Billericay Show Best and Worst Sides in Defeat at Tonbridge.


Billericay showed their best and worst sides in a frustrating defeat at Tonbridge Angels. A commanding attacking performance, punctuated with glaring defensive lapses, saw strikes from Femi Akinwande on debut and Ody Alfa put the Blues in control at half-time.

After the break, the creaking Blues defence fell apart with the home side extended an extraordinary level of seasonal goodwill. Khale da Costa turned from profligate to prolific helping himself to two goals, either side of a Tom Derry effort, to seal a remarkable win.

The teams line up pre-match at the Longmead Stadium. Photo: @beakster99

Having witnessed “A Fistful of Dollars” and “For a Few Dollars More” under the free-spending ownership of Glenn Tamplin, the visit to Kent brought the end of the trilogy with a clear case of “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly”.

With a coruscating attacking display besmirched by defensive errors, the good and the bad was clear to see. The outcome of the afternoon was unfortunately an ugly one. Unlike the classic film, Angel Eyes avoided a sticky end and got to ride off into the sunset with the bounty in his saddle-bag.

Thankfully, nobody will need to be perched precariously on Arch Stanton’s grave waiting for a gunshot to set them free. It is proving though to be a mixed start to management for Jamie O’Hara with only 6 points harvested from 7 matches in charge. Currently 18th in the last six matches form league, with a solitary victory during his tenure, the team is displaying relegation form. That win at basement form side Dulwich, who could not currently buy three points with a bucket donation and a monkfish pie, looks vital.

Finding Baker’s gold stash, or points accumulation opportunities in football terms, have not been helped by cup runs and postponements limiting fixtures at New Lodge. At home, form has been encouraging with some of the most entertaining football seen for some time on display. As the only side undefeated on home territory, there is something to build on if draws can be converted to victories.

Taking over during a period of financial crisis, having to shed important players, stabilise the wage bill, and contend with a host of off-field problems, it is of course too early to judge the manager critically on his progress, which has been overall positive. In the plus column, an entertaining pattern of play, as good as any vintage Eastwood western, is being developed. A commitment to building from the back, limitation of the long ball, encouragement of the passing game, and dedication to attacking football are all to be welcomed.

A number of new faces have been introduced to the Essex club. Whilst some have proved to be of limited value, mid-season risks on personnel are inevitable. Big successes include the three QPR U-23 loanees, Ody Alfa, Faysal Bettache, and Themis Kefalas. All have integrated well into the squad and feature regularly in the preferred starting line-up.

Expectations this season are likely to be focussed around maintaining status in the National South, which should be achievable. Promise shown by results such as the thrilling FA Cup replay win against Sutton United will nonetheless need to be realised. With reliance on just one centre-back experienced at this level or higher, Ronnie Henry, and vulnerabilities down the flanks in defensive areas, there are clear problems for the manager to solve. Balancing attacking capacity with much-needed defensive resilience looks to be high on the agenda.

Billericay made two changes to their starting line-up from the team that went out of the FA Trophy at home to Hampton & Richmond. After a number of weeks kicking his heels, new signing, Akinwande, made his long-awaited debut after joining from Braintree. Jacob Cook also came into the reckoning, filling in a defensive midfield position. Making way, Alfie Potter was not included in the squad due to injury, and Jack Paxman dropped to the bench.

With opponents Tonbridge favouring a three-man midfield in what had proved to be a 4-5-1 line-up in recent weeks, O’Hara opted for a 4-3-3. The formation is one that has been played on several occasions by Billericay under the current manager. It also offered extra support for the Blues resident gunslinger, Jake Robinson, who, had been the only scorer since Doug Loft’s effort at Maidstone in late October. With few chances created against Basildon United in the Essex Senior Cup last Tuesday, the limitations of the lone front man had been noted.

Promoted last year via a “super play-off”, the Angels were expected to struggle this season at the higher level. It has been tough for manager, Steve McKimm who initially placed trust in those who had served the club so well in the previous campaign. As the season progressed, a couple of new faces have been brought in to freshen up the team. The form on the road remains poor but, at home, the Kent side have proved to be a resilient opponent.

Finding themselves 21st before kick-off, after losing a mid-week “six-pointer” with Hungerford Town, three changes to the starting line-up were made. Into central midfield came Harry Donovan, Khale Da Costa provided width, and ex-Billericay Town striker, Tom Derry was preferred up front. Making way were, ex-Harlow winger Jared Small, striker Jason Williams, and midfielder, Tommie Hession-Harris, who has now departed the club.

