Billericay continued their impressive home form this season with a comfortable victory over a Hungerford Town side that were set up to frustrate. After a first period of few clear-cut chances, a three-goal burst after the break settled matters. Strikes from Moses Emmanuel, a Jordan Parkes spot-kick, and Matt Rhead header made the difference as the home side kept its 100% home record.
On a warm but overcast afternoon, Billericay manager, Harry Wheeler, made four changes to the line-up that competed well at Hemel Hempstead until late substitutions disrupted shape. In for his first start of the season came midfielder, Sam Deering, and livewire striker, Moses Emmanuel, after a match on the bench.
Returning from injury, speedster Louis Ramsay added much needed pace to the back-line and Doug Loft took his place in central midfield. Making way, right-back, Ben Nunn, and midfielders, Danny Waldren and Jack Paxman. Front-man Jake Robinson also missed out on a place in the team as target man Matt Rhead was preferred in the switch to a 4-2-3-1 formation.
The visitors made three changes to the side that had drawn the home fixture with Dartford. In came left back, Joe Tomlinson for Matt Jones and, in midfield, the more defensive option of George Smith was chosen ahead of Dan Bailey. Skipper, Mike Jones, back from Chippenham Town, returned to anchor central midfield as Louis McCrory switched places with him to the bench. Cognisant of the Billericay threat, Hungerford boss, Ian Herring, lined up in a safety first 4-5-1 formation as wingers, Zidan Akers and Kofi Halliday initially sat deep to limit space and frustrate the home attackers.
The Crusaders game-plan worked a treat in a first half that brought very few opportunities on goal. Leaving striker, James Constable, policing the final third in seemingly solitary confinement, the Berkshire outfit could only muster a single shot in the opening period. A burst from Akers wide on the left side saw the ball transferred to Constable and subsequently Jones. Finding an alarming amount of space just outside the penalty area, the Hungerford midfielder fired over.
Amidst an arid desert of footballing stalemate, the fleet-footed Deering sparkled like an oasis in the distance offering hope to spectators that the sun would shine for Billericay. His invention seemed to constitute the best solution to the seemingly intractable puzzle posed by obdurate opposition.
With Emmanuel bursting beyond midfield with impeccable timing, it was no surprise that the two would link up to temporarily raise excitement levels. Latching onto Deering’s ball, the nippy striker raced through the Hungerford back-line to fire off a ferocious shot that was punched clear by Adam Siviter.
Hungerford’s defensive block operated well with any potential breaches swiftly rectified with good work from the alert Tomlinson and quick thinking of centre-back, Josh Martin, to snuff out danger. At the other end, the away side earned their first corner in the 17thminute, which saw an opportunity spurned. Alone at the far post, Tomlinson had time to shoot on goal as defenders watched on but got himself in a tangle trying to execute the volley and, to Billericay’s relief, the chance melted away.
The Blues left-back, Callum Kennedy maintained his strong start to the season and was at the heart of danger on the half hour as his driving run and cross found Ramsay. With a free header at the back post, the ex-Leicester City U-23 player could only nod over when well positioned.
Moments later, Emmanuel turned provider, twisting and turning inside the penalty area, to send a tantalising curling ball that demanded a headed finish. Partly unsighted by a defender, Rhead could not capitalise.
The half closed with a last piece of inspiration from Deering who hit a half-volley just over. Having encountered an uninspiring half, characterised by a clam-like visiting defence, and limpet-like attention in midfield, Blues fans could at least contemplate the likely delights on offer from the new seafood outlet on the far corner of the ground as a welcome diversion to events on the pitch.
With the half-time words of assistant manager, Jamie O’Hara, presumably still ringing in their ears, Billericay re-started proceedings with added verve and purpose. Within thirty seconds, the home side were ahead as Deering’s advance from midfield on goal ended as his goal-bound shot was diverted to the waiting Emmanuel in predatory pose on the back post. Momentarily free of his defensive shackles, he gleefully slid the ball into the Hungerford net for the all-important break-through goal.
Within the space of two minutes, Emmanuel would force a two fisted save from Siviter as he unleashed a fierce drive. Rhead, noted for his aerial game, showed he has more strings to his bow with a 30-yard pile-driver that thundered against the crossbar in another warning to the away side. With Hungerford forced to switch to a more ambitious 4-3-3, by pushing forward Akers and Halliday, the space in midfield, that had earlier been denied, expanded exponentially as the game opened up.
Rhead, who followed on a bustling performance at Hemel, with a strong second half caused yet more trouble as a flighted free-kick prompted visiting defensive midfielder, James Rusby, to haul down the burly striker. With Robinson off the field, and Rhead still reflecting on his miss at Chippenham Town, Parkes took responsibility and dispatched the spot-kick convincingly.
Two soon became three – courtesy of Rhead – as a resounding header cannoned off the underside of the bar and was adjudged as over the line by the referee after a moment of hesitation. Served by a Kennedy cross, this, the first for Rhead in open play in a Blues shirt, was the type of goal that he has been employed to deliver.
