On a cold night at New Lodge, Billericay Town produced a performance to warm the cockles, although at one point it looked like it may overheat.
A sending off just before the half hour mark, for Leiston’s Danny Cunningham, before goals from Rowan Liburd, Affy Obafemi, Stevie Sheehan and an own goal from Tom Bullard made for a good night for the Town, moving them into 11th, four points off the playoffs with a game in hand on Enfield Town.
A depleted Billericay Town team took the field, with only 13 men making the teamsheet. Ross Kitteridge deputised for Joe Wright in the Town goal, with Richard Halle serving a suspension and Ricky Sappleton taking a place in the defence.
The beginning of the match didn’t look promising as a lot of play broke down in midfield, although Leiston were getting joy from their own aerial bombardment early on. Billericay’s first foray into enemy territory came 8 minutes in with a couple of corners, but they didn’t cause too many issues for Danny Gay in the Leiston goal.
The first clear opening for either team came from a set piece on the edge of the Leiston box. Ricky Sappleton stood over the ball before unleashing a beautiful curling shot that Gay parried diving down to his right hand side. In the 24th minute, Sappleton was again instrumental, seeing his header blocked by a Leiston body before the resulting throw-in was met by Rowan Liburd and deflected for a corner. Referee Andrew Parker faced calls for a Leiston hand-ball in the box from the corner, but waved them away.
Then came the key moment of the match – Glenn Poole was fouled, and as he and Cunningham squared up, the Leiston player appeared to push his head into Poole’s. The referee was in agreement as Cunningham saw red, with Poole yellow carded for his involvement. Leiston were facing an hour with 10 men and with 35 minutes gone, Liburd escaped down the Billericay right, playing the ball across the box where it fell to Poole, but he fired his shot well over.
On 40 minutes the breakthrough came. Liburd met a beautifully played ball into the box, glancing a header beyond the reach of Gay and into the net. Despite a moment of concern as Kitteridge saw a ball chipped narrowly over his bar, that’s how it stayed until half time – 1-0 to Billericay.
In the second half, Billericay made their man advantage count with some stylish play, one particular flowing move resulting in Ola Williams shooting wide when well placed. The second goal came in the 50th minute as Obafemi found himself in plenty of space on the edge of the box, picking out the bottom corner of the net perfectly.
Billericay were in cruise control, Obafemi breaking clear three minutes later, his cut back reaching Liburd, but his first touch was heavy and the chance slipped away. Stevie Sheehan was playing a key role on the Billericay right, often looking like he was playing on the wing, and his perfectly weighted ball was almost knocked home by Liburd, the chance cleared for a corner.
That wasn’t to say that there weren’t worrying moments for Town. In the 72nd minute, Kitteridge misjudged a ball, allowing a shot, but luckily it trickled wide, while the defence was a fault as Josh Mayhew found space three minutes later, shooting over the bar.
In the 79th minute, a Billericay corner found its way back to Poole whose mishit cross almost outwitted Gay. The resulting corner was headed home by Stevie Sheehan, who deserved a goal for his efforts.
Leiston still had chances on the counter, Tom Winter having his shot blocked when well placed, but Billericay were in charge and in the 85th minute, Liburd broke down the Leiston left, his ball finding Glenn Poole who somehow conspired to pull his shot wide. The fans didn’t have long to wait though, as in the 88th minute, sub Ryan Melaugh drove a ball across the box and it was steered home by unfortunate away defender Tom Bullard for four.
Billericay were good value for their 4-0 win and face Canvey Island away on Saturday.