Bishop's Stortford beat National League South Braintree Town in their second pre-season friendly
Frankie Merrifield scored the only goal as Bishop's Stortford made it two wins from two pre-season friendlies by beating Braintree Town 1-0 away on Saturday.
The striker was on target for the second successive game, having set the Blues on their way to a 5-0 win over Woodford Town last Tuesday, against National League South opponents featuring four former Stortford players: Matt Johnson, Femi Akinwande, Correy Davidson and Christian Smith.
Harry Hope went close for the Iron with the first real chance of the match, side-footing a volley wide in the six-yard box from a brilliant deep cross by Alfie Payne.
Chris Gregan and Ryan Charles applied pressure on the hosts’ defence, with Gregan sliding Charles through on goal, but the winger's attempted chip from a tight angle was an easy take for Braintree goalkeeper Preston Edwards.
Johnson dictated play for Braintree with impressive passing and it was difficult for the Blues to dispossess him. He played a through-ball into the path of Akinwande, but it was overhit and Jack Giddens was out quickly to claim it.
Merrifield flashed a long-range effort from the edge of the box wide of the left post, with Edwards scrambling across his goal line and thankful to see it go wide.
Church conceded a free kick to prevent a flying Davidson from entering the box in a quick counter-attack, but Hope could only hit the wall.
A deep free kick from a Blues trialist had both skipper Ryan Henshaw and James Baker jumping to nod home but neither could make a good contact on the ball.
Braintree's Anderson Pinto had the best chance of the half when a corner fell kindly to him in the box. Aiming for the roof of the net, he fired it against a post, before an appeal for a penalty for a foul on Hope was denied by the referee.
At the break, the Iron substituted all 10 of their outfield players while the Blues made just one change, with Jake Cass – who scored twice against Woodford – leading the line.
It was Merrifield who had the first chance of the half as the Blues started on the front foot. He fired inches wide after a great run and cutback from Charles down the left, before Cass could only hit the side netting from a tight angle.
Braintree's Jake Clowsley made a great late run into the box from the left but could only hit the woodwork from a low right-wing cross. The offside flag went up to spare his blushes.
Blues sub Joe Gardner was full of energy when he came on in the right-wing position, getting back to help the defence, and it was his cross that provided the goal in the 58th minute, Merrifield diverting the ball into the net with a sliding finish. The scorer was replaced by new signing Charley Barker four minutes later.
Cass nearly doubled the lead from nothing when he flicked the ball over the defender and volleyed off the crossbar, before a long-range effort from the striker went high of the target. He looked like he would finally get on the scoresheet when running through the defence towards goal, but Jayden Gipson’s last-ditch tackle on the edge of the box denied him.
As against Woodford, manager Steve Smith brought on Academy trio Pat Sankey, Charlie Wardle and keeper Connor Lee during the second half, and Wardle went close to scoring, dribbling round two in midfield and forcing a save from substitute Braintree keeper Tommy Dixon-Hodge from the edge of the box.
The Blues saw out the victory professionally, keeping the ball and pouncing on mistakes to force chances where possible, but in the end one goal was enough thanks to a solid defensive performance.
Bishop's Stortford are coming home for their first pre-season friendly at the R&D Advisors UK Stadium, against Maldon and Tiptree on Friday night.
Blues XI – 1 Jack Giddens (Lee 81) 2 Trialist (Trialist 81) 3 Chris Gregan 4 Jack Thomas 5 Ryan Henshaw (c) 7 Ryan Charles (Wardle 71) 8 Anthony Church 10 Frankie Merrifield (Barker 62) 11 Trialist (Cass 46) 12 Mark Haines (Sankey 56) 16 James Baker (Gardner 56). Subs: 9 Jake Cass 12 Joe Gardner 13 Connor Lee 14 Trialist 15 Pat Sankey 17 Charlie Wardle 18 Charley Barker.