Match Data 2002/2003
Billericay Town 1
Neil Champion (Blake, 90)
Gareth Hall (Gale, 91)
Warren Haughton (Leworthy, 105)
Kerrigan (Rantala, 105)
Wallace (Campbell, 69)
A little shuffling since Saturday’s game saw Neil Champion return to the centre of midfield at the New Lodge last night, with Tim Hambley moving out onto the left wing to replace the absent Shaun Hale. Billericay started with the same eleven as before, and start they did, with Richard Graham taking time to tee up a free kick before sending it wide of the post in a peculiar manoeuvre that would be reused unsuccesfully several times before the end of the game. Use of the full width of the leaf covered midfield saw the Hawks with good possession at the start, flowing movement leading to a shot over from Bobby Howe that was followed by the first of many corners. Jerome John though punched Chris Ferrett’s ball off the top of the expectant James Taylor’s head.
Action flitted from end to end, Ferrett and Christian Hanson called on to make goalmouth stops from quickly taken Billericay strikes before Tim Hambley narrowly missed poking another Ferrett cross past John in front of the jovial travelling fans. The Hawks were making the running. Paul Wood, playing an exceptional game throughout the 120 minutes, sprinted time after time on long runs down the right, and Ferrett, who it is honestly hard not to mention once a sentence because of his omnipresence on the left, dropped ball after ball toward Taylor and Warren Haughton in the middle.
After such an impressive start on away turf it was something of a shock to see the team go behind just as the momentum was gathering toward a goal. Jamie Wallace blew a far easier chance than he scored from on Saturday when Aaron Kerr managed to deflect his shot over the bar, but Russell Penn knocked in the subsequent corner on the line.
Four minutes later the game came to a halt as players protested the Referee’s decision to dismiss Billericay’s Chris Moore from the field. Having dumped Super Jim unceremoniously on the ground during a poorly judged tackle minutes before, his physical game wasn’t making him a popular opponent for the visitors, but there was no real debate to be made after his inexplicable choice to elbow Tim Hambley’s goal bound shot off the line. It was a clear hand ball, the referee didn’t hesitate, and Hambley squared up to the spot. His blast sent John the wrong way, but struck the top of the bar, and spun out of play.
Undaunted, the Hawks continued to contest the game fiercely and when another of Wood’s sprints saw him slide to keep the ball in play just to the right of the goal it looked as though his clever pass back would give Haughton a clear shot. Hitting it with his left foot though, the ball sliced the wrong side of the post. Alec Masson caught Richard Graham with the ball on the edge of the box and fired over the bar, before relieving Wallace of it two minutes later at the other end with a heart stopping back pass along the byline.
Into first half injury time the shots still came, Howe shooting past Ollie Adedeji but wide of the post as the Referee checked his watch, but the equaliser came literally ten seconds before the whistle blew. Ferrett yet again with a pinpoint cross met Taylor, who turned the ball low into the corner of the net before reeling away with characteristic raised fists.
Despite being missing their biggest centre back, Billericay returned to the field a stronger looking side, and succeeded in keeping the ball away from their diminished defence for much of the second half. Williams attempted another teed up free kick just after the restart, but took too long to prepare it. Seizing the clearance, Taylor raced forward and put Howe into space ahead of the pack on the left, but he was mercilessly cut down as he approached the box.
Corners and free kicks would dominate the remainder of the game, fraying tempers causing delays around them that would see Billericay maintain pressure for lengthy periods. Taylor was called on during a corner to head the ball off the line for the Hawks, and Williams saw a free kick deflected out of play when another Billericay set piece failed to ignite.
Gary Henty split the Hawks defence with a through ball that met Roy Essandoh, but came to nothing, and Champion got the ball to Taylor for a knockdown that fell the wrong side of Haughton. Just past the hour Haughton gained a tricky opportunity when sprinting onto a through ball. Face to face with John, and a narrow angle, he curled it round the keeper, but hit the post. The rebound fell to Hambley, whose shot was stopped on the line by Henty.
DJ Campbell, replacing Wallace with twenty minutes left, brought more than just fresh legs to Billericay’s attack. Willing to run at the Hawks defence it was moments after he’d come on that he slipped past Hanson and fired into Kerr’s arms. Breaking rapidly again, he set up Williams for an attempt halted by Gareth Hall.
The last ten minutes of normal time brought a succession of Hawks corners. Hambley and Wood had shots deflected wide, and Masson saw the ball hooked away from him as he swung at it. Trying again from range moments later, he forced a diving save from John with a low drive that would have just snuck inside the near post. Haughton did find the net in the dying moments, but his header from Hanson’s knock down was ruled out because of a push in the box.
And so to extra time.
Woody, still running hard, rifled an early shot that tested John, and substitutes Dean Blake and Shaun Gale made their presence known very quickly. Indeed it was Gale who started the build up to Taylor’s second and match winning goal. Howe, Wood and Masson sent quick passes between themselves to drag Billericay to the right of the field, and swinging a fast cross from the wing, Woody found Taylor in a surprising amount of space. Taking his time to place the shot, Super Jim bent the ball back across John into the bottom corner.
The tension remained through the second period of extra time, not least for your trusty reporter whose anxious clock watching was as much for the departure of his train out of Essex as for the game itself. Penalties loomed as Mark Graham shot from a free kick, and then again two minutes from time with a well angled shot that somehow stayed out at the far post. The Hawks though hung on, and go on to face Sutton United in the third round in January.
If anything, the three games against Billericay have shown that the FA Cup game wasn’t a one off performance. At present the Hawks are more than capable of facing strong Ryman opposition, with a 6-3 aggregate over five hours of football. And an enjoyable five hours it was. All the best to Billericay for the rest of the season, pleased to be of help with the hastily put together but immensely readable programme.
And I did make the train, just. Has anyone else managed New Lodge to Billericay BR on foot in ten minutes before?