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  • Tim Parks

REPORT | Billericay Town 1-4 Wealdstone

Updated: Dec 21, 2023

It was a night of firsts as the Stones blew Billericay Town out of the FA Trophy in the Third Round at New Lodge on Wednesday night.

The first time that Stuart Maynard and Matty Saunders had won a serious cup game since taking charge almost three years ago; the first time Micah Obiero had scored this season: the first time Tahvon Campbell had scored since September; and the first time Wealdstone have had a cup game switched to the opponents ground due to the waterlogged state of our pitch.

There were some misgivings among the Stones fans at giving up home advantage but the rules are unequivocal: If a game is postponed three times at one venue every effort must be made to get the game on and Billericay’s 4G pitch was the obvious alternative. And just a few days after Stones had chalked up their first way win of the season (2-0 at Dagenham & Redbridge) they were determined to impose their quick-passing game on the Isthmian Premier Division side.

There are two levels between the teams and that was apparent right from the start as yellow-shirted Stones went 1-0 up even before Billericay had touched the ball! Right from the kick-off the National League visitors played the ball across the back four, out to both flanks, and then back into the middle where Nathan Ferguson - enjoying a first start in five matches - fastened onto the ball and ran at the Billericay back four. Space opened up, the perfect invitation for a sweet 25-yard strike and home keeper Dan Wilks had no chance as the ball ballooned the net with just two minutes on the clock.

Billericay are riding high in the Isthmian Prem but were clinging on as the defence blocked three efforts from the elusive Campbell, two from Obiero and one from the returning Abdul Abdulmalik. It might have been three or four nil before the home side had even crossed the halfway line.

And on the half hour Obiero did, indeed, stretch Stones lead as a dazzling burst of inter-passing set him free inside the Billericay box - and a delightful finish to the far corner left Wilks absolutely hopeless.

The Essex side’s manager Gary McCann is a wily old fox though, and he denied Stones the space they needed to play out from the back with a much more aggressive, higher press as the second half kicked off. Skipper Matt Johnson was moved from centre midfield to centre-forward and Billericay were a different, more dangerous animal for 15 minutes. Stones were briefly rattled and the atmosphere (totally dominated by the 100 or so travelling fans in the first half) ratcheted up from the home fans once Alfie Cerulli had rifled them back into the game in the 54th minute. He picked up a smart pass from former Stone Moses Emmanuel on the right, moved inside and his left-foot blast had just too much power for the impressive Marcus Dewhurst between the sticks - although he almost kept it out.

Stones needed to reorganise and a fortunate, non-serious injury to Dewhurst allowed the management team to gather the team for a chat, drop Ferguson deeper and allow Bowen to get on the ball. And they effectively killed the tie when the lively Campbell conjured a goal out of nothing in the 74th minute - collecting the ball on the left, he dropped a shoulder and skated toward the near post as the defence backed off. Seeing no-one in the six yard box to pass to he simply lifted the ball past Wilks into the roof of the net.

That put the Rochdale loanee on six goals for the season… and 10 minutes later Newport County loanee Sam Bowen blasted his sixth of the season with a majestic strike from distance. He was fully 22 yards out to the right of the box and the ball arrowed beyond Wilks to the far, top corner. There was even time for the overworked Wilks to beat away fierce 25-yarders from the rampant Ferguson and skipper Jack Cook.

And thus Stones moved into the FA Trophy last 32 with a difficult trip back into Essex to face Chelmsford City on 13th January. This was Wealdstone’s third successive win and, whisper it quietly, back-to-back away wins. Now, with the tricky visit of Hartlepool United on Saturday and ex-talisman Josh Umerah, they just have to keep it up!

WEALDSTONE: Dewhurst, Cook (c), Barrett, Mundle-Smith, Mason, Bowen, Ferguson, Ilunga, Abdulmalik (Charles 74), Obiero, Campbell (Andrews 86).

Subs not used: Allarakhia, Kretzschmar, Adarkwa.

Attendance: 310

Report by Tim Parks


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