FC Halifax Town lost for the fifth league game running for the first time since reformation to remain bottom of the table, crashing to another heavy defeat after Braintree Town went goal-crazy at The Shay.
The visitors ended up with six goals to their name – three of which were scored by hat-trick hero Michael Cheek – but Town had given the league’s best defence a real scare after a thrilling first 45 minutes.
The Shaymen were 4-1 down after only 30 minutes to the side who had only conceded 7 goals away from home this season, but a deadly double from Shaun Tuton gave the home side hope before the interval. That optimism was short-lived, however, as Cheek added to his two first half goals four minutes after the restart to put Braintree out of sight.
In the four previous meetings between the two sides, only two goals had been scored. But by five minutes of play, the scoreline read 1-1.
It was a pulsating start in which Braintree took the lead after only four minutes when Alex Woodyard’s cross floated over Matt Glennon – back between the sticks following Everton youngster Russell Griffiths’ debut last Sunday – and into the far corner.
The visitors’ lead, however, lasted barely 30 seconds. Scott McManus scampered down the left and his cross was prodded home by Jordan Burrow for his twelfth of the season.
That same duo combined again on nine minutes but Burrow’s flicked effort at the near post was diverted onto the bar by Will Norris.
Braintree, not renowned for their scoring prowess – after all, Town had scored more goals than them before this fixture in this Vanarama National League campaign – turned on the style with a three-goal blitz in the space of 12 minutes scintillating minutes.
Cheek got his first of a rainy afternoon on 18 minutes, after he had the freedom of the six-yard box to tap into an empty net after great work by Colchester loanee Sam Szmodics.
Cheek, the former Chelmsford striker, then added his second and his side’s third after taking advantage of some extremely generous Shaymen defending; Nat Brown didn’t get enough on his back-pass to Glennon and Cheek won the 50-50, leaving him with the simple task of firing into another empty net.
The Iron were rampant and the created a succession of chances before they finally extended their lead on the half-hour mark. Brown was beaten by Szmodics on the right and in his attempt to win the ball, the Lincoln City loanee brought the attacker down. Captain Kenny Davis showed great composure to chip his penalty down the middle, via the crossbar.
But Town responded in brave fashion with Tuton striking twice in the space of ten minutes before the break. Great build-up play allowed the former Buxton man to fire across Norris and into the far bottom corner, before he prodded in Kieran Sadlier’s cross to reduce the arears to 4-3 and give the Shaymen immense hope going into the second half.
It was the first time Braintree had conceded three goals on their travels this season and, after Sam Walker’s early second half free kick harmlessly sailed over, Danny Cowley’s men struck a decisive fifth on 49 minutes.
Again, it was very poor defending from the Shaymen as Cheek was left unmarked from a corner to steer high past Glennon from 8 yards.
Cowley, after the game, referred to the extraordinary scenes as a “basketball” spectacle but he was left purring with his side’s sixth.
The excellent Szmodics raced through Town’s defence – cut open like a knife through butter – and sumptuously lifted the ball over an advancing Glennon to seal an exhilarating victory.
Tuton tried to lift a dispirited Town but his attempt for a hat-trick was cruelly denied by the woodwork – his fizzing drive after cutting onto his right foot crashing off the bar and away to safety.
The defeat leaves Halifax with only three wins in their last 35 league games, with Darren Kelly hoping to inspire a defence which has now conceded 22 goals in their previous five home games – and 53 in 20 league games - ahead of next Saturday’s trip to Gateshead.