SLOUGH TOWN 3 BILLERICAY TOWN 1
Jamie O’Hara’s unbeaten start as Billericay Town manager came to an end after a convincing loss at form side, Slough Town. Dominating from the outset, the Berkshire side raced into a two-goal lead at half-time via a Sam Togwell header and drive from Matt Lench.
After the break, Dan Roberts put the game out of reach with a well-taken third. Ody Alfa salvaged a modicum of pride for the Blues’ vociferous travelling support with an individual strike.
After an encouraging start to Jamie O’Hara’s managerial tenure, characterised by a step up in the quality of football displayed, the match-up with Slough provided a reality check. The Blues have a talented squad, performing well, but there remains a substantial distance still to travel to compete with the top sides in the division.
If anything, Billericay have over-delivered to date in straitened circumstances. Frequent player rotation, to cover the outgoings, had hitherto been remarkably well integrated into the team set up.
It is a clear that visibly shocked O’Hara after the game will not tolerate the type of display that he saw yesterday. Wisely, however, he recognised the qualities of the Slough team, which offers a template for any aspiring manager to follow in terms of organisation, motivation, and game-plan.
Superior in every aspect yesterday, the Rebels stifled Billericay in a way not seen previously. Acknowledging the circumstances of the club, the supporters showed great understanding of the situation and delivered strong backing throughout.
If Billericay surprised with a lacklustre, disjointed performance that had no precursors from previous matches, it was due to the superiority of the Slough team. Having started the season poorly, accumulating just two points from their first five matches, the Rebels have reacted well, transforming their fortunes with a superb run of results.
National League South
Saturday 12 October 2019
1. Alan Julian
2. Ben Nunn
3. Arjanit Krasniqi
5. Ronnie Henry (C)
6. Sam Deering
7. Moses Emmanuel
8. Doug Loft
9. Jake Robinson
10. Jordan Parkes
11. Odysseus Alfa
14. Alfie Potter
12. Louis Ramsay (Nunn)
15. Themis Kefalas (Loft)
16. Jack Paxman (Krasniqi)
17. Acea Laurent
20. Sam Egole
78′ – Odysseus Alfa
BILLERICAY TOWN SUPPORTERS SOCIETY
The BTSS are hoping to run a coach to the match and are asking for fans to register their interest in travelling with the Supporters Society by e-mailing them at firstname.lastname@example.org with your name and number of seats you’d like to reserve.
The coach would leave New Lodge at 12 noon, departing Sutton after the final whistle.
Seats would be priced at £15 for adults and £8 for under 16’s.
The Billericay Town Supporters Society will be running a coach to The Blues away fixture with Maidstone United on Saturday 26 October.
The coach will leave New Lodge at 12:45pm (sharp!) and will return after the final whistle.
Seats are priced at £15 for adults and £8 for Under 16’s. Under 16’s must be accompanied by an adult.
Propelled into the upper reaches of the League table, it is no coincidence that stability of leadership and selection have proved to be dominant factors behind the success at Arbour Park.
In situ since July 2013, joint manager’s Neil Baker and Jon Underwood – disproving the theory that co-leadership cannot be successful in football – have a firm grasp on what works. Promoted from the Southern league via the play-off’s two seasons ago, a debut campaign in the National South ended in a credible 11th place finish after a strong end to the season.
Building from a solid base, seven of the Rebels’ first team line-up yesterday were also starters the last time the Blues visited Arbour Park, back in March 2019. For the record, Billericay fielded three – Jake Robinson, Alan Julian, and Sam Deering. Clearly, continuity at Slough has helped the managerial team to forge an impressive unit that functions well.
Billericay made one change to their line-up due to injury. Darren Oldaker, impressive in an attacking midfield role since joining last month, was replaced by Alfie Potter. O’Hara stuck to the 4-2-3-1 formation utilised in the FA Cup victory against Bath City.
