Billericay maintained their 100% home record this season with victory over St Albans City courtesy of Jake Robinson’s dinked 86th minute strike. The frontman, who bagged a brace in the 3-2 win, had opened the scoring. The dramatic finish was set up by an eventful six minute first half spell. Goals from Rhys Murrell-Williamson and Joe Iaciofano for the visitors, sandwiched by a Dave Diedhiou own goal, set the scene for Robinson to provide his third consecutive late home winner.
On a sunny Bank Holiday week-end, Blues aligned in a 3-4-3 formation for the match. Manager, Harry Wheeler, made two changes to the starting line-up with Robinson and right-back Ben Nunn coming into the team in place of the injured Alfie Potter and Louis Ramsay.
The Saints also made a double switch to the side that had featured in the mid-week draw with Dorking. Tom Bender and Murrell-Williamson came in for Ollie Sprague and Taylor Miles. Bobson Bawling was moved inside to accommodate. Visiting boss, Ian Allinson, fielded what looked to be his usual 4-5-1 away formation.
Billericay started strongly with Parkes into the action immediately with an opportunistic long-range strike that dipped over the bar. Early indications were that passing combinations would be encouraged to flourish and the direct method would be employed more sparingly. Robinson, clearly relishing his return to starting matches, was heavily involved in build-up play from his left-side berth.
With Parkes and Robinson linking up impressively, it would be no surprise that a perfectly weighted through ball from the ex-Hemel midfielder would be manna from heaven for a hungry striker. Latching onto the pass delivered swiftly into the left side of the penalty area, Robinson expertly curled an 8th minute effort past Dean Snedker into the far corner of the net in a trademark finish.
Jake Robinson Celebrates opening the scoring against St. Albans City. Photo Courtesy: Aaron Hayhoe @hayhoeaaron
Full of confidence, minutes later, a header from Matt Rhead found Robinson who rolled the ball across to Callum Kennedy. Given a clear sight of goal, the left-back side-footed over in a let-off for the Saints. With the opening quarter of an hour dominated by the home side, the pressure began to mount. Moses Emmanuel was soon in on the act breaking into the opposition danger zone before being crowded out by James Kaloczi before he could fire off a shot.
Saints served a timely reminder that they had threats of their own on 18 minutes as Murrell-Williamson weaved a spell on the right-hand side before sending in a tantalising cross to the back post. Unmarshalled, winger, Darren Foxley had a free header but could only plant his effort against the foot of the post. Having signed for Billericay in December 2018 from Hampton & Richmond, only to depart just one month later, Murrell-Williamson provided a timely reminder in this match of his talent.
Murrell-Williamson is a predominantly left-footed player but has been employed on the right-wing where he favours cutting inside and shooting on goal. From the 20thminute, he was switched to his more natural left-side, trading places with right-sided Foxley.
The decision proved inspired as he was a lively presence throughout, causing numerous problems to the Billericay back-line. It was no surprise that when the St. Albans equaliser arrived, he would be the protagonist.
Equally predictably, the architect was David Noble, a creative midfielder of some renown having completed over 300 matches for a combination of Exeter City, Bristol City, and Rotherham United. Now, 37, and with distant memories of his 2008 stunning late strike for the Robins in a Championship semi-final first leg against Crystal Palace, he has lost none of his instinct for a defence splitting pass. Sliding an inviting ball forward, Murrell-Williamson timed his run behind the Blues defence to perfection and on 30 minutes was able to side-foot home beyond Julian for the equaliser.
The home side reacted well with Robinson setting free the advancing Nunn on the right flank. Making good ground, the ex-Dagenham player hit a powerful cross into the six-yard box. Seeking to clear danger, the unfortunate Diedhiou only managed to divert the ball into his own net. Within barely sixty seconds, the Hertfordshire side levelled once more as Joe Iaciofano seized on a loose ball to drive home from close range. Once again, the Billericay tormentor was Murrell-Williamson as his mazy run and initial shot created the opportunity for the Saints striker to notch his third League goal.
The second half opened in entertaining fashion with Parkes nodding narrowly wide. For St. Albans, Foxley broke through on goal but delayed his shot allowing Henry to avert danger with a perfectly timed sliding tackle. From the resulting corner, left unattended, Saints left-back Tom Bender showed good technical ability to meet Noble’s centre on the volley, forcing a save from Julian to his left.
