Matthew Barnes-Homer’s 85th minute penalty was enough to earn Macclesfield a fourth straight home win and send them to the summit of the Blue Square Premier for the first time this season.
The Silkmen struggled to hit top gear and after going behind to a first half spot kick from Bradley Quinton, levelled just five minutes later through the ever impressive John Paul Kissock, before a late handball gave Barnes-Homer the chance to blast home his fifth of the campaign.
Pablo Mills made his Macc debut alongside Arnaud Mendy in central midfield, with Ryan Jackson and Charlie Henry also returning to the starting line-up after missing out at Stockport on Tuesday night.
The visitors came into the game unbeaten in three and looked threatening early on against a Macc defence which hadn’t conceded a goal at home yet this campaign, but hardly looked that water-tight.
In the fourth minute a ball over the top was misjudged by Nat Brown and Dan Holman looked to be in behind, only for the Macc skipper to get back to deny him. Another decent chance was squandered minutes later as Daniel Sparkes’ free kick was knocked down by Holman and after he got the ball back from Michael Gash his first time shot went tamely wide.
The home side’s first effort came on eight minutes when Barnes-Homer found Kissock on the left and the Luton loanee teed up Mendy who hit a vicious effort which skimmed off the top of the bar. The Macc midfielder hit an almost identical effort soon after, this time from even further out and again having beaten the keeper he was unlucky to see it graze the top of the crossbar before going over.
The Silkmen began to find their rhythm as the half wore on and after another neat passing move Kissock found Craig Braham-Barrett charging forward down the left, but his ball in flew just out of Barnes-Homer’s reach in the centre. The ball was retained though to find Holroyd who created space for himself on the edge of the box, only to curl agonizingly wide of the far post.
The Iron were given a penalty in the 20th minute when Holman ran at Brown and the skipper left a foot in to bring down the striker just inside the box. Quinton stepped up and sent Lance Cronin the wrong way for his third strike of the season.
Macc were only behind for five minutes and the equaliser came from brilliant link up play in the final third. Holroyd and Barnes-Homer knocked the ball between them before Barnes-Homer played a perfect pass into Kissock’s path running from midfield, who took a touch before drilling low past keeper Danny Naisbitt into the far corner.
The Essex side could have regained their advantage in the 36th minute when James Mulley skipped into the box from the right and his ball across hit both Brown and Gash in the six yard box, but somehow fell to the feet of Jackson to clear rather than into the net.They missed another good opportunity two minutes before the interval when a long kick by the keeper was flicked on by Gash who beat Kieran Charnock in the air, and Holman’s right footed drive was parried by Cronin and cleared.
It took ten minutes of the second period for the first shot, and one that never came close to troubling Cronin as the ball broke for Mulley on the edge of the box who sliced well wide. At the other end Jackson’s throw infield was directed perfectly into Mendy’s path running into the box and after taking a touch past his man he shot wide on his left foot when he had the space to take another touch.
Barnes-Homer came within inches of finding the net when he headed just over from eight yards, connecting with Charlie Henry’s inswinging free kick from the left. With the visitors happy to settle for their point Macc began to get frustrated and neither side could muster a clear cut opportunity as the half wore on.
Steve King brought on Amari Morgan-Smith and Waide Fairhurst for Henry and Holroyd, looking to freshen things up in order to find a winner. With six minutes left on the clock good strength from Barnes-Homer took him past his man on the right and as he cut in on goal he shot from a tight angle, rather than trying to find a team mate in the centre. The keeper blocked his near post effort, but Fairhurst got his head to the ball from the rebound and it was blocked on the six yard line by the hand of goal scorer Quinton.
The referee pointed to the spot and Barnes-Homer confidently stepped up and lashed his kick right down the middle, giving the keeper no chance. With two minutes to go a ball in from the left was nodded down by Gash, who had done well in the air all afternoon, but the loose ball was scrambled clear rather than falling to a team mate. Brown had to bravely block to deny Gash after Charnock failed to get much distance on his headed clearance as the visitors forced a few late corners to test the nerves of the home fans.
Macc defended strongly though and could have added a third in stoppage time when Barnes-Homer reached a ball down the left before the keeper who had raced from his line, however he failed to pick out a blue shirt in the centre to finish into an empty net. The Silkmen weren’t at their free flowing best but did just enough to take all the points against a decent Braintree side and continue the 100% home record, a gritty trait needed if Macc are to stay towards the top of the table – winning when not at their best.