The contrast of the the ex-Lincoln City man, turning out in League one last campaign, up against Hungerford’s young centre-back Josiah Dunstan, in his debut season in semi-professional football proved to be an effective barometer for the alternative budgetary capabilities of the two clubs.
With the game seemingly gone, Hungerford’s Herring undertook a triple substitution in one last throw of the dice. On 70 minutes, one of the changes, McCrory, had the best chance of the match for the Crusaders, firing a vicious shot at Alan Julian that demanded a full-length dive to punch away. With Rusby sending in a well-executed volley only just wide on 77 minutes, the visiting did keep pushing until the end but could not find a consolatory goal against an alert home defence.
The match ended with a Ramsay shot being saved by Siviter and minds turned towards Monday evening and the long-awaited derby match at Chelmsford City. With a stinging 5-1 defeat still recalled with regret by the fans during a period of upheaval and poor form, the team make the short journey in more confident mood to take on a Claret side that beat Bath City 1-0 at home at the week-end.
After the disappointment at Hemel, the Blues got the job done against a poor Hungerford side that offered very little from an attacking perspective. Whilst Chelmsford are not in the best of form after defeats at Weymouth and Maidstone United, Billericay, have not travelled well this season, and will need to be on their game to secure a positive result in a tough away fixture.
Let’s hope for a good performance on Monday. Please note that this match will be segregated with BIllericay Town supporters asked to enter via turnstile 1 & 2. For those not able to attend, the match will be covered by @btfcliveradio, with commentary team of Chris & Leigh on hand to describe the action.
Billericay Town Player Ratings vs Hungerford Town Fc (Starters Only)
STAR MAN: Sam Deering
ALAN JULIAN, 7, Goalkeeper– Pinpoint distribution but unambitious Hungerford ensured he passed a quiet afternoon. Saved well from McCrory and commanded his box well at set pieces.
LOUIS RAMSAY, 7, Right-back– Fulfilled defensive role well when pushed by Akers, matching him for speed. Only able to get forward sporadically and headed a good chance over from close range.
CALLUM KENNEDY, 8,Left-back– Always a source of danger down his flank supplying the inch perfect cross for Rhead’s goal. Shut down limited attacking incursions from opposing wingers.
RONNIE HENRY, 7, Centre-Back – Not as influential as previous games but didn’t need to be. Usual calm influence at the back, made several clearing headers, and enjoyed a quiet afternoon.
GAVIN GUNNING, 8, Centre-Back – Operating on the left side of the centre-back pairing, he was the pick of the defenders. Defended well with a number of timely interventions and started attacks.
CRAIG ROBSON, 7, Defensive Midfield– Looked good on the ball and displayed an impressive passing range. Made a series of interceptions and only beaten once as Tomlinson ran past him.
DOUG LOFT, 7, Defensive Midfield, 7, – Broke up play in midfield and content to make the simple passes. More ambitious balls were at times inaccurate. Easing back after injury.
JORDAN PARKES, 7, Midfield– A busy presence on the left-hand side but often frustrated by the close attention of the Hungerford midfield. Dispatched the penalty with ease for his goal.
SAM DEERING, 8.5, Midfield– Invention offered the main chance of a breakthrough and always willing to take responsibility with the ball. Made the first goal for Emmanuel and subbed on 67 mins.
MOSES EMMANUEL, 8, Midfield– Always willing to run beyond Rhead and linked well with Deering. Ferocious shot was saved in first half before he popped up to give Blues the lead from close range.
MATT RHEAD, 8, Striker – Contrasting halves – a frustrated figure in the first half, he was a bigger threat after the break. Crashed a long-range shot against the bar before scoring a trademark header.
BILLERICAY TOWN (4-2-3-1)
1Alan Julian; 2. Louis Ramsay; 3. Callum Kennedy; 4. Craig Robson; 5. Ron Henry; 6. Sam Deering (16. Jack Paxman, ’67); 7. Moses Emmanuel; 8. Doug Loft (15. Danny Waldren, ’59); 10. Jordan Parkes; 11. Matt Rhead (9. Matt Rhead, ’76); 12. Gavin Gunning. Subs Not Used: 14. Ben Nunn; 20. Archie Tamplin.
Goals: ’46 Emmanuel; ’55 Parkes (pen); ’64 Rhead.
HUNGERFORD TOWN FC (4-5-1)
1Adam Siviter; 2. Marcus Johnson-Schuster; 3. Joe Tomlinson; 4. Mike Jones (16. Louis McGrory, ’63); 5. Josiah Dunstan; 6. Josh Martin; 7. James Rusby; 8. George Smith (14. Conor Lynch, ’63); 9. James Constable (12. Liam Ferdinand, ’63); 10. Zidan Akers; 11. Kofi Halliday. Subs Not Used: 15. Dan Bailey; 17. Matt Berry-Hargreaves.