Match report by Simon Williams. Photos by Amanda Protheroe.
Billericay's season got off to a flying start at New Lodge on Saturday as they hit three second half goals without reply to secure a convincing win over one of the sides expected to challenge for league honours.
Andre Humphrey-Modeste, Getro Kilapi, Micah Hyde and Leon McKenzie were handed full debuts in the first game of the season with another new signing, 'keeper Ashlee Jones, playing his second game having stepped in to cover for an injury to last season's custodian, Paul Nicholls, for one game. Flying winger Evans Kouassi, so impressive in pre-season gave Blues a boost when he was declared fit enough to take his place on the bench.
Before the match got underway there was an impeccably observed minutes silence in memory of three Billericay stalwarts, Roy Garner, Andy McDermid and John McCombe who had passed away over the summer.
The first half was every bit as cagey as might be expected for a first game of the season between two sides that have historically been well matched. Without Kouassi and the suspended Junior Luke, Gareth Street and Getro Kilapi were asked to play in more attacking roles but for all their effort, Billericay were unable to get in behind a Tonbridge rear-guard early on.
The best save of the half came from Angels' Seb Barton who did well to tip Greg Oates' looping header over the bar. The visitors shaded the chances before half time, with the best falling to Kirk Watts when a low cross was allowed to bounce across the Town area. With plenty of the goal to aim at, the Tonbridge winger's shot found the trees behind the stand.
Ten minutes before half time saw the introduction for the home side of Evans Kouassi a move that saw Billericay increasingly begin to express themselves with the winger's pace giving full back Matt Hollyoak plenty of problems.
Tonbridge started the second half well and Frannie Collin hit the post with a fierce shot. The linesman's flag was already raised, however, and it wouldn't have counted. At the other end Billericay felt they should have had a penalty when Jon Heath handled Matt Hall's cross, but the referee was unsighted and allowed play to continue.
When the opening goal came, however, it was a classic set piece effort with Chris Wild's thumping header from a Matt Hall corner passing through the legs of Leon McKenzie and past the unsighted Barton.
Town doubled their advantage five minutes later when the impressive McKenzie showed good strength to break clear of the Tonbridge defence before setting up Danny Charge to fire home. The second goal knocked some of the stuffing out of the visitors and Billericay's afternoon was rounded off when Greg Oates went on a long run from right back before pulling his cross back to Kouassi who finished with aplomb.
Team: Ashlee Jones, Greg Oates, Andre Humphrey-Modeste, Getro Kilapi (Evans Kouassi 33m), Chris Wild, Ian Cousins (c), Matt Hall (Cedric Ngakam 90+3m), Micah Hyde, Leon McKenzie, Danny Charge, Gareth Street
Subs Not Used: Adam Flanagan, Ryan O'Rawe, Sheikh Ceesay
Goalscorers: Chris Wild (61m), Danny Charge (66m), Evans Kouassi (73m)
Yellow Cards: Micah Hyde (82m)
Red Cards: None
Team: Seb Barton, Matt Hollyoak (Lee Carey 75m), Jon Heath, Lee Browning, Sonny Miles, Peter Hawkins (c), Jake Beecroft, Jacob Mingle, Frannie Collin, Jay May, Kirk Watts (Paul Booth 67m)
Subs Not Used: Liam Harwood, Paul Semakula, Alex O'Brien
Yellow Cards: Matt Hollyoak (60m)
Red Cards: None
HT: 0-0 Attendance: 457
Referee: C. Hicks Assistant Referees: P. Crichlow, R. Wells
Tuesday 4th March Bognor Regis Town 1-0 1st XI League
Saturday 8th March Bury Town v 1st XI League. K.O. 15:00