Chelmsford City vs Braintree Town
Attendance: 1,178

It was Derby day delight for Chelmsford as they saw off their rivals Braintree, who made a short trip from Cressing Road. The Clarets hadn’t played for 16 days after postponement twice against Wealdstone and that ultimately resulting in the Hungerford game being moved to January. A new face for Chelmsford being Reece Grant who made his debut and ultimately secured the three points with a stunning penalty into the top left corner. Tom Blackwell continued his goal scoring form bagging yet another goal on Boxing Day against Braintree.

Two changes for city saw Freddy hockey and Aaron Cassie, two of our youth academy players, make way with Ovie Ejeheri returning from a small injury to play and Kai Yearn making his way into the team. Hockey, despite not being in the first eleven, was named on the bench however had to pull out due to falling ill meaning manager Robbie Simpson took his place on the bench. We also saw the return of Khale Da Costa and Callum Jones to the bench, great sights to see after both of them have been injured.

There was a quick start to the game Chelmsford looked to dust off the cobwebs and get back into action. A fantastic ball from Henry Ochieng saw Harry Lodovica beat his man and get into some space before delivering into the box. Tom Blackwell met the cross and glanced his header beyond Jack Sims who seemed to be in no man’s land as the header hit the back of the net. Tom Blackwell scored for Chelmsford, a year on after his first goal for the Clarets.

Braintree looked to hit back as soon as possible as Jack Paxman broke away from Jazzi Barnum-Bobb, only for the fullback to foul him. Kyron Farrell’s free kick was headed into the arms of Ovie Ejeheri whose quick thinking saw him put Harry Lodovica in with a chance, only for him to be tackled before he could get a shot on goal. Former Claret Matt Rush had a half chance for the Irons but he did not compose himself and saw his effort fly over the bar. Braintree looked to go long to Rush however, this was cut out and some nice play from Chelmsford saw Simeon Jackson play Tom Blackwell in, only for his effort to be deflected out for a corner, which amassed to nothing.

Jack Sims once again looked long for Rush and Cameron James misjudged the ball, leaving it to drop at the feet of Braintree striker Aaron Blair. Blair looked up and fed Rush through on goal and he stung the palms of Ovie Ejeheri with a fierce effort, which had to be dealt with by the keeper. Willie Clemons was up next to test the Chelmsford resistance as he won, and then got in the end of, a free kick which he then won a corner from, after Tom Blackwell dropped deep to defend. The re-educating corner brought no change to the score, and was fairly routine for the City defenders.

City got themselves another chance as Jazzi Barnum-Bobb threw to Henry Ochieng and the midfielder turned and found himself in space before having a shot at goal, only for it to go high and wide. Before the half could conclude, Braintree broke another chance and it was yet again through Matt Rush as he wiggled his way through Simeon Jackson and Barnum-Bobb before hitting a low cross which was returned to him. He then fizzed the ball across the face of goal, missing everyone and allowing Frankie Terry to clean up. The whistle came and Chelmsford went in at the break 1-0 up.

The second half started lively mainly down to Braintree adopting 3 at the back and sending more men forward. Dave Winfield was the first Chelmsford player to see himself into the book as he brought down Matt Rush on the halfway line but the referee played on and saw Aaron Blair have a half chance for the Iron. Not long after that and Matt Rush was 1 on 1 with Ovie Ejeheri as Ochieng miss timed his tackle and saw the former Chelmsford striker through. Cameron James recovered to just do enough to put pressure on Rush and he stumbled and scuffed his effort, still needing Ejeheri to tip it round the post.

With just over 20 minutes to go, Chelmsford turned to their bench and new signing Reece Grant who got a warm introduction from the Chelmsford City fans. Braintree were looking to pile the pressure on and the fresh legs allowed some good pressing from Reece. He was joined in the field by another former Claret as Braintree put Lamar Reynolds upfront with Rush. 10 minutes after coming in and Reece Grant was in the thick of it as he took down a throw from Barnum-Bobb and flicked it over Clemons, only for the fullback to trip him up and bring the striker down. Robert Claussen hesitated but had seen enough to point to the spot.

After the Braintree complaints, Reece Grant had the ball in his hands a placed it in the spot. Iron keeper Jack Sims was no match for Reece as he fired a beautiful strike into the top left corner and gave his new side a 2-0 lead, against one of his former sides. It was debut day delight for the striker who was joined in celebration by all his new teammates. Chelmsford made another substitute after the goal as Harry Lodovica made way, after a superb performance, and Callum Jones was welcomed back onto the pitch for the first time since his injury away to Welling in August.

Braintree flooded forward in search of an equaliser and managed a few chances but nothing to threaten Ovie Ejeheri and his clean sheet. Southend loanee Jon Benton had Braintree’s best chance late on but all he could do was gift the ball into Ovie’s hands. Angelo Harrop’s men continued the fight however it was not to be. The game brought another special debut as goal scorer Tom Blackwell made way for youngster Finn Wilkes who made his league debut for the clarets.

Another boxing day derby versus Braintree and it was another 3 points for Robbie Simpson’s men. The clarets maintained their excellent record being unbeaten in 10 fixtures versus their rivals since 2010. The win saw Chelmsford close up at the top with an important month to come in January. Another superb 3 points rounded off 2022. We will hope for more of the same in 2023!

Words By Josh Lowe

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