August 1st, 2018
Written by Leigh, @beakster99

BTFC travel to play Truro City this week-end in the long awaited kick-off to the new season. Following the thrilling treble winning campaign of 2017-18, the Blues renew acquaintance with the National South League. After a solitary season in 2012-13 at this level, before relegation back to the Isthmian Premier, the Blues are considerably better equipped to compete this time round.

Blues won’t actually be going to Cornwall on this occasion. Just two weeks before the match, logistics would shift to Devon with news of a 107 mile switch in venue to Torquay. The late change reflects Truro City’s decision to ground-share at Plainmoor, home of Torquay United. With the Cornish club’s local ground at TreyewRoad sold to developers, and requirement to quit the local site by 31st July, an alternative location for matches had to be found. Over time, the club hope to share a new “Stadium for Cornwall” in Truro, which is yet to be built.

Billericay Town travel in excellent form after what can be regarded as a successful set of matches in pre-season. Starting with a reassuring 1-1 draw at National league Ebbsfleet United, the highlight of the campaign was a 3-1 away win at top tier Non-League side, Maidstone United. With a comfortable 2-0 win last Saturday away on a dry, bobbly pitch at Southern league side Biggleswade Town, the Blues squad have all accumulated vital minutes and look raring to go.

On the pitch, the White Tigers enjoyed a positivecampaign last season, finishing in 7th position. Last year’s play-off run, which ended with defeat at Hampton and Richmond, saw the team achieve a club record number of points and wins at National South level. Furthermore, for the first time, Truro reached the 1st round of the FA Cup.  A 3-1 loss at League One, Charlton Athletic, saw 996 fans travel to London in the first Cornish foray to the opening round since 1969.

In contrast to Billericay Town’s impressive pre-season, Truro City’s friendly results have been mixed with expected wins against lower League sides, CullomptonRangers and Bodmin, followed by home defeats to Exeter City (0-6) and Cardiff U-23’s (0-2). Although anhonourable 1-1 draw was earnt versus Swansea City U-23’s, the recent 2-1 reverse at South West Peninsula Premier side, Falmouth Town, was something of a shock. Having triumphed 6-0 in the same fixture 12 months ago, the result against a team four divisions lower in the pyramid suggests the side this season may not be as strong as last year.

Matching last year’s level of achievement looks a tough proposition for the Cornish side. Truro City have seen a number of their best performers in the last campaign exit. These include striker Cody Cooke, who moves north of the border to St.Mirren, Billericay-bound central defender, Ben Gerring, and midfielder, Aaron Lamont, who returns to London to re-join Isthmian Premier side, Kingstonian. First team goal-keeper, Tom McHale has attracted interest from the Scottish Premier League and is not expected to sign a new contract.

New recruits have been drafted in by boss, Lee Hodges,with striking options reinforced by the arrival of ex-Plymouth Argyle striker, Louis Rooney, signed from Irish side, Linfield. Hodges, who began his second stint as Truro City manager in June 2016, has also raided South Devon for two of the most promising Non-League prospects in the area in striker, Jared Lewington, and attacking winger, Lloyd Gardner. Lewington is physically strong, offers good movement, and impressed in a  six month spell at Southern league Premier South side, Tiverton Town. Gardener makes a big jump from step five, Buckland Athletic, but is rated.

Other incoming players include teenage Exeter City midfielder Max Smallcombe and, also from the Grecians, 19 year old defender, Alex Hartridge, who appeared regularly last year. At the same time, Bristol City academy has furnished goal-keeper, Jojo Woolacott, and teenage midfielder, Tom Richards. Included among those retained are tough tackling central defender, Ed Palmer, centre-back and longest serving player, Jamie Richards, wide-man, Niall Thompson, experienced midfielder, Ben Harding, young wing-back Connor Riley-Lowe and defender, Billy Palfrey. Busy midfielder, Noah Keats, and livewire striker, Tyler Harvey are also confirmed as Truro City players for 2018-19.

Blues look well-equipped for their first test of the season in the National South. With Truro expected to field a 3-5-2 formation, it will be interesting to see if Blues elect to counter by matching up, employing a single striker, or run with their preferred set-up. Based on what I have seen in pre-season, nine of the Billericay Town first X1 pick themselves with the final two pieces dependent on formation/tactics employed. This Truro side look to lack the experience and know-how of last season following key departures and it will be interesting to see how quickly they adapt to the demands of the season at a new location.

With Billericay Town looking much stronger than last year in every department, and Truro City appearing to be weakened by key departures, I think the Blues should go into this game with confidence that a very good start to the campaign can be achieved.

Safe trip to all those travelling to the game!

Billericay Town FC Last Starting Line Up (V West Ham United U-23’s)

Strizovic, Eyong, Howells, Doe, Gerring, Deering, Modeste (’69 Emmanuel), Walton (’51 Waldren), Robinson (’69 Cunnington), Coombes, O’Hara

Truro City Last Starting Line-Up (V Falmouth)

Atkinson, Thompson, Palfrey, Palmer, Hartridge, Riley-Lowe, Smallcombe, Gardner, Keats (’70 Booth), Rooney (’64 Lewington), Turner (’45 Copp).

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