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Braintree Town won a place in the South East Combination and established the astonishing record of five successive promotions in their first five seasons on Sunday.
They achieved this feat in true Champions style by beating their nearest rival away from home and with a winning goal worthy of the League title. Ironically, a venue change had brought the match to White Notley, much closer to Braintree than Chelmsford, the 'home' team,.and the majority of the large crowd were willing the Iron Ladies to get the point they needed to be crowned champions of the Eastern Region League Premier Division.
A recent dip in results had left Chelmsford City six points behind Braintree with two matches left to play. City needed to beat Braintree convincingly and then do the same in their final match and they never really looked like they could achieve the first part of this scenario despite competing very well in baking hot conditions
Unsurprisingly, defences dominated a cagey opening half with Braintree keeper Hannah Streetley and City's Jade Parker having little to bother them due to excellent covering and tackling by their back four colleagues. Aimee Drane broke clear on the left for Braintree but was tackled at the last moment and City's Emma Ridings showed lovely skill on 25 minutes to beat two defenders in the area but shot well wide. Braintree had marginally more of the play with Zoe Rushen and Ella Tooley moving the ball round well but the final pass was often lacking in precision from both sides.
On the restart, the game opened up considerably as Chelmsford pushed on but were at the mercy of the quick counter, with Laken Duchar-Clark especially dangerous on the break. However, it was Ridings who nearly gave Chelmsford the lead in the 46th minute with a shot which drifted over Streetley but landed on the roof of the net.
The title winning goal on 57 minutes was a beauty from Helena Golding, who had been impressive in the Iron midfield. Picking the ball up 40 yards out, she drifted infield past two challenges then struck a perfect shot over Parker's outstretched hands and just under the bar.
Chelmsford never gave up and had a spell of concerted pressure around the seventy minute mark, with a Ridings run blocked at the near post and three corners which were defended with some difficulty. However, it was Braintree who had more options up front as the game got stretched in the closing stages, with Tooley hitting the bar from close in when set up by a left wing cross and Parker makng a fine save from another Duchar-Clark effort.
Despite City's best efforts as the game ran into a lengthy period of added time and the Iron supporters pleading for the final whistle, the Champions had shown their worth and thoroughly deserved the win, having a great blend of youth and experience with impeccable team spirit and vocal support.
Braintree Town will take on new opposition yet again in 2010-11...surely they won't make it six promotions in a row?
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
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