Into the squad, named on the bench, came 19 years old, QPR U-23 centre-back, Themis Kefalas. At 6ft 2 ins, the Greek-born defender, offers much needed height to a vertically challenged team.
Slough brought in three new faces to the line-up that had been eliminated from the FA Cup in the mid-week replay against Chippenham Town. Having switched to 4-4-2 to match up with the West Country side, the Rebels reverted back to their new-found 4-2-3-1 formation. Discovered almost by accident in late August, the usual 4-4-2 had to be abandoned at Dulwich Hamlet due to injuries to strikers.
Since then, the new set-up has proved resoundingly successful and has been retained. In came, right-back Josh Jackman, fit again after being side-lined by a dead leg, midfielder, Simon Dunn, and striker, Dan Roberts. Centre-back Mark Nisbet, striker Ben Harris, and Sean Fraser made way.
In a sign of what was to come, the home side began strongly with right-winger Warren Harris glancing a header wide from a free-kick when well-placed. Moments later, driving forward on the left flank, a core area of strength for a rampant Slough side, Max Worsfold hit a low drive against the Billericay post.
If the offside flag signalling that the strike would not have counted made the visiting defence feel a little more comfortable, it was to prove to be false solace in what would be a testing first period for Blues right-back, Ben Nunn.
Stationed just behind lone striker, Roberts, Matt Lench was a busy presence throughout for the Rebels. Impressing with his industry, he buzzed this way and that, firing shots on goal and retreating to assist his midfield with diligent defensive work.
On 5 minutes he profited as Worsfold was able to fashion a shooting chance. Letting fly, Lench’s shot was deflected wide by Billericay’s Ronnie Henry, the first of many blocks in a busy day at the office.
With Slough dominating proceedings, Billericay can consider themselves very unlucky to have missed out on what looked a clear penalty in their first attack of the match. Countering swiftly, Potter was felled in the area by Lee Togwell as he cut inside the home centre-back.
Even Slough boss, Baker, in his post-match interview admitted that a spot-kick should have been awarded. Unfortunately, it was not Billericay’s day and the foul went unsanctioned.
The chance for the Blues proved to be a mere interlude as the tide continued to flow in favour of the Berkshire side. Yet again, Henry was on hand in the right place at the right time to deflect Jackman’s drive away for a corner.
From the set-piece, it was goalkeeper Alan Julian’s chance to shine reacting swiftly to save a Sam Togwell far post header.
With George Wells surging forward to double up on the left side with winger, Worsfold, Billericay were regularly under pressure.
Julian was soon forced into action as he dived to save a long-range effort from Lench. Moments later, a diagonal pass by Dunn from the left side evaded the Billericay defence but Warren Harris’s contact at full stretch could not quite direct on target.
It would not be long till Slough made the break-through that they had been threatening. With Deering hacking an effort off the line seconds earlier, the opening strike came on 27 minutes.
A curling ball in from Harris, strangely enough from the right side, evaded Doug Loft in the heart of the Billericay defence. Nipping in behind the centre-back, Sam Togwell arrived at the far post to head the ball firmly home into the opposite corner of the net.
With the Blues surprisingly sloppy in midfield, giving the ball away with alarming regularity, the Slough pressure intensified. Only a last-ditch Nunn tackle saved the Blues as Roberts raced through after being put in by Harris who had intercepted a misplaced Krasniqi pass.
Next, a Harris header was cleared after Worsfold had beaten Nunn on the left and put in an inviting cross. Whilst Blues fans could console themselves that the defence was holding firm, every attacking move seemed to break down just before a final pass could be delivered.
With thin pickings, the best that the Blue would see from their team before the break was a 40th minute Emmanuel shot that the rebels goalkeeper, Jack Turner, held above his head.
At the other end, Henry would fly to the rescue once more clearing danger once more inside his own box after another left-side run from Worsfold beat Nunn and produced a cross.