In a whirlwind opening five minutes, Angels started the stronger with Joe Turner immediately sending in a cross from the left that Da Costa sent over the bar. The ex-St Albans winger would be a prominent presence on the right flank sending in two more crosses that a watchful Billericay defence were able to clear. With Donovan starting well in central midfield, and a busy Ben Greenhalgh dropping intelligently from his number 10 role to pick up possession and build attacks, the home side looked set to trouble the visitors.

The balance of play completely changed on 6 minutes as Billericay took the lead through a fine Akinwande goal somewhat against the run of what had unfolded earlier. Found by Robinson, the Blues debut man advanced down his right-side berth and continued his driving run into the penalty area. As the defence backed off, the striker took full advantage, striking a firm, low drive unerringly past Jonathan Henly and into the bottom, far corner.

Billericay’s Femi Akinwande makes a fine start to his career with the Blues as he celebrates his 6th minute goal. Courtesy: @nickyhayesphoto

Taking confidence from the goal, the Billericay engine purred and the Blues started to deliver the type of attacking football that we all hoped to see under O’Hara. With Alfa to the fore, the Blues attacked with the on-loan winger tormenting full-back James Folkes before sending in a cross that was cleared by Donovan. Moments later, Alfa showed a hitherto unseen defensive side to his game. Racing back, he was able to outpace Turner and nick the ball off the winger who had run clear on goal after a mistake by Bettache.

Billericay’s second goal from Alfa served as a showcase for building from the back, passing between strikers, and culminated with an outstanding finish. It all began with Henry who wisely looked for the short pass into Bettache. The midfielder expertly let the ball run past him, deceiving his direct opponent, and slipped the ball wide right to Robinson. Shifting the ball inside to Deon Moore, he linked up with Alfa on the opposite flank. Taking possession, the winger cut inside and curled home from expertly from distance in a trademark finish.

It almost got worse for Tonbridge on 20 minutes as Henry galloped past Akinwande on the overlap. His cross was well met by a marauding Josh Urquhart who slammed a header into the far post. Situated in the right place to meet the rebound, Robinson’s powerful strike was blocked at full stretch by Rian Bray on the line and eventually cleared to safety.

The visiting sides attacking momentum was nonetheless punctuated with defensive inattention and Da Costa in particular was a regular beneficiary down the Billericay left. Picking up a clever through pass from Christ Tiehi, Da Costa found himself in a one v one with Billericay goal-keeper, Alan Julian, but could only blaze wastefully over the bar.

The Blues reverted to the front foot with Alfa again weaving his spell on the wing and testing Henly with a well-struck effort that was pushed wide for a corner. Bettache, who was impressing as his passing range operated as a steady supply line linking midfield with attack, joined the fun with a 30-yard opportunist strike that was again well saved by Henly.

The assault on the Tonbridge goal was remorseless with only a last-ditch Tonbridge tackle preventing Louis Ramsay from sliding Alfa’s cross into the net at the far post. From the resulting corner, a near post flick-on from a Billericay head fed Robinson who lashed a first-time volley that demanded yet another block from an over-employed home goal-keeper.

Jake Robinson hits a volley at goal. Courtesy: @nickyhayesphoto

To their credit, Tonbridge heads never once dropped, and perhaps sensing that the Billericay defence was not as impressive as their strikers, the Angels kept plugging away. It would be Da Costa once more who found the best opportunities only to waste them.

With better finishing, he could conceivably have been assured the match-ball by half-time. First when well-placed, he shot straight at Julian who did him the favour of a sprawl for the camera when diverting the effort away. Second, in an even better chance, good work from Greenhalgh on the left ended in an inviting cross. Finding space in front of Urquhart, Da Costa placed a free header from eight yards well above the bar when it was easier to score.

In the dying minutes of the first half, yet another incursion from Da Costa ended in a game ending injury for the Blues left-back, Callum Kennedy. In what looked an innocuous fall after chasing back to take possession from the persistent winger, the Blues defender landed awkwardly and looked in considerable pain. Stretched off, the injury curse for the former Wimbledon man looks to have struck again after a long period out earlier in the season.

With Billericay scintillating at times in front of goal yet continually vulnerable at the back, there was sufficient encouragement for a well-motivated Tonbridge side to believe that the die was not yet cast. For the Blues, the watchword must have been to seek to preserve a clean-sheet, manage the result by shutting down the game, and keep a tight rein on the energetic Da Costa who surely could not continue to be as profligate in front of goal.

