Billericay Town and Concord Rangers shared the spoils under the lights at the AGP in a hard-fought 1-1 draw last night. Whilst Blues had the better of what few chances there were in the first period, the Beach Boys held firm and went ahead with ten minutes remaining. A last gasp equaliser for the home side, however, would ensure that both teams maintained their unbeaten starts to the season.
A balmy summer evening offered the majority of Blues fans the chance to re-new acquaintance with their team on home soil. A convincing 4-0 away win versus Truro City in the opening fixture at the week-end had whetted the appetites of the Billericay faithful for a similar showing on the pristine home playing surface. Concord Rangers, with their own ambitions of upward mobility, were, however, made of sterner stuff and Sammy Moore’s men proved to be tough opposition.
Billericay started strongly with Jake Robinson heading an excellent Howells cross from the left straight at Concord keeper, Beasant, from close range. As the game progressed, the Blues succeeded in pinning back Concord into their own half as Kennedy and Howells pushed forward on the left. Ricky Modeste was also in on the action taking the initiative on the opposite flank to fire in a series of crosses. The break-through would not, however, come as fizzing centres either eluded their targets or were headed clear by Concord defending in numbers.
Concord did offer sporadic threat during the first period serving notice of their potential as Blackman and Midson linked well to serve Ryan Hayes on the right hand side. The ex-Dartford man fizzed in a wicked ball across the Billericay goal that forced Billericay keeper, Alan Julian, into action. With Midson regularly dropping back into midfield to keep Billericay at bay, Concord excursions into the Billericay penalty area in the first half proved to be few and far between.
With no changes at half-time, both sides elected to persevere with the same personnel and systems. Excitement briefly coursed through the home crowd soon after the re-start as Robinson looked to have carried on his scoring streak with a crisp turn and close range finish. He would, however, be denied by the linesman’s flag for offside.
Just before the hour mark, Billericay manager, Harry Wheeler, shuffled the pack up front, sending on Cunnington for Coombes and introducing new signing, Alfie Potter in place of Callum Kennedy. Both would combine in the 68th minute as a Cunnington header would draw a sprawling save from Beasant. On the rebound, Potter pounced but could only smash a shot into the ground and onto the crossbar before bouncing out to safety.
Concord, who showed more threat in the second half, responded minutes later as Midson headed narrowly over after latching onto a Minshull header as a result of a Hayes cross. With warning served, Concord attacked again with Midson managing to draw a foul from Kizzi for a free-kick on the edge of the area.
The resultant set piece would see Concord take the lead on 80 minutes as Alex Wall smashed the past the defensive wall and into the bottom left of Julian’s goal. Without any noticeable swerve being placed on the ball, the positioning of the wall may have been an issue in conceding the goal.
Stung into action, Billericay responded with an 85th minute run from the impressive Potter who broke free to fire in a shot that was well saved by Beasant. With Robinson unable to convert the rebound, and time running out, this looked to have all the hall-marks of a night of disappointment for the Blues.
In a true sign of character, the Billericay players refused to give up and, encouraged by the signalling of four minutes of added time, Dean Inman launched one last attack as a raking ball found Joe Kizzi wide on the right. He needed no second invitation to send over a rocket of a cross that demanded a finish. With seconds remaining, Moses Emmanuel provided the requisite touch sweeping home at the back post to restore parity and salvage the point.
Whilst not the result Billericay would have wanted to kick off the season at home with, character and perseverance shown to battle to the end, and ensure that the night did not end in a defeat, are positive factors. In a more challenging League, the point may prove to be valuable at the end of the season. Concord are a very well-organised outfit under Sammy Moore who put in an almost perfect away performance, sitting in deep, breaking swiftly from wide positions, and holding firm when under pressure. They will take points on the road against top teams.
1. Alan Julian 2. Joe Kizzi 3. Callum Kennedy (’56 Alfie Potter) 4. Scott Doe 5. Dean Inman 6. Sam Deering 7. Ricky Modeste (’75 Moses Emmanuel) 8. Jamie O’Hara 9. Jake Robinson 10. Adam Coombes (’58 Adam Cunnington) 11. Jake Howells
Goal: ‘90+1 Emmanuel
1. Sam Beasant 2. Sean Clohessy 3. Frazer Shaw 4. Sam Blackman 5 Lee Minshull 6. Tyrone Sterling 7. Ryan Hayes (’83 Nana Boakye-Yiadom) 8. Danny Green (’72 D’Sean Theobalds) 9. Alex Wall 10. Jack Midson 11. Billy Knott
Goal: ‘80 Wall