Cray Wanderers attempt to reach the last 32 of the FA Trophy for the first time came to an end as three second half goals won what was a tight cup tie and end the Wands 16 game unbeaten run. 

Despite the final scoreline, Cray put in a lively and industrious display and had the better of the first half before the joint leaders of the National South took their chances late in the game. 

Tony Russell’s side created the first opening when Jerome Federico’s ball in from the right was turned over the bar by Jay Leader from six yards.

Then top scorer for Braintree, Phil Roberts put a good ball through to Roman Michael-Percil but an alert Nick Blue advanced to claim the ball as he bore down on goal.

The best chance of the game came in the 12th minute when Dean Carpenter’s ball through found Lea Dawson who hit a well hit shot which fizzed just past the right post.

Cray then had a potential shout for a penalty when Mitchell Nelson’s cross was claimed by keeper Nathan MacDonald who then dropped the ball under pressure from Aaron Rhule who appeared to be impeded by the keeper when challenging for the ball but no penalty was given.

Then Cray came close when Ben Mundele cut inside from the right and from the edge of the box hit a shot which McDonald got down to save. 

The Wands threatened again this time down the left with ex-Braintree player Barney Williams setting up Rhule who shot from twelve yards which McDonald did well to save.

Before half time, Roberts shot over the top and then curled an effort just over from Karl Oliyide’ pass for Bradley Quinton’s team.

The final opportunity of a goalless first half came to Cray when Mundele set up Michael Frieter from the edge of the area whose shot was comfortably held by McDonald.

Braintree were much improved in the second half and Marcel Barrington fired over the top and Nick Blue did well to deny Barrington as the Iron upped the pressure.

The first goal arrived in the 63rd minute for Braintree with a well worked goal when Billy Crook hit a cross field pass from the right out to Michael-Percil who found space to run into the box and square the ball to Oliyide who turned the ball into the net.

Braintree now looked like the team that are second in the National South and Blue made an excellent save with his legs to deny Oliyide a second goal from Crook’s left wing corner.

The Wands got caught in the 77th minute following a swift break from a Cray attack and Oliyide found Roberts down the right who put a good ball into the area and Barrington reacted quickest to divert the ball into the net.

Cray in their admirable quest to keep attacking ran the risk of getting overrun and Braintree grabbed a third goal in the 83rd minute when substitute Matt Baxter who had only been on the field for a couple of minutes cut inside down the right and did well to squeeze a shot wide of Blue and into the bottom corner of the net to give the scoreline a rather harsh look.

Lea Dawson shot wide late on for Cray but Braintree had shown their pedigree in the second half and there could be no complaint that the better side on the day had won but Cray can be very proud of their efforts not only on the day but in the cup run as a whole.

They can now turn their attention to maintaining their Isthmian South promotion push which continues on Wednesday against Ramsgate at Hayes Lane.

Cray Wanderers: Nick Blue, Ben Mundele, Barney Williams, Jay Leader (Marcus Evans, 84), Mitchell Nelson, Lea Dawson, Dean Carpenter, Michael Frieter (Ralique Lawrence, 77) Michael Power, Aaron Rhule, Jerome Federico (Brandon Scott, 67):  Subs: Freddie Parker, Zak Henry

Att: 214