Written by Leigh, @beakster99
October, 10th 2018
Billericay Town host Gloucester City this Saturday in what will be new manager Dean Brennan’s first home League game in charge. Early results under his tenure have been very good. A resounding 9-1 FA Cup win at the week-end versus Isthmian Premier side, Whitehawk, showed the huge attacking potential now fully unleashed by Brennan. A professional 2-0 away win against 3rd placed, Hampton & Richmond, the previous Saturday now sees Billericay at the summit of the National South League.
Barring an appointment late this week, Gloucester City will likely travel to Essex without a permanent manager in place,following the resignation of the former boss, Marc Richards. His last game in charge was the 2-2 home draw versus Eastbourne Borough. Although this left the Tigers in 17th position in the National South, the departure was due to an alternative offer. From National North league side, Hereford.
The Gloucester City Board swiftly appointed Joint caretaker managers, Tom Webb and Mike Green pending the selection of a new manager. Webb, who retired from playing recently, is on the club coaching staff. Making his debut, aged 16, he made a record 731 club appearances over the past 17 years. Regarded as a club legend, plans have been made to name a stand (Tom Webb – T stand) in his honour at the new Meadow Park ground. His co-manager, Green, is the current club strength & conditioning coach.
The first game for the interim management team was the 3-3 home draw in the FA Cup third qualifying round tie versus Dorking Wanderers. Tigers were unlucky to be held as adisputed penalty got the Isthmian League side back into the match after being 3-1 down. In recent matches, the team showed good character to snatch a point with a late goal against Eastbourne. Last time on the road, Gloucester performed well enough but got nothing from a trip to Chippenham (0-1). Blues fans will be well aware that that Hardenhuish can be a difficult place to go and get a positive result.
Gloucester City has been in Step Two since promotion in 2009/10. Placed originally in the National North, 2017/18 represented the first year that the Tigers had competed in the National South. Consequently, Gloucester City and Billericay Town have never met in a competitive fixture. Gloucester City’s highest ever League placing was 10th in 2016/17. Tigers form so far this campaign of four wins in eleven matches suggests a repeat of last year’s 14th place.
There have been some notable playing staff departures from the club in the close season. Club captain and right back, Keiran Thomas, and left back, Lewis Hall, have both moved on to Hereford. At the same time, commanding 6ft 4ins centre-back, Robbie Cundy, departed for local rivals, Bath City. Perhaps the biggest loss is double player of the Season, Ed Williams, who leaves to join Conference National side, Kidderminster Harriers. An attacking play-maker, he contributed 8 goals from midfield last season and had been widely scouted by League Two clubs including Exeter City.
Despite key defensive departures, the Tigers are reasonably sound at the back and have only had one real off day, losing 0-3 at home to Bath City. Overall, 13 goals conceded in 11 League games, including 4 clean sheets, is a reasonable start for the Tigers to build upon. Options at centre-back are, however, healthy with experienced centre-backs, Sam Averyand Spencer Hamilton both entering their fifth seasons at the club. Ex-Hungerford Town central defender, Matt Williams, has also featured in the back-line prior to his recent injury.
With both full-backs departing, it has been all change on the flanks. So far this season, the Tigers have used three different players at right-back including ex Cardiff City youngster, Isaac Kelly. Left back has been nailed down by impressive youngster, Noah Smerdon, who has seized his chance in the first team with a string of impressive performances. Aged just 17, he is comfortable in his defensive duties, brings an attacking threat with overlaps, and is prepared to shoot on sight.
A retained list numbering a dozen players has seen stability at Jubilee Park. We like the look of Joe Hanks in midfield – Gloucester City stalwart, fan favourite, and regular goal/assist provider. First joining City on loan in March 2014, he signed permanently in January 2016. An ever present in central midfield this season, he made his League debut back in October 2012 for Cheltenham Town as a substitute for Blues midfield general, Sam Deering. Another to note is left sided midfielder/winger, Joe Parker. With a burst of pace, and ability to run past opponents, he has a dangerous left foot and likes to cause problems by switching flanks with his opposite wide-man.
Summer recruitment has taken place nonetheless with a focus on adding more in forward areas. Attacking midfielder/striker, Jake Mawford, joins the squad after shining in pre-season matches. Versatile striker, Jake Jackson, recently departed from Chippenham Town, is added to the forward line. Young forward, Ben Seymour, joins on a 3 month loan from Exeter City. Ex-Cheltenham Town winger, Adam Page, also comes in after a very brief stay last season. He offers good delivery from wide areas. Midfielder Matt Liddiard returns for a third spell after netting 22 goals last year at Evesham Unite in Step four football. He has started well with two goals so far this season.
Two new arrivals in September include a familiar name to Tigers fans in ex-Cheltenham Town striker Harry Williams, who also joins for his third stint. Previously, he has netted 10 times in 25 appearances for Gloucester. Gallic guile is provided by proven frontman, Fabian Robert, who transfers on loan from Forest Green Rovers. Boasting higher League pedigree, the Frenchman scored on his debut in the FA Cup after 17 seconds.
It will be difficult to preempt the Gloucester City tactical approach given the recent change in management. So far this campaign, the Tigers have tended to play only one up front for away games. With two defensive midfielders in what may be a 4-2-3-1 formation, the team are compact and difficult to break down. They can, however, break quickly especially from wide areas and will pose a threat on the counter-attack.
We can probably expect Dean Brennan’s Blues side to align in an attacking 4-3-3 formation and, whilst being careful to cover any rapid counters, to take the game to the visitors. Gloucester City is a tough side and should be well motivated with their new management to impress. Blues will need to be at their best on Saturday as players also seek to make a favourable impression on a new boss. On paper, it should be a home victory for “Brennan’s Boys” but football can be full of surprises.
Enjoy the game!
Form Last Six League Matches
Billericay Town: W, W, D, W, L, W
Leading Scorer: Jake Robinson, 12 goals.
Gloucester City: D, L, L, W, D, W
Leading Scorers: Noah Smerdon and Matt Liddiard, both 2 goals
No Previous Meetings