing Sam Kelly to throw a free-kick into the Salford box.

It was almost the last kick of the game and the ball was headed down to a perfectly-placed Callum Morton, who rammed it into the back of the net for a winning goal.

There was just enough time for Salford to restart before referee Paul Howard blew for full-time and – having had similar done to them on numerous occasions – the Iron and their fans were left in rapture as they secured a stunning three points.

It was the second game in charge for new manager Danny Searle and his first as Iron boss on home turf ended memorably.

There were two changes for Braintree from the side that started Searle’s first game at the helm - the 2-1 defeat at Hartlepool Town two weeks before.

Two new additions brought in by boss Searle - Korrey Henry and Kelly - were the players coming in, while Luke Allen dropped to the bench and Danny Rowe wasn't involved in the matchday squad

Henry had joined from Yeovil Town in the week, while Kelly, a 25-year-old attacking midfielder who had come in from Scottish Premier League side Hamilton Academical, had signed for the club on the morning of the fixture.

He had little time to settle as it was a lively end-to-end start to the game.

A free-kick by Kelly in the first minute saw Cameron James volley over the City crossbar and the hosts had a great chance on three minutes after a rapid break from their own area.

It saw Kelly rush forward and lay a great ball into the run of Morton but a bobble meant the ball got caught up in his legs and Chris Neal was able to gather it gratefully in the Salford goal.

The visitors were quick to get on the front foot as well, though, and it took a goalline clearance from the outstanding Rob Atkinson to keep the score level as they put the Iron back line under pressure.

It was then Ricky Gabriel who made to clear off his own line and a follow-up shot by Carl Piergianni was clutched by Iron keeper Ben Killip.

The game continued in this fluent open manner, with both sides taking it in turn to pose a threat, but neither had the cutting edge in their respective final third to take the lead.

Perhaps the better of the half chances that were created were from Salford, with Joe Muscatt sending a shot over the bar from the edge of the box and Ibou Touray forcing a save from Killip at his near post.

Braintree did keep looking to threaten, though, and on 35 minutes a good break forward finished with a strong effort by Kelly being deflected away.

The strength of Courtney Richards in the Iron engine room was a big factor and so much of their attacking play was instigated from midfield tussles involving him.

The Iron finished the opening 45 minutes forcing the tempo and it was Salford who were on the back foot for the closing part before the break, however, they came out strongly after the restart.

A scrambled clearance from under their own crossbar by Braintree was required to keep it 0-0 in the opening minute of the second half as City looked for the breakthrough.

It didn’t come though, and the Salford players were becoming visibly frustrated as their hosts kept them out with some dogged play.

There was also plenty of graft heading the other way as well and the Iron opened up a great chance on 59 minutes with a break down the right.

Morton’s cross found Henry, who went down under a challenge and although no penalty was given, the ball ended up with Kelly.

Rather than unleashing a shot from a good position, though, he tried to set up a team-mate and his ball back into the centre allowed Salford to clear the danger.

There was then a fantastic chance for Henry to grab an opener on 68 minutes.

The Iron striker got away in the box and tried to curl his shot over the advancing Salford keeper, who got his leg up just enough to deflect the ball away as it remained goalless heading into the final 20 minutes.

Neither team was settling for a point, though, as the end-to-end nature of the action continued into the latter stages.

Salford tried to turn the screw and were so close to a goal on 76 minutes when the Iron got caught defending deep and the ball fell to Danny Whitehead, who unleashed a fierce drive that flew just wide.

On 81 minutes, it was Iron’s turn to then go close when a free-kick into the Salford box was played out only as far as Cameron James who curled the ball in and Neal’s a flying save to his left kept the home side out.

But it was a reprieve that wouldn’t last all the way until the final whistle as Braintree kept going and got the sweetest of rewards.

Braintree Town: Ben Killip, Andrew Eleftheriou, Rob Atkinson, Ricky Gabriel, Kodi Lyons-Foster, Cameron James, Courtney Richards, Sam Kelly, Callum Morton, Korrey Henry (Ifeanyi Allen 74), Justin Amaluzor. Subs not used: Luke Allen, Mo Sagaf, Daniel Matzusaka, Oscar Borg.

Referee: Paul Howard.