Braintree beat Worthing to return to National League

Braintree returned to the National League after edging a pulsating National League South promotion final at Worthing.

The Iron led twice and trailed once as the game finished 3-3 after 90 minutes, before substitute Reggie Lambe headed the winner in the second half of extra time.

It secured Town's return to the fifth tier of English football for the first time since 2019.

Worthing's 138-year wait to play at that level goes on.

The deadlock was broken on 23 minutes when Braintree’s Dominic Odusanya evaded marker Jack Wadham and headed in Tom Blackwell's corner for his first goal for the club.

The lead lasted just 12 minutes as Ollie Pearce expertly controlled a high ball over the top from Kane Wills with his right foot before applying a perfect first-time finish past Jack Sims with his left for his 46th goal of the Rebels' campaign.

The game was turned on its head eight minutes after the break when Pearce pulled the ball back for Jack Spong to curl into the corner from the edge of the box.

Braintree full-back Leon Davies was carried off just before the hour but within minutes his side were level when Odusanya’s lofted pass beat defender Kodi Lyons-Foster allowing Aaron Blair to volley high past keeper Ollie Wright.

Five minutes later Town were ahead after Charlie Wakefield drifted to the right flank to collect a pass and then strode forward before arrowing an angled strike into the far top corner from near the edge of the box.

The madness continued as it was 3-3 less than two minutes later when Danny Cashman slammed another pullback from Pearce low past Sims.

Braintree had to play extra time in both their eliminator and semi-final - and the final was no different.

Early in extra time Worthing subtitute Brad Dolaghan was denied by the legs of Sims, who then produced a superb double stop to somehow claw out Cashman’s diving header from close range and then Pearce’s angled follow-up.

Alfie Payne saw a Braintree goal ruled out by referee Ross Martin for a foul on the keeper but Lambe’s diving header at the near post three minutes into the second period of extra time settled it.

There was still time for Sims to claw away a looping header from sub Greg Luer as Worthing tried to send it to penalties, but Braintree held on.