Billericay bounced back after the disappointing loss at Chippenham with a last gasp victory over Welling under the lights at the Steel Stadium to maintain their perfect home record. The victory represented a combination of the new and the tried and tested. Close season signing Jordan Parkes rifled home an exceptional strike to nudge the Blues in front. After an equally impressive equaliser from the Wings’ Gavin McCallum, It was the ever reliable, Jake Robinson, who hammered home a nerveless spot-kick in added time to secure the three points merited by an improved performance.
Blues manager, Harry Wheeler, made two changes to the starting line-up for the visit of Welling. Fielding a back three in a 3-5-2 formation, former Leicester City U-23, Louis Ramsay came in to make his competitive debut on the right hand side, initially as a wing-back. Also debuting, fit again, ex-Dagenham & Redbridge central midfielder, Doug Loft, was selected to start. Making way, right-back, Tambeson Eyong, recipient of a red card at Chippenham, and striker, Robinson dropped down to the substitutes bench.
Welling adopted the expected 4-4-2 utilised in previous matches with manager, Mark Goldberg, introducing three changes to his starting line-up. After the failed experiment against Bath City of Luke Rooney in the holding midfield position, centre-back, Dquame Copeland was chosen to start after a successful second half appearance in that role in the previous fixture. Summer signing, 30 year old, Anthony Cook, debuted on the left wing after completing a suspension picked up last season whilst at Dulwich Hamlet. Canadian winger, McCallum also started after recovery from injury.
Cook did not take long to introduce himself to proceedings with an initial sighter for Welling that homed in on a pink-clad Alan Julian. After that, Billericay were very much in the ascendancy as the slow starts in previous matches were not repeated. Led by the scurrying Alfie Potter, who instilled the necessary sense of urgency, the Blues forced three corners in the opening seven minutes. Misdirected headers from Matt Rhead and Ronnie Henry ensued but represented a more welcome outcome at this stage of the match than the flurry of corners to Eastbourne or early penalty conceded at Chippenham.
The Wings responded with busy striker Bradley Goldberg unselfishly pulling wide to seek out space on the left to link with wide-man, Cook. First, Potter would intervene to prevent danger building and, shortly afterwards, Ramsay, was drawn into a foul that saw a free-kick in a dangerous area just outside the penalty area come to nothing. Relying principally on the counter, the visitors struck swiftly through ex-Blue, Adam Coombes, who moved forwards, forcing his former team-mate, centre-back, Charlie Wassmer, to close the door on an early shooting opportunity.
The home side hammered home their early superiority by opening the scoring on 17 minutes through Parkes. Selected for his raw pace and ability to get forward, Ramsay provided the assist. Fulfilling his brief with a surge on the right flank to the edge of the opposition penalty area, he played the ball inside. With much still to do, Parkes let the ball run across his body, onto his favoured left side, and unleashed an unstoppable shot from 25 yards into the top corner. Having provided ample evidence in pre-season of his shooting capacity from range, the ex-Hemel player, opened his account for Billericay in some style.
Full of confidence, Parkes almost did even better moments later as he picked the pocket of Copeland in central midfield to steal possession. Only just inside Welling territory, Parkes soon had the opposing goalkeeper, Daniel Wilks, looking anxiously over his shoulder as a lifted shot only just dipped over the cross-bar. With the Blues enjoying the dominance that plenty of midfield space ensures, Parkes and Potter and Loft maintained good possession. It would be a neat ball from the latter to Rhead who, in turn, served Moses Emmanuel to take another shot that dribbled wide.
Back in the side, Welling’s most dangerous moments came from McCallum who profited from a neat ball inside from Goldberg to hit a low left footed drive from the edge of the penalty area that Julian did well to stretch and push past the post for the first Welling corner of the game on 26 minutes. With Potter, at the centre of Billericay’s best attacking play, hitting a low drive narrowly wide, and Emmanuel once more directing a shot off target, the home side could have expected to add to their lead.
Welling’s McCallum had other ideas and, after an earlier effort over the bar, found the right wavelength on 40 minutes with a fine finish from the angle of the box on the left hand side. Receiving the ball from Coombes, and facing a gaggle of a Blue shirts, the winger hit a curling shot beyond Julian to bring Welling level with a strike just as good as the one from Billericay’s Parkes. Blues finished stronger with the half ending with another near miss as a good ball from Robson found Rhead in space. Letting fly with a blistering shot, the effort flew across goal but ended wide.