Unfortunately, it only took six minutes of the second half for the Billericay weaknesses to be fully exploited as Tonbridge struck back with a two-goal blitz to level up the scores. On 49 minutes, a Da Costa free-kick on the left side, which should have been no more than a crossing opportunity, was inexplicably allowed to curl into the far corner of the Billericay net. Ironically, after the chances missed by the same player in the first half, Da Costa appeared to have scored when that was perhaps not his primary intention at the time.

Two minutes later, Angels carved apart the Blues midfield as Turner knocked the ball through the central area to Derry. He spread play to Greenhalgh who had the freedom of the left flank before spinning to get on the end of a return. With an inch perfect cross delivered, Derry climbed above stand-in left-back, Urquhart, to head home the equaliser.

If a plus can be drawn from this match, it was the performance of Akinwande. A lively presence, he used his strength well to torment left-back Parter for long periods in the second half. A couple driving runs to reach the by-line were the only bright spot in a poor second half showing. His headed assist set up Robinson with a shooting opportunity that was fired over from range.

Billericay’s misery was completed in the 67th minute as what proved to be the deciding goal was headed home by Da Costa. This time, it was Turner with the cross, again from the left-hand side. Unmarked at the far post, the ball sailed over the heads of the Billericay defenders and was guided into the net by the unmarked Da Costa for his second goal.

The Blues only opportunity to level came through the hard-work of Robinson who robbed the goal-keeper of the ball near the corner flag and turned to direct a shot on target in the 84th minute. With Parter alert on the line, the goal-bound effort was cleared off the line and Billericay were consigned to a defeat that had looked to be unlikely at the half-time break.

Jamie O’Hara can’t believe what he has seen as Billericay throw away a two goal start to lose at Tonbridge. Courtesy: @nickyhayesphoto

it is easy to call this a “game of two halves”, with Billericay delivering a thrilling display in the first 45 minutes before collapsing defensively thereafter. To be fair to the opposition, Billericay were weak defensively throughout with the Kent side missing a litany of chances in the first half. A more clinical Angels side after the break made the Blues pay for their defensive errors. A tighter home midfield also neutered the away attacking threat.

The short-comings are very obvious as acknowledged by O’Hara in an honest post-match interview. Like Tuco and Blondie as they pulled off their scam of the local sheriffs, with a well-worked gunshot through the hangman’s noose routine, only hard work, lots of practice, and minute attention to detail will make things right every time. A tough away match at Dartford next Saturday provides the next test and an opportunity to put things right.

LINE-UP’s

Tonbridge Angels 

1 Jonathan Henly; 2. James Folkes (14. Alex Bentley, ’60); 3. Jack Parter; 4. Christ Tiehi; 5. Sonny Miles; 6. Rian Bray; 7. Khale Da Costa; 8. Harry Donovan; 9. Tom Derry (12. Jason Williams, ’73); 10. Ben Greenhalgh (Jared Small, ’73); 11. Joe Turner Subs Not Used: 15. Tommie Hession-Harris; 17. Edward McDonald.

Goals: ’49 and ’67 Da Costa; ’51 Derry.

Billericay Town

1Alan Julian; 2. Louis Ramsay; 3. Callum Kennedy (4. Themis Kefalas, ’44) 5. Ronnie Henry; 7. Odysseus Alfa; 8. Jacob Cook; 9. Jake Robinson; 10. Deon Moore (18. Jack Paxman, ’64); 11. Femi Akinwande (17. Andrew Osei-Bonsu, ’82); 12. Josh Urquhart; 16. Faysal Bettache. Subs Not Used; 15. Ben Nunn; 20. Arjanit Krasniqi.

Goals: ‘6 Akinwande; ’17 Alfa.

Attendance: 557.

 

A big thank you to all of the companies and organisations which help to support Phoenix FM all year round

Business Club Members: The Beeches | Blue Serif | Brandler Galleries | Foretell Digital | Hallmark Care Homes | Kinetic Podiatry | Newboulds Solicitors | RCH Brentwood Care Centre | Saint Francis Hospice | Utilize

Other sponsors: Abacus Shutters | Ashwells | Bennetts Funerals | Foxtel | Healthwatch Essex | Landons Solicitors | Liberty Hygiene | Pinney Talfourd | Ramsay Health Springfield Hospital | RP2 Media | Shepherd Neame


© Phoenix FM 1996-2020. Written using Notepad and PHP.