FC Halifax Town 3-6 Braintree

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Halifax remain at the foot of the National League table after a dispiriting 6-3 home defeat to Braintree.

The Shaymen have now conceded 53 goals in 20 league games this season, and have now shipped 22 in their last five home matches.

Since beating Braintree 1-0 at The Shay last season, Halifax have now won just three of their 35 league outings; relegation form in anyone’s language.

But it spoke volumes about their campaign so far that this was only their third heaviest league defeat of the season.

Six goals in a frenetic first 32 minutes made for a breathless first-half, with Braintree charging into a 4-1 lead after just half-an-hour.

Alex Woodyard’s opener was quickly cancelled out by Jordan Burrow, before a brace from Michael Cheek and a Kenny Davis penalty seemed to put the visitors out of reach.

Shaun Tuton’s double at least clawed back some lost ground before the interval, but soon after it, Cheek completed his hat-trick after another Braintree corner wasn’t properly dealt with.

Sam Szmodics then got the goal his performance deserved but only from another self-inflicted wound before the heavens opened to reflect the gloom currently surrounding The Shay.

As expected, Matt Glennon replaced Russell Griffiths in goal, while Tuton and Kieran Sadlier came in for Tommy Miller and Kevin Roberts in a more attacking Town line-up, as they began with a diamond in midfield.

The clubs’ four previous meetings had only yielded two goals, but that was matched just within the opening five minutes here.

Town’s start matched the gloomy weather as they were caught out with a short corner, from which Woodyard’s cross curled over the stranded Glennon and into the top corner; quite a welcome back to action for the keeper.

It’s now 28 league games without a clean sheet, and it immediately looked like a long afternoon was in store.

But less than 30 seconds later, Halifax were level as Burrow stabbed Scott McManus’ cross in from close range.

Town’s top-scorer was then only denied a second soon afterwards by a magnificent reaction save from Will Norris, who tipped his fierce shot from 10 yards over the bar following another McManus cross.

Another quick corner caught Halifax out as Isaac fired just wide after the same player had seen his effort turned behind by Glennon.

Town’s vulnerability at the back was exposed like it had been last weekend as more hesitancy by Nat Brown, who struggled against Wycombe last time out, was punished when the impressive Szmodics squared the ball for Cheek to roll the ball in.

The same combination nearly created a third for Braintree soon afterwards but Cheek prodded the ball across goal and wide.

Braintree, like so many teams before them this season, sensed blood, while the home crowd were left to grumble at their team’s deeply worrying fragility in defence.

It then went from bad to much worse when Brown’s back-pass to Glennon was too short, letting Cheek to slide in and win the ball from Glennon before tapping in.

Cue boos around The Shay as another miserable afternoon threatened to end before it had even reached half-time.

In reality, it looked over after half-an-hour when Brown was outpaced by Cheek before he barged the striker over inside the penalty box, leaving referee Ryan Johnson, who took charge of the Cheltenham horror show, little choice.

Most of his other decisions were questionable, but he looked to have got that one right.

Davis sent Glennon the wrong way from the spot to spark more cries of anguish from the home supporters, one of two of whom even began to boo Nat Brown when he touched the ball before Tuton got one back with a neat finish across goal after good work by Kingsley James.

The more vocal Town supporters took their sides’ defensive incompetence and hesitancy in possession as their cue to vent their frustrations, but this only seemed to inhibit the Halifax players, who looked drained of confidence, at least until Tuton’s goal.

He then got another back when he swept in Sadlier’s low cross from the left as Town at least showed some fighting spirit, but it didn’t paper over the damaging cracks, with Dan Sparkes and Cheek, twice, going close to adding to Braintree’s already shockingly-high tally.

It was only the second time this season Braintree had conceded three goals in a game, and only the third time this term Halifax had scored more than twice; and all of that before half-time.

Another short corner gave Mitch Brundle too much time and space to pick out a superb cross which Cheek lashed in on the run from six yards.

Town just weren’t learning from their mistakes, and from another one, Szmodics brought up Braintree’s half-dozen when Nicky Wroe gave the ball away cheaply before the forward easily beat the beleaguered Brown for pace before beating Glennon with an exquisite chip.

Norris then saved well from Burrow’s shot across goal, but even with a quarter of the game left, it seemed a forlorn hope.

Tuton struck the bar late on after being played through by Sadlier, but it was over as a contest long before then.

Halifax: Glennon, Bolton, N Brown, O’Brien, McManus, Sadlier, Wroe, James, Walker (Macdonald 68), Tuton, Burrow. Subs not used: Porter, Miller, Roberts, Bencherif.

Scorer: Burrow (5), Tuton (32, 42)

Shots on target: 7

Shots off target: 6

Corners: 4

Braintree: Norris, Clerima, Paine, Cheek (Marks 75), Habergham (Fry 46), Brundle, Isaac, Davis, Sparkes (Miles 70), Woodyard, Szmodics. Subs not used: Sekajja, Edgar.

Scorer: Woodyard (4), Cheek (17, 24, 49), Davis (30), Szmodics (57)

Shots on target: 8

Shots off target: 7

Corners: 9

Attendance: 1,065

Town man of the match: Shaun Tuton