Braintree Town 0 Harrogate Town 4: Rapid start helps see off basement boys

Mark Beck slots home Harrogate Town's second goal at Braintree Town. Picture: Matt Kirkham
Mark Beck slots home Harrogate Town's second goal at Braintree Town. Picture: Matt Kirkham

Two goals inside the opening 10 minutes set Harrogate Town on their way to a comprehensive away victory over Braintree Town.

Simon Weaver's team flew out of the blocks in Essex, breaking the deadlock with just 80 seconds on the clock, and never looked back as they cemented their place in the National League play-off positions.

Hosts Braintree, who began Saturday's contest rooted to the foot of the table, looked shell-shocked following the early set-back and never managed to recover.

A number of spectators were still taking their seats when Warren Burrell's left-wing thrown-in was flicked in-field by Mark Beck, then helped into the penalty area by Jack Muldoon.

The ball then bounced up nicely for the marauding Jack Emmett, whose deflected shot flew past the stranded Ben Killip for 1-0.

Number two arrived just eight minutes later when a challenge on a Braintree player five yards outside the home box led to the ball ricocheting in behind for Beck.

His first touch saw him expertly skip around the advancing Killip, before he slotted past both the despairing dive of the goalkeeper, plus two covering defenders and into the far corner of the net.

The game could have been over as a contest just moments later, Josh Falkingham playing Muldoon clean through on goal, but Killip stood up and made an important block.

A ball over the top then saw top-scorer Muldoon go one-on-one again, only for a heavy touch to allow Killip to bravely claim at the striker's feet.

The hosts couldn't live with Muldoon, who threatened once more in the 33rd minute, spinning his marker superbly on the edge of the penalty area and whipping an effort past the far post.

Unsurprisingly, the same player had a hand in Town's third of the afternoon, which arrived seven minutes before the interval.

James Belshaw's long punt forwards bounced over the top of the hapless Iron back-four, allowing Muldoon to force a good save out of Killip before George Thomson followed up to ram home the rebound.

Braintree made a double-substitution at the interval, but that change didn't help stem the tide.

Harrogate, who themselves introduced Liam Agnew in the place of Emmett, continued to play on the front foot, adding a fourth goal 10 minutes after the resumption.

Ryan Fallowfield did well to release Muldoon down the right and he drilled a ball across the six-yard box for Beck to finish off with ease.

With the Iron continuing to defend in rather shambolic fashion, further damage appeared inevitable.

Muldoon somehow dragged a shot past the upright from close range following a Beck header into this path, then Thomson and Callum Howe saw efforts cleared off the goal-line in quick succession.

Five minutes from time, substitute Michael Woods bundled his way though on goal, though Killip - Braintree's best player by some distance - got down to make another very good save, and that was that.

The victory, Weaver's men's third in their last four outings, keeps them sixth in the National League.