BILLERICAY took the Ryman Premier derby honours with their hero being sub Chris Wild, who made an unexpected comeback to snare the points with a controversial winner reports the Thurrock Enquirer.
It was a match of incident throughout with dramatic and contrasting appearances from the subs’ bench for Wild and Rocks’ Neil Richmond.
Wilde, who fell 30 feet from a hotel balcony on a pre-season south coast trip, wasn’t expected to return until next month, but came on in the second half to get the winner.
Richmond, making his comeback after injury, lasted less than five minutes before being stretchered off.
There was a somewhat fractious start to the match, with a couple of confrontations between players in the early exchanges with referee Nick Cooper working hard to keep a cap on the situation.
Town’s Jay May had the game’s first half chance when keeper Richard Wray was caught off his line but the big striker was unable to get enough power or direction on his header.
At the other end Rocks got a free kick on the edge of the box when James Haines handled and though Kris Newby’s free kick was cleared, it was returned into the box where a bout of pinball ended with Stanley Muguo striking the ball against an upright.
A storming run by Kye Ruel saw him brought down by Paul Semakula, who was booked, and Aryan Tajbakhsh followed him into the book soon after as Rocks applied consistent pressure.
On 26 minutes Haines was adjudged to have made a late tackle on Newby in the box, and though the wide man got a shot away which flashed past the post, ref Cooper blew for a penalty. Newby picked himself up to slot home the spot-kick.
Ref Cooper was not making any friends among the visiting fans and when David Knight sarcastically applauded when the ref gave the Blues a free-kick he came the fourth visiting player in the book. The away mood wasn’t lightened when May headed the ball in from close range soon after, only for it to be ruled out for offside.
Rocks’ Kye Ruel became the first home player cautioned for a late challenge on Haines after 40 minutes.
Rocks had strong appeals for a second penalty waved away on 45 minutes when there looked to be a clear handball in the Billericay box but their claims were waved away and a minute later Blues were on level terms when Knight was given time and space on the edge of the box and he worked himself into a position to fire a low shot past Richard Wray.
Six minutes into a rather tentative start to the second half May had the chance to give Blues the lead when hesitation between Wray and his back-line left another gap, but again his goal effort lacked conviction and Wray saved.
At the other end Reiss Gilbey forced a fine save from Nicky Morgan and though Rocks eventually scrambled the ball over the line the assistant ref ruled the ball had Another controversial decision came soon gone out of play in the goal-line melee.
Wild then came on to great applause from the travelling fans in a crowd of 249 when he came on for the injured Rob Swaine on the hour.
And within a couple of minutes he had made an immediate impact in controversial circumstances when Mr Cooper awarded Billericay a second corner after Sam Berry’s initial cross had hit the crossbar. Keeper Wray was nowhere near it but the assistant ruled he had pushed it over the top. Rocks defenders were incensed and their fury knew no limits when Wild rose to head home from the second set piece.
Rocks introduced sub Neil Richmond for his comeback after a knee injury, but a block tackle five minutes after he came on saw him carried off on a stretcher.
There were smiles all round when the action resumed and Blues’ burly centre-back Andy Thompson embarked on a pitch-length run which ended with neat interplay and the big man just running out of breath as he tried desperately to get to the ball before Wray.
Deep in added time Mr Cooper booked his fifth Billericay player, when Harrison Chatting saw yellow for kicking the ball away.
There was to be one last chance for Rocks when they got a free kick on the edge of the box but Cohen’s shot drifted over the bar.