Billericay Town host Wealdstone FC on Saturday in the second home game of the season. With four points from the first two games, victory on Saturday would help the Blues regain momentum and go some way to overcoming the disappointment of having to settle for a draw on Tuesday with Concord Rangers.
Wealdstone come to Essex in good form having convincingly beaten Weston-Super-Mare 4-1 at home and, on Tuesday night, had the better of a 1-1 draw at Hungerford Town, only to be pegged back by a late penalty. The Ruislip based side enjoyed a good pre-season, signing off in their final match with a 3-0 win against Cardiff City U-23’s. Other notable results include draws against National League sides, Aldershot Town and Maidenhead United, and a defeat to Bromley.
The visit of Wealdstone will undoubtedly stir memories of the famous 2-5 reverse suffered by the Blues last February in the FA Trophy Quarter-Final. The Stones side we see on Saturday won’t be that familiar to anybody who came to the last match-up. Since then, the Stones squad has been extensively over-hauled incurring wholesale changes over the summer. At least fifteen new players have since arrived heralding numerous departures. One player we will definitely see again is hat-trick hero on the day, and Grenadian international, Bradley Bubb.
Having been appointed as manager in late August 2017, ex-Hungerford Town boss, Bobby Wilkinson, commences his first full season in charge at the club.
Last year, Wealdstone managed to recover from a poor start to the campaign, which saw the club languishing in 17th before the arrival of Wilkinson. Ultimately, a lack of consistency meant that the Stones finished a disappointing 11th and eight points adrift of the play-off places. A run to the FA Trophy Semi-Finals did not compensate for the failure to finish higher up the League.
With the benefit of being in position at the start of the season, Wilkinson has wasted no time in ringing the changes and putting in place a full pre-season program. Deals for the majority of incoming players were done quickly, with nine arrivals and twelve departures jointly announced on a single day in May.
Among those that remain are longest serving player, goal-keeper, Jonathan North, ex-Stevenage defender Jerome Okimo, creative midfielder, Daniel Green and prolific striker, David Pratt – a Wilkinson signing in December 2017. We expect all three to feature in the Wealdstone team on Saturday. En route to pastures new are winger Matt Whichelow and midfielder, Ricky Wellard, who both move on to Hampton & Richmond. Defender Eddie Oshodi decided to retire.
New arrivals have enhanced the Wealdstone team with one clear improvement being in the centre of the pitch. With experienced defensive midfielder, Godfrey Poku arriving from Oxford City, operating in partnership with fellow new signing and former Staines Town regular, Wadah Ahmidi, extra protection for the back-line is provided. Poku, who has League experience at Mansfield Town and Luton, has started strongly putting in a Man of the match on his competitive debut v W-S-M.
Looking at the Stones’ back-line, it is much changed from last year. New options at centre-back include the tall, combative Tom Gardiner, successful trialist and ex-Watford youth, Connor Stevens, and ex-Ebbsfleet defender, Yado Mambo. With his ability to play across the back-line, Jerome Okimo can also step in as cover. To date, Wealdstone have gone with Stevens and Okimo in the centre.
Full-back areas look better covered than had hitherto been the case. The experience of ex-Hungerford Town player, Rhys Tyler, comes in at right back. On the left flank, healthy competition for starts is provided by Freddie Grant who challenges the incumbent, Scottish U-21 international Jake Sheppard.
Up front, extra pace and trickery has been brought in with the return of impressive left winger, Bradley Hudson-Odoi, and the Stevenage loanee striker, Joe White. Hudson-Odoi is comfortable on either foot, pacy, and has an eye for goal, managing 10 goals in 28 appearances for Hampton & Richmond last year. Keeping Bubb on the bench, 19 year old, White, announced himself with a well-taken goal versus W-S-M. His extensive movement across the front-line & willingness to take on defenders will test the Billericay Town defence.
With three goals in the opening two games of the season, and a prolific goal-scoring record of 150 career League goals, we have to select ex-Chippenham Town striker, David Pratt as the main danger-man. A player comfortable on either foot, he is able to drop deep and run at defenders, shoot with unerring accuracy, or find space in the opposition penalty area to apply the finish.
BTFC’s defence has looked solid in the opening games with the central defensive partnership of Inman and Doe adept at repelling danger. Wealdstone’s attacking trident represent an important test for them on Saturday afternoon. With Wealdstone enjoying great success with the high press against a W-S-M side that looked to play out from the back, we expect an exciting battle for control in the middle of the park. With Deering and O’Hara selected there for the game against Concord, it will be interesting to see if the pairing remains the same.
With Gerring and Hunte still suspended, we expect the Blues to field a very similar line-up to that which took the pitch against Concord. Walton and Waldren remain available if we choose to change central midfield. After adding momentum from the bench on Tuesday night, Potter come under consideration for a start on the right-hand side. Adam Cunnington did his chances of selection no harm either with a solid performance off the bench that effected the game.
Enjoy the match and Come on you Blues!
Billericay Town (Last Starting Line-Up Home v Concord Rangers)
Alan Julian, Joe Kizzi Callum, Kennedy (’56 Alfie Potter), Scott Doe,
Dean Inman, Sam Deering, Ricky Modeste (’75 Moses Emmanuel), Jamie O’Hara, Jake Robinson, Adam Coombes (’58 Adam Cunnington),Jake Howells
Wealdstone FC (Last Starting Line-Up (Away v Hungerford Town)
Jonathan North, Rhys Tyler, Jake Sheppard, Connor Stevens, Jerome Okimo, Godfrey Poku, Joe White (Bradley Bubb ’78), Wadah Ahmidi (Matt Lench ’78), David Pratt, Daniel Green (Jeffrey Monakana ’78), Bradley Hudson-Odoi.