Momentum slowed in the second period with Wings’ Copeland lucky to avoid a dismissal after the referee opted for a stern word and a warning to his captain, Rob Swaine, after a foul on Potter. With Henry looking comfortable at the back, the ex-Stevenage man saw plenty of the ball. Getting involved in starting counter-attacks, he regularly funnelled the ball to, Callum Kennedy. Moving forward, a combination with Potter allowed Blues’ left-back to send over a cross for Rhead that was directed narrowly over the bar.
With fewer goal-mouth chances, the crowd had to content itself with a Potter effort deflected wide and near miss from the corner on the hour as Wassmer just failed to connect at the back post when unmarked. That man Henry again almost earned an unlikely assist as a defence splitting pass went the length of the field to send Emmanuel clear on goal. Stretching, the speedy front man reached the ball before the on-rushing, Wilks, dinking the ball towards goal. Rich-Baghuelou, providing cover, made sure that parity remained with a clearance for Welling in the nick of time.
Substitute, Nathan Green, on for McCallum had Welling’s best opportunity on 78 minutes with a driving run through midfield. Getting rather easily past Robson, he sent a shot narrowly wide of the post. With Potter and Parkes excellent in midfield, and Loft making an encouraging debut, Billericay kept pushing forward hoping for that vital second goal.
Two minutes later, the balance of the match would shift as another foray deep into Blues territory led by Green was halted by Wassmer. With the ball picked up by Welling’s Aaron Cosgrave, the home centre-back lunged into another tackle in an attempt to dispossess the right winger. A badly timed and clumsy intervention, made to look worse due to a slip just prior to impact, the referee had no hesitation in showing Wassmer what looked to be a merited red card.
With time running out, Potter still pushed forward relentlessly. Collecting possession once again in the final third of the pitch, he slipped a neat pass through to Emmanuel. Heading into the penalty area, the attacker was tripped by Swaine. After a consultation with his linesman, the referee decided that a spot-kick should be awarded. Otherwise, exemplary in his return to Essex, ex-Blues skipper, Swaine will consider himself unfortunate to have conceded the ultimate sanction for an infringement that looked to have occurred just outside the box.
No such concerns were shared by Robinson. Shunted out wide to accommodate other strikers, and on the evening, suffering the ignominy of being relegated to the bench, the Billericay striker, on for the last 20 minutes, would achieve sweet redemption. To chants from the crowd demanding he be returned to his penalty taking duties, Robinson slammed the kick past the goalkeeper in added time to hand Billericay a much needed win. Celebrating with the added verve that proving a point often brings, the legendary Blues front-man clearly enjoyed that goal even more than the rapturous crowd of home supporters behind the goal.
With a win in somewhat fortunate circumstances, Billericay can reflect on what was by far the best performance of the season with a sound defensive display, fully functioning midfield with several standout performances, and, at times, dominating display especially in the first period. Yet another red card warrants attention, but not yet concern, and Wheeler will hope to emphasise that these are unfortunate events and not the beginning of a trend. Strikers are operating well individually but partnerships have been slow to come to fruition and need more time.
With a trip to winless Hampton on Saturday, the chance to build on the victory over Welling is there. The visit also offers the chance to renew acquaintance with Billericay record signing, central defender, Dean Inman, who returned to the Beavers after playing there as a youth 10 years ago.
If you are travelling there, have a safe trip and, if going by rail, remember to get off at Hampton Station, reachable via Waterloo in a 40 minute journey. Come on you, Blues!
**Alfie Potter** – Constantly drove forward from midfield and regularly beat his man. At the centre of Billericay’s offensive play and tracked back to prevent breaks down his flank. Played incisive ball through to Emmanuel in dying seconds that led to penalty being awarded.
1 Alan Julian; 2. Craig Robson; 3. Callum Kennedy 4. Charlie Wassmer; 5.Ronnie Henry; 6. Alfie Potter; 7. Moses Emmanuel (16. Ben Nunn, ’90); 8. Doug Loft (17. Danny Waldren, ’79); 10. Jordan Parkes 11. Matt Rhead; 14. Louis Ramsay (9. Jake Robinson, ’68); Subs Not Used: 15. Tambeson Eyong; 20. Archie Tamplin.
Goals: ’17 Parkes; ‘90+1 Robinson (pen)
Welling FC Line-Up
1Daniel Wilks; 2. Sanchez Ming; 3. Joe Anderson; 4. Dquame Copeland; 5. Rob Swaine; 6. Jay Rich-Baghuelou; 7. Anthony Cook; 8. Luke Rooney; 9. Bradley Goldberg (16. Aaron Cosgrave, ’77); 10. Adam Coombes (17. Joshua Oyinsan, ’75); 11. Gavin McCallum (14. Nathan Green, ’63) Subs Not Used: 12. Ejiro Okosieme; 18. Montel Agyemang.
Goal: ’40 Gavin McCallum.