City’s Iron will to be tested

Braintree preview

BACK-TO-BACK wins have given St Albans City hope that they can perform a miracle and escape relegation from Blue Square Bet South.

Their new found confidence and stretched squad will be tested to the full when they travel to league leaders Braintree Town on Saturday.

ADDRESS: The Cressing Road Stadium, Clockhouse Way, Braintree, Essex CM7 3RD

Tel: 01376 345617

THE LOWDOWN: Braintree are the team to beat this season with the league leaders enjoying a seven point advantage over their nearest rivals Ebbsfleet United.

The Essex side have lost just once in their last six outings, a 2-1 defeat at Farnborough.

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The foundations for Braintree’s successful campaign has been a fine start to the season that saw them win four of their first five games racking up 12 goals in the process and only conceding twice. The only team to stop them from scoring in that early season run was St Albans City who held the Iron to a 0-0 draw at Clarence Park.

The Cressing Road outfit’s biggest victory of the season came against Basingstoke back in February with a 5-2 victory while their biggest defeat came in the FA Cup when they were hammered 4-1 by Carshalton Athletic.

THE MANAGER: Rod Stringer is enjoying a successful first season at Cressing Road having arrived from Aveley in the summer.

The 42-year-old had a successful two-and-a-half years at Aveley guiding them to the Ryman Premier Division play-offs last season where they lost out to Boreham Wood in the semi finals.

THE SQUAD: The Saints are unlikely to have to deal with the firepower of Sean Marks with the 22-goal striker on the sidelines with a groin injury.

With former Colchester United striker Jamie Guy also on the sidelines with a broken leg, Iron boss Stringer has added Maidenhead front man Cliff Akurang to his armory.

The experienced striker, who netted against City for Thurrock on the opening day of the season, got his first goal in Braintree colours in the win against Havant & Waterlooville on Monday.

It is a different story in midfield though where boss Stringer has plenty of options. Jai Reason has picked up plenty of experience with Cambridge United and Crawley Town and joined Braintree in September last year

Experienced campaigner Brad Quinton, who is also the club’s first team coach, is the longest serving playing at Braintree and was part of the Iron side that lost to Salisbury City in the 2006/07 Conference South play-off final.

Sam Lechmere on the right and Glenn Poole on the left provide the width in the Iron midfield while Kenny Davis offers a link between the midfield and the attack.

Other options available to Stringer in midfield include former Bishop’s Stortford man Scott Shulton and ex-Aveley player Nicky Symons.

In front on goalkeeper Nathan McDonald the Iron are likely to call upon the services of Phil Starkey at right-back and Mark Jones on the left flank with former Thurrock man Matt Paine and Adam Bailey-Dennis in the middle.

Ollie Thorne, who was formerly with City’s Hertfordshire neighbours Hitchin Town, is another player the Iron could call upon at the back while one-time City loanee Craig Calver recently joined the Essex club on loan from Yeovil Town to bolster their forward options.

LAST TIME: The two sides shared a 0-0 draw at Clarence Park back in August.

Braintree held out for a point after defender Adam Bailey-Dennis had been given his marching orders early on.

City’s last trip to Cressing Road saw a young Saints side return from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 thanks to goals from Ian Dunn and James Fisher.

REFEREE (subject to change): N A Hair (Peterborough) assisted by P J Wilson & S Purkiss.