This battling performance by Wealdstone was very much a case of the good, the bad and the ugly on a pudding of a pitch at the Ironmongery Direct Stadium on Saturday as they battled back to gain a 2-2 draw at Braintree Town.

A torrid first-half display from the visitors when they went 2-0 down and looked down and out was contrasted by a fine gutsy performance in the second period when they could, and probably should, have taken all three points.

A fine long-range strike from Matty Whichelow and a penalty from Danny Green pegged back Braintree, who had nicked a spot-kick themselves a minute before the turnaround.

Both sides were frustrated by a difficult playing surface and referee Jacob Miles in almost equal measure in a fussy and scrappy encounter that burst into life for extended periods in an end-to-end second period.

Despite the implorations of their manager, it looked like Stones had more than half an eye on Saturday’s Buildbase FA Trophy tie at Brackley Town and feared injury as time and again players seemed reluctant to go in for full blooded challenges and looked far too hesitant in the tackle. The Iron took full advantage of this coyness in the first half and must have felt they were home and dry, if not muddied.

The visitors’ half-time predicament might have been even worse had it not been for the excellence of Wealdstone’s gloveman, Jonathan North whom, once again, kept his side in contention with several brave, outstanding stops.

After a relatively even first 10 minutes, with far too much whistle and free-kicks, North was called into action, stopping a strike from Dan Thompson who was a threat all afternoon for the visiting defence that was without the rested Eddie Oshodi.

Stones’ Jerome Okimo decent volleyed effort on 19 minutes flew well over but it was the home side that looked far more fluent with better movement as the half wore on. Bradley Bubb had a half chance but couldn’t get his strike away cleanly as his visitors increasingly came under pressure.

After North saved again it looked a matter of time before the hosts would make the breakthrough. And so it proved on 42 minutes when Luke Allen found space after a good attacking move. And matters got worse for Stones right at the end of the half when a totally exposed North bundled over a forward and up stepped former Met Police midfielder Billy Crook to net the penalty.

Stones certainly looked like they had experienced a roasting from boss Bobby Wilkinson during the break but still looked vulnerable in the opening minutes of the new half.

The turning point came five minutes in when Ryan Sellers and Mustafa Tiryaki came on for Matt Day and the quiet Bubb, who is still finding match fitness. The substitutions gave new impetus to the away side as far more pressure was forced upon the Iron back line.

Stones’ new found pressing told on 59 minutes when Whichelow got free and unleashed a fine strike that arrowed past Nathan McDonald and into the far top corner.

Within six minutes, Stones were level. Dave Pratt burst into the box from a great move and was upended by McDonald. The reliable Green duly obliged from the spot to make it 2-2.

Stones then missed a couple of gilt edged chances – from a superb Sellers run and cross Tiryaki couldn’t connect at the far post. But the hosts remained dangerous on the counter and North and the defence twice came to the rescue with last-ditch blocks.

Pratt should have grabbed a winner with nine minutes remaining when another Sellers cross should have been buried as the game ebbed and flowed at both ends with a tense finish to proceedings.

Wealdstone: North, Johnson-Schuster, Okimo, Gayle, Day, Cox, Whichelow, Wellard, Pratt, Green, Bubb. Subs used: Tiryaki, Sellers, Fitchett. Not used: Wilson, Allen.