Current holders Billericay open their Essex Senior Cup defence with a third round tie at home against National South neighbours, Concord Rangers. Both sides have significant recent pedigree in the competition with the Beach Boys having won it for three consecutive years between 2014 and 2016.
With three matches in the past seven days, including the weekend trip down to Torquay, it has been a busy period for Town. The last two fixtures have seen some of the defensive deficiencies of last season creep into play as the team has conceded two goals in both games before responding. A point away at Torquay in a 2-2 draw and, in mid-week, a battling 3-2 win at home to bottom three side, East Thurrock, is a reasonable set of results that has seen Billericay climb back to top the table.
Starting games slowly is not something that the Blues are usually noted for, which makes the recent trend slightly puzzling. The absence of star striker, Jake Robinson, is a set back but other players have stepped up in his absence and a lack of goals is not an issue for the Blues. That the team did not lose, despite the two goals deficit, is testament to the resilience and character of the group. More tangibly, options from the bench that change games are vital for any team that aspires to promotion and the Blues proved conclusively in the past two games that this is available.
Jake Robinson heads on target at the match between Billericay and Concord back in August. Photo: Nicky Hayes
First, forgotten man, Adam Coombes, seemingly sent back to Welling, appears on the bench for the East Thurrock game. Cometh the hour, cometh the man, and within 15 minutes of entering play, he has gobbled up a brace to draw the Blues level. New signing, Ross Lafayette, finished the job with a well-taken goal to snatch victory from the Rooks. Against Torquay, at half-time, with the home side dominant and sitting on a two goal lead, any positive result looked a stretch. Enter striker Adam Cunnington who helps himself to a double to get the Blues a point. Much appreciated by the fans, the tall frontman has remained committed despite a lack of minutes and took his opportunity well.
Concord approach the match in mixed form but have steadied the ship after a bright start was punctured by a five match winless streak. Operating with a small squad – core of 16 – a heavy August fixture list took its toll on the results. In the final fixture of the month, the Beach Boys succumbed at home (0-5) to a strong Welling outfit. This was followed by a 4-1 away loss at Chippenham Town – a place we know only too well as Harry Wheeler’s last game in charge.
Sitting in a very respectable ninth place, Concord has bounced back since the bad run and has won two of their last three matches. A stunning home victory last week over Chelmsford City (3-0) caught the attention of many as the plucky boys from Canvey left their mark on the Clarets. Last outing was a narrow loss by an early penalty at Slough Town despite an encouraging performance. After a summer of change, and a new management team in the shape of the capable duo of Sammy Moore and Jack Midson, we think that Concord are ahead of schedule and top ten looks realistic.
We note that Concord has been active in the last month bringing in several new players to the squad. Elegant, ball-playing centre-back Michael Clark, 20, joins from National League side, Braintree Town. Noted more for his time as a Leyton Orient youngster, he has a season and a half of National South experience at East Thurrock and is very capable at this level. Having operated alongside former Billericay Town favourite, Joe Ellul, at the Rooks and the Irons, he is highly rated. Also joining the defence is left back, Sammy Knott, younger brother of captain, Billy Knott. He made his full debut at the week-end versus Slough Town, having proved his fitness after injury disruption.
Another player to catch the eye is wide midfielder, Tosan Popo, 26, who hails from Essex and signed a pro deal at Charlton in 2011. Electing to study in the United States, Popo enjoyed a successful college career at Rollins University, making 74 starts and scoring 26 goals, and appeared for Tampa Bay Rowdies U-23’s. Back in Canvey, he has been converted into an attacking wing-back and has thrived in this new role within a 3-4-1-2 system that has been the manager’s choice in recent weeks.
Last but not least, we should mention Gillingham striker, Liam Nash, who joins for an initial period of one month. Also featuring on loan at Leatherhead last season, he is well known to Moore and scored for Concord on his debut against Weston-super-Mare after just three minutes. Another strike against Chelmsford in his second game indicates that he is likely to be a danger for the Billericay defence.
We expect the Cup game to provide an opportunity for both teams to adopt a certain degree of experimentation. For Billericay, we expect to see around three changes and anticipate that several fringe players will feature. Ex-Beach Boy, Louis Wells, should get a chance to face his former club. Getting the balance right in a competition that both sides have shown a strong commitment to win in the past will be key.
For the Blues, we expect the Nottingham Forest U-23 duo of Joe Coveney and Ethan Stewart to be in the squad. With thoughts turning to Billericay’s vital FA Cup first round tie at Chesterfield on Saturday, we believe that broken toe victim, Jake Robinson, won’t be risked. Ricky Modeste remains injured so will not feature. For those wanting to see a Grenadan international, look no further than Concord centre-back, Tyrone Sterling. An outstanding performer this season, he was called up to represent the Spice Island last month in a CONCACAF Nations League match versus Cuba.
On the Concord side, we anticipate that one or two players will be rested but no more. Manager, Moore, relishes a show down with the Blues and has shown himself to be very tactically astute in past matches. Clear threats are posed by Sam Blackman who is very impressive in the centre of midfield as a ball winner and passer, the marauding Tosan Popo and delivery of Danny Green on the right hand side, and threat up front from Jack Midson, Liam Nash, and if fit, Alex Wall. A number of young Beach Boys could feature in the squad as excellent progress is being made by prospects such as midfielder, Kiah Froud, 18, and Cameron Harris, 17, both of whom could make the bench.
Alex Wall opens the scoring at the match between Billericay and Concord back in August. Photo: Nicky Hayes
Remembering the last match against Concord back in August – also under the lights – it was a tight game. With Billericay seemingly in control, a fantastic strike from Alex Wall put the visitors ahead only for Moses Emmanuel to salvage a point with practically the last kick of the game. It could be a similarly cagey contest on Tuesday night with Moore likely to seek to slow the tempo, gain control in midfield, and leave no spaces at the back. By contrast, Dean Brennan could be more aggressive and seek to force the pace of the game via a 4-3-3, which attacks and forces back the Concord team.
Moses Emmanuel equalises for Billericay at the match against Concord back in August. Photo: Nicky Hayes
The best way to find out how it all unfolds is to head down to the AGP on Tuesday night. For all those unable to attend, we have live radio commentary via the Billericay Town App. Access to the club app is available on the Google Play Store for a small “one-off” charge (Apple coming soon).
Enjoy the game!
Form Last Six Matches
Billericay Town: D, W, D, W, D, W
Concord Rangers: L, W, W, L, L, W
Previous Starting Line–Ups
Billericay Town (v Torquay United, A)
1. Alan Julian 2. Joe Kizzi 3. Callum Kennedy 4.Scott Doe 5. Rickie Hayles 6. Sam Deering
7. Ademola Shokunbi 8. Jamie O’Hara 9. Moses Emmanuel 10. Adam Coombes 11. Jake Howells
Concord Rangers (v Slough Town, A)
1. Sam Beasant 2. Tosan Popo 3. Sammy Knott 4. Michael Clark 5. Lee Minshull 6. Tyrone Sterling
7. Danny Green 8. Sam Blackman 9. Liam Nash 10. Jack Midson 11. Ahmed Abdullah