Saturday 18 February 2017 – Ryman Premier League
Grays Athletic 1 – Billericay Town 0
Billericay were brought back down to earth with a bump as a last minute free-kick meant that Ryman Premier basement dwellers Grays Athletic ended their six-match unbeaten run.
The Blues had signed vastly experienced goalkeeper Alan Julian from Bromley in the week and he was the only change from the side that had dismantled Needham Market. The game was to be Billericay’s last fixture at Aveley’s Mill Field ground with the host’s landlords set to relocate in the summer.
Grays made the early running and Joe Ellul had to be alive as he blocked Bishop’s left foot shot. Play soon became increasingly scrappy with Grays content to take plenty of time over each restart meaning the game struggled to get any real flow to it. Cunnington found Taaffe after some good hold-up play and his right-wing cross was deflected behind for a corner. Fitzsimons met Seymour’s set-piece powerfully but his header was acrobatically pushed on to the bar by Tangara. Grays almost took the lead when Baxter broke clear but Julian managed to deny the striker twice, firstly from his initial effort and then smothering the rebound. Billericay were relying on long balls up to Cunnington and set-pieces for their main attacking threats and they almost took the lead after 35 minutes when Williams-Agunabor inadvertently flicked Krasniqi’s long throw towards his own goal but fortunately for the central defender it passed just wide of the post.
Billericay started the second half a little brighter as Bricknell headed a Taaffe free-kick over and Taaffe himself drove a shot wide. Grays were unlucky not to score after 58 minutes when Baxter’s 25-yard thunderbolt crashed back off Julian’s crossbar. Town introduced Layne and Assombalonga into the action and this seemed to liven things up for The Blues as they began to take more of a foothold in the game. Billericay came close midway through the half when Cunnington glanced Taaffe’s cross on to the post with Layne’s follow-up effort deflected over the bar for a corner. Ellul then had a header cleared off the line by Payne and Eyong had a decent penalty shout turned down after he appeared to be fouled just inside the area. Ellul saw another effort shave the post as Billericay upped the pressure on the home defence.
As the game entered the final minute Grays were awarded a free-kick for handball 20 yards out after Johnson had rushed out to block a shot. Kwabena Osei stepped up and hit it superbly over the wall and into the corner giving Julian no chance. Billericay kept going until the end but it was not to be and they will look to make amends in their Cup semi-final on Tuesday.
Blues: Julian, Eyong, Fitzsimons, Seymour, Swaine, Ellul, Taaffe, Johnson, Bricknell (Assombalonga), Cunnington, Krasniqi (Layne). SNU: Diallo, Moore, Giddens.
Attendance: 277 Blues MoTM: Joe Ellul