Grays Ath 1 v 0 Billericay Town
A stunning late Kwabene Osei free kick gave Blues a much needed win writes The Mariner
Blues have the habit of upsetting the odds occasionally this season and today was no exception when big spending Billericay were consigned to this last minute defeat.Grays were no doubt spurred on by Billericay manager Craig Edward’s comment in the press to put them to the sword. The win was no more than they deserved against opponents who had dispatched high flying Needham Market by six goals to nil in midweek, to a man Blues worked tirelessly to nullify their opponents.
Billericay forced the first corner inside the opening minutes which the Blues rearguard dealt with effectively but it was Kieron Bishop who produced the first effort on goal when he cut inside but saw his effort blocked and cleared to safety.
Blues showed no signs of being overawed by their opponents as they swarmed and buzzed around them at every opportunity and as a consequence enjoyed a good deal of possession in the opening quarter.Bishop was looking lively up front using his pace to good effect against the visitors back four who appeared not the quickest,he fashioned another opportunity after a penetrating run but his shot slid just wide of the upright.
Matt Baxter and Barney Williams were providing a lot of energy in midfield for Blues and worked tirelessly to close down their opponents who had created very little in the early stages – that was until Taafe got behind Joe Payne and fed Bricknell but Jon Ashton made a timely intervention at the expense of a corner.From the resultant kick Amadou Tangara produced a fine save from Fitsimmons corner turning the ball onto the bar and holding on to the ball after a brief scramble.
Blues created their clearest opportunity of the half following a quick break from a Billericay corner.Bishop bludgeoned forward into the visitors half and slid the ball into Baxter he took a quick touch and prodded the ball forward which the exposed Julian failed to hold but reacted quickly to gather Baxters second effort.
As the half progressed the visitors were seeing more of the ball but only looked dangerous from set pieces with long throws into the Blues box causing the most problems ,Chidi Williams-Agunabor who was making his full debut nearly headed Billericay in front from a throw when his backward header just cleared the upright, and then from another corner Swaine came close his header shaving the upright.
Blues had more than held their own in the opening period restricting their opponents ability to create chances from open play and it was Blues through Williams who had the last opportunity of the half when he saw his sweet strike deflected behind.
Blues enjoyed some early pressure without creating a clear cut opportunity and so it fell to the visitors to create a chance with another of their long throws resulting in a corner which the home defence managed to clear .
Taafe who was finding space out wide on Blues left flank made a quick break and with a clear sight of the Blues goal failed to capitalise when he shot tamely wide . Billericay looked to step up the pace and for a time Blues play became scrappy but they still stuck to their task and continued to make life difficult for their opponents.The industrious Baxter was nearly rewarded for his efforts when he unleashed a tremendous 25 yard drive which cannoned off the crossbar with Julian well beaten.
It was then Billericay’s turn to strike the woodwork from Cunnington’s header with the rebound deflected over by Willians – Agunbar. The visitors then played a dangerous free kick into the Grays box which eluded forwards and defenders alike and then at the other end Nathan Campbell came close nodding just wide from a Blues free kick.
The visitors thought they had strong claims for a penalty when Ellul went down in the area but there appeared to be little contact and the official waved play on.Ellul was involved again when his effort shaved the post .Billericay continued to probe for an opening but were coming up against a resilient Blues rearguard who kept their shape and worked tirelessly to keep their goal intact.The only real threat the visitors posed continued to be from set pieces particularly from long throws,a tactic which Blues also used through Ryan Mahal and Joe Payne who continues to impress at the age of just seventeen.
Blues were still looking threatening on the break, the pace of Bishop took him clear of a challenge and he played a sweet cross field pass to the advancing Baxter who just failed to make contact allowing Julian to gather under pressure.
With just two minutes of normal time remaining it looked liked the game was heading for stalemate but in a final drive forward Mahal picked up the ball and eluding two challenges fired in a crisp drive that was deflected behind.From the resultant corner Blues won a free kick just outside the visitors area after a Billericay hand made contact with the ball.The stage was set then for Osei who stepped up and curled the ball up and over the wall and past Julian’s despairing dive to send players and fans into joyous celebrations.
The result and performance mirrored to some extent the win at Bognor in January with a game plan adhered to coupled with a strong work ethic it sets them up nicely for another important game at Harrow next Saturday more of the same will be required in the quest to secure their Premier League status.