FOREST GREEN ROVERS 0 BRAINTREE TOWN 2
Forest Green blew their chance to clamber right back into the Skrill Premier play-offs picture with a laboured and lethargic display.
Dan Holman's 36th minute penalty and a second-half Bernard Mensah strike halted Rovers' hopes of a third straight home win and rewarded a stoic effort from part-timers Braintree.
Ady Pennock resisted the temptation to make wholesale changes for his side's third game in six days, although an injury to Jamie Turley during the warm-up meant late reorganisation and an unscheduled start for Ed Asafu-Adjaye at right-back.
Paul Green and Danny Wright also came back into the starting XI at the expense of Al Bangura and Matty Taylor, and they were up against a Braintree side on a five-match unbeaten run.
The men from Essex certainly started in sprightly fashion, Mensah wriggling clear of Jared Hodgkiss and firing across the face of a worried Sam Russell's goal.
Rovers did not click into gear until the 13th minute, when a sweeping move ended with a neat turn and shot by Wright that went a foot wide.
Four minutes later Marcus Kelly's hanging cross was met by James Norwood at full stretch at the far post, but Forest Green's top scorer was unable to direct his header on target.
Kelly produced another teasing delivery via a free-kick in a central position, from which Eddie Oshodi rose highest inside a packed area and nodded over the bar.
On 28 minutes Norwood thought he had broken the deadlock in spectacular fashion, only to see his dipping 25-yard shot crash against the crossbar and Wright's follow-up effort deflected wide.
A home goal looked to be in the offing, but instead it was Braintree who were given the chance to get their noses in front when keeper Russell dashed off his line to meet Mensah and was penalised for a trip by referee Craig Hicks.
Holman had to wait for Russell to be shown a yellow card and for some vehement protests to die down before converting the resulting spot-kick with aplomb.
Kelly blazed over via a deflection when well placed and Wright was also foiled by some last-ditch defending, meaning the Iron preserved their advantage at half-time.
Rovers continued to huff and puff at the start of the second period but looked less threatening, prompting the introduction of Yan Klukowski and Taylor from the bench.
The home crowd were voicing their obvious displeasure at Braintree's direct approach, but it paid the ultimate dividend in the 68th minute when a hopeful punt lured Russell out of his area and Aarran Racine's duff clearance presented Mensah with a simple finish into an empty net.
Pennock's exasperated men tried to respond, Klukowski driving wide from Norwood's clever pass before the latter forced a rare save from Nick Hamann.
Green saw a drive from the edge of the box fizz wide and Lee Hughes produced a trademark turn and shot from 12 yards, only for Hamann to fling out his left arm to keep it out.
Forest Green: S. Russell; E. Asafu-Adjaye, A. Racine, E. Oshodi, J. Hodgkiss; J. Norwood, P. Green, A. Barry (Y. Klukowski 62), M. Kelly; D. Wright (M. Taylor 62), L. Hughes; Subs not used: A. Bangura, L. Rodgers, P. White.
Braintree Town: N. Hamann; R. Peters, A. Massey, D. Wells, S. Habergham; B. Mensah (S. Marks 76), C. Isaac, M. Paine, L. Daley (J. Laurent 88); D. Holman (A. Jakubiak 77), D. Sparkes; Sub not used: N. McDonald.
Referee: C. Hicks (Surrey)
Star man: James Norwood