Berry's goal sinks Iron as U's march on
Luke Berry scored the only goal in the first half to give Cambridge United a hard-fought victory over Braintree Town.
Berry timed his run into the box to perfection to meet Ryan Donaldson’s pass and thump the ball past Hamann. The U’s had chances to extend their lead, but were grateful to keeper Chris Maxwell’s last minute save which denied substitute Jordan Cox.
Boss Richard Money made two changes to his starting line-up, handing recalls to Richard Tait and Ryan Donaldson, and former Newcastle United trainee Donaldson was outstanding on his return following a long spell on the sidelines injured.
United initially found it difficult to break through the massed ranks of the Braintree, but spaces started to open up after Berry’s goal. Harrison Dunk saw a couple of shots blocked, then a delightful spell of one-touch passing saw Adam Cunnington and Nathan Arnold release Donaldson, but his shot was saved by Nik Hamann.
Braintree threatened through Dan Holman, who saw a swerving shot palmed away by Maxwell, but after the break United should have increased their lead. A low shot from Greg Taylor had to be parried away by Hamann, who also did well to stop a Cunnington shot.
Berry saw a header cleared off the line after meeting a Tait corner, but the second goal didn’t come, and Braintree almost levelled in the closing stages when Cox got his head on a cross from the left but saw Maxwell make a diving save to push the ball away for a corner.
So United maintained their 100 per cent home record ahead of Saturday’s tip to Nuneaton.
May I Claim Man of the Match: Ryan Donaldson.
Cambridge United: Maxwell, Tait, Taylor, Miller, Coulson, Arnold, Dunk, Champion, Berry (Spillane 86), Donaldson (Sam-Yorke 88), Cunnington. Subs not used: Roberts, Austin, Sam-Yorke, Brown.
Braintree Town: Hamann, Peters, Habergham, Wells, Paine, Masey, Isaac (Cox 61), Davis, Mulley (Daley 79), Marks, Holman (Sparkes 45). Subs not used: McDonald, Geohaghon.
Referee: Mr C.Hicks
Attendance: 4,194 (away 132)
13.44: Spillane on for Luke Berry as United make their first change.
13.41: Braintree's final change sees Daley replace Mulley. RYAN DONALDSON is the May I Claim Man of the Match.
13.34: Good pressing from the U's, Dunk with a superb run at the defence and he almost finds Arnold. The ball is cleared but Taylor picks it up and fires in a low shot that Hamann parries away. United have a couple of corners, one of which sees Cunnington turn well in the box and get in a shot which Hamann gets behind and scoops away. Then finally Arnold picks up the ball and plays Donaldson in, but the keeper's out quickly to slide it clear.
13.21: Second Braintree change, Cox replacing Isaac.
13.19: Great work from Cunnington and Dunk set up Donaldson for a shot which flies over from just outside the box. Donaldson holds his head, he knows that was a chance.
13.13: Now Braintree with a corner on their right after good work from Mulley. In it goes, gets a flick and flies low through to Wells, who can only shoot over. That was a decent chance six yards out.
13.11: U's with a corner after good pressurising from Cunnington. Tait floats it in, Berry climbs but his header is cleared off the line by Peters. That'll be another corner, Berry again the recipient but this time his header loops over.
13.05: Second half underway, Braintree have made a change with Dan Sparkes replacing Dan Holman.
HALF TIME: CAMBRIDGE UNITED 1-0 BRAINTREE TOWN
12.49: That's half-time, United deserve the lead given to them by Berry, but Braintree have showed they won't be going quietly. Lots of work still to do in the second half.
12.46: YELLOW CARD. Peters follows Cunnington into the box for a foul near half-way on Donaldson. A small scuffle ensues as United players take exception to the tackle, but no further cards are issued.
12.42: YELLOW CARD. Cunnington booked after an aerial challenge with Wells. The referee has been lenient thus far, and that seemed a very harsh decision, which Cunnington obviously doesn't agree with.
12.37: Super counter-attack from United, Cunnington working it on to Arnold, who plays the ball in to Donaldson. He cuts inside and shoots but Hamann saves down to his left.
12.35: Couple of chances for the U's, Arnold with a shot deflected through to the keeper, then Dunk getting on the end of some delightful one-touch passing to curl a shot into Hamann's greatful arms.
12.28: Good counterattack from Braintree, the combative Marks winning possession and moving it on to Holman in space. He goes for goal from distance with a powerful shot that swerves in front of Maxwell, forcing the keeper to parry over. Good save. Corner is cleared away at the third attempt.
12.25: Untied with a shout for a penalty as Dunk goes stumbling into the box and goes down. Referee only signals a corner which is cleared. Now Braintree have one at the other end, Davis' shot deflected away.
12.21: GOAL CAMBRIDGE UNITED 1-0 BRAINTREE TOWN. United lead and it's LUKE BERRY with the goal. Donaldson is heavily involved in the goal, cutting in from the right flank and sliding a pass between the defenders, and Berry times his run to perfection to shoot past the advancing goalkeeper.
12.09: Marks wins a flick on and finds his strike-partner Holman, but his shot from a narrow angle is powerful but straight at Maxwell.
12.04: First attack of note from the U's, Arnold with the cross and it's headed behind by Peters with Taylor lurking. United can't profit from the corner, and Braintree clear.
12.01: Kick off, Braintree get us underway attacking the Newmarket Road End.
11.55: Kick-off five minutes away. Last season Braintree visited us on New Year's Day, and the U's claimed a 1-0 win courtesy of a second half goal from Michael Gash. The roles are reversed this year of course, with United going to Cressing Road on January 1.
Cambridge United: Maxwell, Tait, Taylor, Miller, Coulson, Arnold, Dunk, Champion, Berry, Donaldson, Cunnington. Subs: Roberts, Austin, Sam-Yorke, Spillane, Brown.
Braintree Town: Hamann, Peters, Habergham, Wells, Paine, Masey, Paine, Davis, Mulley, Marks, Holman. Subs: McDonald, Sparkes, Daley, Cox, Geohaghon.
11.30: TEAM NEWS. United make two changes, with Richard Tait and Ryan Donaldson replacing Kevin Roberts, who is on the bench, and Josh Gillies, who drops out of the squad all together. It's a welcome return for Donaldson, who hasn't started since the FA Cup win at Needham Market back in October.
11.20: Good morning everybody and welcome to the R Costings Abbey Stadium as Cambridge United prepare to face Braintree Town. The U's will be looking to bounce back after Saturday's defeat at Hereford, but Alan Devonshire's Iron will no doubt be obdurate opponents.