MAIDSTONE – BTFC FRIENDLY PREVIEW

July 18th, 2018

Written by Leigh, @beakster99

On Friday 20thJuly, Billericay Town travel back to Kent to take on National League opponents, Maidstone United, in the Blues’ fourth friendly match  of the current pre-season. To date, all games have been away from home. Results include a defeat to Beaconsfield Town and a convincing win over Aveley FC.

As is customary in pre-season, BTFC’s preparation games have been utilised primarily to improve fitness, assess viability of various tactical formations, and to run the rule over a number of trialists keen to gain a place in the squad.

BTFC will meet a Maidstone side that has enjoyed a very successful pre-season so far. Whilst the Blues should present a sterner test, thumping 5-0 wins recorded away at Isthmian Premier side, Folkestone Invicta, and, back at the Gallagher Stadium, versus Nottingham Forest U-23’s indicate that the Stones are gelling nicely ahead of the new League campaign. The game against Brentford ‘B’ side on Tuesday occurred after this article was written.

Last year proved to be something of a struggle for Maidstone United  as the club acclimatised to only its second year in the National league since its re-formation in 1992. Having finished 14thin the top tier of Non-League football in 2016-17, the club slipped to a final position of 17thlast season. The loss of leading scorer, Joe Pigott, in mid-season to AFC Wimbledon and injuries or loss of form to other attacking players proved to be a heavy blow as goals were difficult to find.

To the credit of the Board, faith was maintained in manager, Jay Saunders, during challenging times such as a 17 game winless run. Having been appointed as player-manager, aged 32, in March 2011, Saunders’ managerial tenure now stretches to over seven years, putting him at No.2 on the list of longest serving managers in the top five tiers of football. A man in demand for his significant achievements at the club, post season interest from a football League club was swiftly rebutted by the Stones’ hierarchy.

With BTFC ambitions of a rapid rise up the League well-known, Maidstone prove that sustained success and fast-track promotions to National League from Isthmian League football can be achieved. Back in summer 2011, a struggling Stones side were relegated to the Isthmian Division One South and National League football must have seemed a distant dream.

Fortunes would improve, however, with an incredible three promotions achieved in five years under Saunders. A move to the newly built £2.6 million Gallagher Stadium in July 2012 would become the turning point for the club. Secure in their new home, Maidstone United would make incredible progress up the pyramid. By summer 2016, the Stones had completed an astonishing rise to the top tier of Non-League football.

With Step One football throwing up ever greater competitive challenges, Maidstone co-owners indicated over the summer that a budget increase for 2018-19 is envisaged to support an objective of a Top 10 finish. This follows on from the change to full-time status initiated for the 2017-18 season.

Maidstone fans have been rewarded with a pair of new striking options brought in, the retention of two promising centre-backs after successful loan spells, and additions at left-back and in midfield. BTFC’s new centre-backs should have plenty to occupy their time come match-day with the Stones’ new front-men

Shamir Mullings and Joe Quigley.

Ex-Forest Green Rovers striker, Mullings, 24, offers a strong, powerful presence up front and, at 6ft 5ins, constitutes a considerable aerial threat. In addition, highly rated front-man Quigley, 21, an Irish U-21 international, joins after his release by Bournemouth. With winger, Blair Turgott, signed permanently from Boreham Wood, posing a threat from the right hand-side and ex-Palace youngster, Andre Coker, an extra option off the bench, Maidstone look to have a balanced attacking force.

Good business has also been done in other areas with talented centre-backs, Alex Finney and Will De Havilland, signed after successful loan spells. Both have interested League clubs and look capable of playing at a higher level later in their careers. In midfield, highly rated Crystal Palace U-23 skipper, Michael Philips has joined permanently   and hard-working captain, Stuart Lewis, stays on to patrol midfield.

Retention and recruitment at Billericay Town has also gone well and BTFC look a highly experienced outfit with attractive options across the pitch. Having identified defence as an area of focus, the arrival of ex-Torquay and Truro City centre-back, Ben Gerring, former Dagenham stopper, Scott Doe, and ex-Dulwich Hamlet defender, Ricky Hayles provide stiff competition for places. Although he sustained a bad cut to the face against Aveley on Monday night, we expect Gerring to be eager to take his place in the team on Friday night.

Having been a problematic position last year, full back positions look well served with ex-Luton man, Jake Howells, and ex-Wimbledon player, Callum Kennedy offering extra cover at the back and in the midfield. New arrival Simon Walton caught the eye with a commanding performance in the centre of midfield at Aveley  and formed a solid defensive screen alongside Danny Waldren.

With Jamie O’Hara highly impressive across his passing range at Aveley, Sam Deering looking very dangerous in an advanced No.10 role, and pace and trickery provided by new arrivals, Moses Emmanuel, and right winger, Connor Hunte, BTFC look well equipped to cause any side problems. If we add in 57-goal Jake Robinson, fleet-footed left winger, Ricky Modeste, and target-man Adam Cunnington to the Blues attacking options, BTFC appear well prepared to meet the increased challenges of the National South.

Meeting Maidstone represents a big test for BTFC as the team prepare for life at the higher level and continue easing in a raft of new signings into the collective. For Maidstone, BTFC represent their most challenging opposition so far in pre-season and the match should be a chance for the Stones to assess progress made in improving the team.

Billericay Town FC Last Starting Line Up (V Aveley FC)

1 Josh Strizovic 2 Joe Kizzi 3 Hamilton Debunga 4 Ben Gerring 5 Dean Inman

6 Sam Deering  7 Ricky Modeste 8 Simon Walton 9 Jake Robinson 10 Danny Waldren 11 Jake Howells SUBS: 12 Moses Emmanuel 14 Adam Cunnington

15 Rickie Hayles 16 Scott Doe 17 Jamie O’Hara 18 Jordy Mongoy

19 Connor Hunte 20 Tambeson Eyong.

Maidstone Last Starting Line-Up (V Notts Forest U-23’s)

1 Lee Worgan 3 George McLennan 5 Will De Havilland 6 Alex Finney

8 Stuart Lewis 9 Joe Quigley 11 Blair Turgott 14 Lamar Loza 21 Ollie Muldoon 22 Michael Philips 25 Michee Efete SUBS 4 Jordan Wynter 10 Jack Paxman

15 Shamir Mullings 16 Seth Nana Twumasi 7 Andre Coker 23 Jack Richards

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