Bostik Premier League
BILLERICAY TOWN 2 FOLKESTONE INVICTA 2
JOHN CHUBB at the AGP Arena
The script for Billericay Town‘s promotion party clearly wasn’t quite read by visitors Folkestone Invicta, who proved tough opponents on the day the Essex club celebrated their Bostik Premier title triumph in front of their biggest league crowd of the season.
Billericay striker Jake Robinson with the club’s trophy haul for the season, and his player of the year award. Photo by kind permission of Nicky Hayes (@NickyHayesPhoto)
Blues’ top scorer and player of the season Jake Robinson took less than 2 minutes to find the net, but his clearly offside effort was ruled out by referee Abigail Marriott.
And it was Folkestone who grabbed the lead with 6 minutes gone, when their centre forward Joe Taylor cut into the area and curled the ball past Billericay goalkeeper Alan Julian into the top left corner of the net to put the Kent side 1-0 ahead.
Robinson went close on 10 minutes when he connected with a Danny Waldren cross, but his close range shot was stopped by Tim Roberts in the Invicta goal.
It was proving in some ways to be the archetypal end of season encounter where arguably not much was at stake for either team, but Folkestone showed why they have made the play-offs and for a while were genuine title contenders in this league, as the home defence had to be alert enough to prevent them from increasing their lead.
Billericay’s players celebrate with the League trophy after the game. Photo by ekind permission of Nicky Hayes (@NickyHayesPhoto)
But Ricay equalised 5 minutes before half time via Ricky Modeste, who headed the ball over the line from Sam Deering’s cross to put his side level.
Then in time added on Nick Wheeler found himself in a close range one on one situation with Roberts, but the Folkestone keeper managed to stop his effort to ensure the scores remained level at the break.
Just after the hour mark in the second half Kieron McCann came close to putting the Kent side back in front, making a superb darting run into the box before firing in a shot which Julian did well to push away.
On 73 minutes midfielder Deering, one of Billericay’s most outstanding and consistent players this season shot powerfully from the left and forced a good stop from Roberts.
Then as the game entered the closing stages it looked like Invicta had claimed all 3 points, when Taylor sidefooted the ball into the net a minute from time to make it 2-1 to the visitors.
But just as the Kent side thought they’d completely wrecked the party up popped Jamie O’Hara, who equalised superbly from 25 yards in the final moments to ensure Billericay at least claimed a point.
Billericay Town: Alan Julian, Kevin Foley, Josh Urquhart, Danny Waldren, Joe Kizzi, Sam Deering, Ricky Modeste (Adam Cunnington 74), Robbie Evans (Billy Bricknell 55), Jamie O’Hara, Jake Robinson, Nick Wheeler (Liam Hughes 55).
Folkestone Invicta : Tim Roberts, Josh Vincent, Michael Everitt (Ian Draycott 66), Matthew Newman, Callum Davies, Sam Hasler, Ronnie Dolan, Jerald Aboaghe (Johan Ter-Horst 83), Joe Taylor, Adam Yusuff, Kieron McCann.
Referee: Abigail Marriott
After the post-match presentations had been conducted on the pitch by club owner Glenn Tamplin, I spoke to head coach Harry Wheeler who acknowledged that the visiting team had proved tough opponents on the day, but he seemed really satisfied with the overall outcome: “They (Folkestone) are where they are for a reason, but the main thing was to keep our unbeaten run going, which we did” he said.
Wheeler was quick to acknowledge the contribution of Jamie O’Hara (“That goal at the end was really special”), the former Tottenham midfielder having endured a frustrating and injury hit campaign but who has performed outstandingly in recent games.
With his previous experience of coaching in the National League South with Welling United (“It’s the league I came from and a league I know very well”) Wheeler said he is looking forward to next season’s challenge and seems confident that the club can put up a strong challenge at the higher level. He spoke of assessing his existing squad, along with the budget that will be made available to him when making his plans over the summer months.