Billericay Town passed their biggest test of pre-season to date with resounding success last night as they picked up a convincing 3-1 win away at National League, Maidstone United. A near full-strength Stones side had been undefeated in warm-up games.
The trip to the Gallagher saw a couple of new faces come into the Billericay line-up. Ex-Concord Rangers Goal-keeper, Louis Wells, took his place in the side alongside new striker, Adam Coombes, signed in the week from Welling United. In midfield, Jay Emmanuel Thomas, once of Arsenal, and at QPR until contract expiry last month, played as a trialist (we think) on the right side of midfield.
Despite persistent drizzle during the day in Kent, the arrival of the Blues saw weather brighten up somewhat and the game was played in dry conditions. Maidstone started brightly with central midfielder Stuart Lewis prominent in early exchanges. First, he provided a neat through ball allowing Blair Turgott to register the opening shot on target from just inside the penalty area. On 5 minutes, Lewis tried himself with a fiercely struck shot that flew wide of the target.
It would not be long before Billericay responded with early signs of a nascent understanding developing between Jake Robinson and new recruit, Coombes, as a clever early link-up set up Danny Waldren whose shot was blocked. However, it would be the highly impressive contributions from the left hand side duo of Callum Kennedy and Jake Howells that would bring the break-through.
First would come the dress rehearsal as a 9th minute Kennedy to Howells combination served Robinson who slammed home from close range. Whilst the goal was disallowed by an adjudged handball, BTFC would not be denied for long. Just two minutes later, Howells advanced once again on the left to bend in an inviting cross. Coombes took full advantage stooping slightly with a guided glancing header into the net to open his Billericay goal account.
With a strong side taking the field, Maidstone responded well and tested the mettle of the BTFC defence. Well-marshalled by the impressive, Scott Doe, BTFC were particularly effective in combating any aerial threat. On numerous occasions, Kizzi, Inman, and, especially, Doe expertly dealt with crosses and negated the effectiveness of Stones striker, Joe Quigley.
The best chance of the half for the Stones came from open play following a flash of skill from Turgott. Neat foot-work from the former West Ham winger opened up space for a shot that alerted Wells but flew inches over the BTFC cross-bar.
The second period would see changes with BTFC bringing on Jamie O’Hara to replace Sam Deering in centre midfield, Moses Emmanuel entered for Robinson to take his place up front, and Ricky Modeste slotted into a wide right position. With Callum Kennedy departing, Jake Howells dropped to left back to accommodate the change in line-up. Maidstone registered no half-time changes.
Maidstone started the second period strongly as Ollie Muldoon unleashed a curling strike that flew narrowly over the bar. Fully fit, the ex-Charlton and Gillingham man cut an impressive figure in central midfield. Assured on the ball, always looking to pass forward, and not shy of a tough tackle, he looks as good as a new signing for Maidstone after injuries disrupted the previous campaign.
Midfield honours were shared with BTFC’s Jamie O’Hara who also offered variety and accuracy with his passing range. An expertly curled free-kick from the left would see him turn provider for the 2nd Billericay goal in the 65th minute. Dean Inman, stealing into the Maidstone penalty box, to meet the ball and plant a firm header past Lee Worgan. Having undertaken numerous expertly timed tackles, and clearly benefiting from Doe’s influence, Inman fully merited his name on the score-sheet.
Having witnessed excellent passing combinations from both sides, the 547 spectators would be treated to an entertaining finale with a goal from each side in consecutive minutes. Firstly, the tireless Emmanuel would profit in the 83rd minute from a defensive mix-up to find himself clear on goal. A classy lifted finish over the prone Worgan warmed up the travelling fans as temperatures cooled.
Maidstone’s play deserved some level of reward and this was provided by substitute, Andre Coker, who caught the eye with his speed and movement. On 84 minutes, Coker would head home from close range after latching onto a ball headed on to him from another Maidstone player. The game ended with a late burst from Shamir Mullings snuffed out by the BTFC centre-back partnership.
Reflections on the game are that Billericay Town has all the hallmarks of an extremely impressive unit. A strong Maidstone Utd side, well into their pre-season preparations, represented a stern test. This was passed with flying colours with increased defensive organisation, aerial strength, and flourishing passing combinations throughout the side. If the influx of pace and proven strikers into the club is also factored in, the future appears to be bright.
Goals: Billericay Town ‘11 Coombes; ’64 Inman; ’83 Emmanuel.
Maidstone United starting line up:
1 Lee Worgan 3 George McLennan 4 Jordan Wynter 6 Alex Finney 8 Stuart Lewis
9 Joe Quigley 11 Blair Turgott 12 Michee Efete 14 Jamar Loza (‘73<) 21 Ollie Muldoon (‘78<) 22 Michael Philips (‘67<) SUBS: 5 Will De Havilland 7 Andre Coker (‘73>) 10 Jack Paxman (‘78<) 15 Shamir Mullings (‘67>)16 Seth Nana Twumasi 23 Jack Richards
No Numbers: Elliott Capel; Jake Hallett; Jordy Robins.
Billericay Town starting line up:
1 Louis Wells 2 Joe Kizzi 3 Callum Kennedy (‘45<) 4 Scott Doe (‘68<) 5 Dean Inman 6 Sam Deering (‘45<) 7 Jay Emmanuel-Thomas (‘59<) 8 Danny Waldren 9 Jake Robinson (‘45<)10 Adam Coombes (‘59<) 11 Jake Howells SUBS: 12 Jamie O’Hara (‘45>) 13 Josh Strizovic 14 Adam Cunnington (‘59>) 15 Ricky Modeste (’45>) 16 Moses Emmanuel (‘45>) 17 Connor Hunte (‘59>/’63<) 18 Tambeson Eyong (‘63>) 20 Rickie Hayles No Number: Ben Gerring (‘68<)