With the entry at half-time of Sam Deering for the ineffective Rhead, Billericay had additional presence in midfield and increased creative impetus as the former Ebbsfleet player was instantly influential. Sorely missed during a long spell out with a troublesome hernia complaint, his return to the hub of the Billericay midfield went better than one would imagine given his lack of match practice. Linking regularly with both strikers, most of Blues attacking momentum involved Deering.
Sam Deering back for Billericay after a long injury lay-off. Photo Courtesy: Aaron Hayhoe @hayhoeaaron
With the heat making for challenging playing conditions, Wheeler sought to freshen up the midfield by bringing on Danny Waldren and giving 16 years old, Archie Tamplin, son of the club’s owner, his debut. Doug Loft, still finding his fitness after a period out injured, and Ben Nunn made way.
Despite his age, Tamplin slotted well into the Blues midfield, swiftly getting involved in a passing combination with Deering, retaining possession well, and moving the ball swiftly to a team-mate. Joining an attack, he fired a right-footed strike on target that saw Snedker save diving to his left.
Murrell-Williamson’s departure brought little relief as his replacement, Oliver Sprague, brought a threatening presence down the left side. A former Billericay player, during the 2016-17 season, he sped forward to fire a fierce 75thminute shot that Julian blocked with his legs for a corner. After a long-range effort from Parkes, following a Deering assist, was dealt with by Saints keeper, Snedker, Sprague repeated his run forward but once again a cross-shot was thwarted by the attentive Julian.
With time ticking down and both sides exchanging chances, it was anybody’s game in the final minutes. That it was Billericay’s was down to the clinical finishing of Robinson. Combining with strike partner Emmanuel in the penalty area, the Blues top scorer found space on the right to dink the ball over the goalkeeper and into the net for what would prove to be the decisive goal.
You always get one last chance but St. Albans’ substitute, Taylor Miles, could not convert his header when well-placed at the far post ensuring Billericay preserved the points to move to third in the table.
Billericay both thrilled and caused concern at the same time in a fiercely contested match undertaken in stifling conditions. The Blues displayed sustained periods of creative, attractive football, created multiple chances, and had the clinical finisher on the pitch to convert the opportunities.
On the debit side, the defence is clearly still problematic, caught out on a number of occasions by the through ball, as the visitors created significant problems at the back. At present, achieving clean sheets looks to be a challenge with several goals regularly required to win games.
Bank Holiday Monday brings a significant test with the trip to Hemel Hempstead. Managed by ex-Concord Rangers manager, Sammy Moore, the team been bolstered by a number of attractive signings, including several from the Concord side that qualified in the play-off positions last season. Billericay travel in good form and will hope that that elusive clean sheet can be achieved on Monday.
BTFC LIVE RADIO STAR MAN:
JAKE ROBINSON – Heavily involved from the start, running tirelessly across the front-line to make things happen. Linked well with Parkes and combined regularly with Emmanuel to positive effect. Fine curling finish for the first and on hand once more to take the vital chance to win the game.
BILLERICAY TOWN (3-4-3)
1Alan Julian; 2. Ben Nunn (20. Archie Tamplin, ’61); 3. Callum Kennedy; 5. Ronnie Henry; 7. Moses Emmanuel; 8. Doug Loft (16. Danny Waldren, ’61); 9. Jake Robinson; 10. Jordan Parkes; 11. Matt Rhead (6. Sam Deering, ’46); 12. Gavin Gunning; 15. Craig Robson. Subs Not Used: 4. Jamie O’Hara; 18. Acea Laurent.
GOALS: ‘8 and ’86 Robinson ’35 Diedhiou (own goal)
St. ALBANS CITY (4-5-1)
1 Dean Snedker; 2. Joe Howe; 3. Tom Bender; 5. David Longe-King; 6. James Kaloczi; 7. Bobson Bawling; 9. Joe Iaciofano (4. Sam Merson, ’67); 11. Darren Foxley (8. Taylor Miles, ’80); 12. Dave Diedhiou; 14. David Noble; 18. Rhys Murrell-Williamson (19. Ollie Sprague, ’71). Subs Not Used: 13. Alfie Bonfield; 16. Albert Adu.
GOALS: ’30 Murrell-Williamson; ’36 Iaciofano.