With Billericay reflected that a 1-0 thumping would be a satisfactory conclusion to a difficult half, Slough made their superiority count by scoring a second on 45 minutes.
With Worsfold serving Roberts on the left side, the striker sped towards the by-line and sent in a cross towards Lench on the opposite side of the area. Stationed unattended 12 yards out, the midfielder made no mistake as he drove home beyond Julian into the bottom corner.
With Blues having some experience of late of holding a two-goal advantage, how the team could react with roles reversed was of interest. A single change was made at the interval with the extra pace of Louis Ramsay entering at right-back in place of Nunn.
Poorly protected by those in front of him, Nunn, who was subjected to a torrid time, may reflect that his performance had as much to do with his own team-mates as his own struggles.
Almost immediately, Lench hit a viciously swerving 25-yard shot that moved late and brought an unorthodox, but effective, diving stop from Julian. In response, Krasniqi and potter linked for the latter to send in a shot on target that drew a regulation save.
With visibly more drive, after a likely burst of encouragement from management at half-time, Jordan Parkes drove forward beyond his man for the first time in the match. His cross yielded a corner, which was cleared easily by the alert Slough defence.
Slough continued to threaten and scored once more on 58 minutes to effectively finish the match. A corner was cleared by Henry but headed back towards the penalty spot by Worsfold.
F.A. Cup Fourth Qualifying Round
Gander Green Lane, Sutton
Saturday 19 October 2019
National League South
The Gallagher Stadium, Maidstone
Saturday 26 October 2019
BTSS Away Travel
Essex Senior Cup 3rd Round
New Lodge, Billericay
Tuesday 29 October 2019
FAWNL Cup 1st Round
New Lodge, Billericay
Sunday 13 October 2019
FAWNL 1 South-East
New Lodge, Billericay
Sunday 20 October 2019
FAWNL 1 South-East
St Neots Town F.C.
Sunday 27 October 2019
Misdirecting his header, Loft sent the ball towards goal and straight to Roberts. All alone in the six-yard box, the striker could scarcely believe his luck and slotted home.
Billericay switched to a three-man defence with Ramsay joining Loft and Henry as the third centre-back. With good intentions to salvage some pride, the Blues enjoyed their best spell in the game carving out a couple of good chances for Robinson that were spurned.
It was a sequence of events eerily reminiscent to the first five minutes of the Bath City match. First, on 71 minutes, a Parkes cut-back from a free kick was missed by the striker when well placed in the area. Moments later, a one-to-one between Robinson and the goalkeeper failed to yield a goal as Turner stood firm to block the goal-bound effort.
The best moment of the match for the travelling support came with Alfa’s consolation goal on 76 minutes. Picking up a ball from Parkes on the right side, the loanee winger sped past Lench and Togwell to rifle a strike into the top corner from a tight angle.
A fantastic individual goal helped to gloss over what was a tough afternoon for him with little service.
With no further chances for the Blues to reduce the deficit, the main points of interest for the closing minutes was a near escape from further damage as a free header from Harris was put over the bar.
Threatening briefly, a Deering run was halted illegally but the Parkes free-kick was disappointing driven straight into the wall. As the rain continued to drive down, the referee’s final whistle was met with relief on all sides.
Billericay were served a harsh lesson in what the standard is at the top of the League. With a relatively easy calendar to date, Slough were easily the best side that the Blues have met to date.
Whilst the team has struggled to impose itself at times, it has not been dominated by a team as much as it was in this fixture. Whilst there were individual mistakes, this was a poor team performance with the side not functioning at all for long periods in the match.
There is a promising base with a committed manager and evidence of very able players being attracted to the club. Getting the right blend and welded them into a cohesive team is not a task that will be achieved quickly.
With off-field distractions over future ownership continuing to cloud the outlook – and no word on consortium progress last week – it looks like Blues will need to keep the money coming from its FA Cup run in the short term.
Let’s hope that the team bounce back from this defeat with a victory at Sutton United.