RYMAN PREMIER DIVISION
BILLERICAY TOWN – 2 [Opara 44. Moore 76]
SUTTON UNITED – 1 [Haworth 89]
Engaged in a pre-season conversation with a supporter of another fine Ryman Premier division team, I was asked the obvious question “How d’you reckon the U’s will do this year?”.
“Well” I answered honestly “after last year, I can’t see us challenging for much. Top ten? Maybe top 6 at best.”
“But….” I added “…if we have a shit start, say no wins in the first 5 or 6 games, don’t be surprised to see a certain gentleman out on his ear” Now you all know what I’m talking about. And yes, I do consider 1 point from the opening 4 games a “Shit start”.
Bob and I made the long trip to Billericay without Chalmers. (Skint/couldn’t be arsed. Delete as applicable!) and perennial early season man, Belly, who was no doubt in an alcoholic coma at home too pissed to have listened to the meet details we left on his answer machine the previous day. Oh well.
A quick pre-train pint at Liverpool Street is required to calm the nerves. ‘Ricay have a 100% record going into the game (compared to our own record of approximately 17%) and they have forwards who are most definitely in form. KK Opara (on loan from Orient) has 4 goals already, more than our entire bloody team. And Joe ‘He wasn’t good enough for us, honest….’ Baker is apparently back from suspension today. Marvellous. Full blown rampage anyone??
Strangely, confidence isn’t high when we board our train.
A short stagger up Billericay High Street from the station is the town’s addition to the Wetherspoons chain. Then pints in hand, we park ourselves out the back in the sun an observe the local….ahem…wildlife.
It’s no good. It can’t be put off any longer, Beers finished, we amble off to New Lodge for the game.The side is the same as Saturday, except Timothy returns to his right sided berth in place of Drewett.Strangely JR is also still perservering with Chuck in goal. We quitely hope he’s had lots of catching practice.
The home side make all the running in the opening few minutes, with Simba and Opara looking very sharp in particular. But despite a couple of worrying moments Chuck remains unbeaten. Eventually we settle and start trying to play a bit. Jon Palmer starts to find a bit of room down the left flank, but keeps cutting inside the defender rather than take him on, which means he’s onto his weaker right foot. Not too many crosses come the way of our forwards. Oh for an Nko!
Our best move of the half involves Palmer and Timothy down the right. The ball is worked across the box where Paul Honey crashes a curling drive just a fraction wide of the far uprigtht. Jon Palmer has a similar opportunity son after, cutting inside the defender once more, he fires in a shot from the edge of the box which looks destined for the far corner until it cannons off the back of Akaumoah who’s desperately trying to avoid his team-mates strike.
Billericay continue to threaten at the other end meanwhile with Simba showing his class and Opara displaying some lovely touches. It’s these two who combine to almost give the home side the lead. Some trickery down our right by the ‘ricay No11 and a low ball finds Simba at the near post. His first time shot is blocked at point blank range by Martini, who then flings himself to his left to keep out Opara’s follow up. He might be a bit pony in the air our Chuck, but he ain’t a half bad shot stopper!
Corbett replies for Sutton with a storming run from box to box, but his shot is right into the midriff of King in the ‘ricay goal. Palmer and Timothy then have weak on target efforts dealt with easily. The second of these is soon up the other end as Opara is found in acres of space behind Arkwright. He pulls away from the big defender draws Martini and clips a chot into the bottom far corner. Bollocks. Right on half time AGAIN as well. I s’pose we’re nothing if not completely fucking predictable!
The U’s hit back almost immediately and very nearly level the scores. A cross from the right is nodded back across goal by Jon Palmer and Matt Fowler acrobatically overhead kicks goalwards from 6 yards, but King dives full stretch to his right and palms the ball away for a corner. The resulting kick picks out the towering figure of Michael Mison, but his bullet header shaves the top of the crossbar.
As we wander round to the other end for the second half, Bob encounters one of the U’s top ‘suits’.
“Alright” he enquires. Bob smiles sweetly & resists the tempatation to tell him “No I’m not fucking alright”. Ever the diplomat that man!
The second half is less enthralling for a Sutton point of view. The U’s are unable to get to grips with proceedings like the first half and struggle to create any serious problems for the home team. An apparently injured Matt Fowler is replaced by Rob Haworth.
The U’s struggle on, but without looking like levelling affairs. The matter is closed with just under 20 minutes to play. Joe Baker finds Chris Moore out on the right flank. Moore cuts in and with the U’s defence shying away from making a challenge he hits a low drive from the left hand corner of the box. With Martini unsighted and the slightest hint of a deflection ‘Ricay lead 2-0 and the fat bird starts her karaoke routine.
With the second goal, any coherence the U’s had fails completely with only Martini and Opara’s wastefulness keeping the score down as Billericay start to carve through our back line at will. The home teams best chance of extending their lead falls to the impressive Opara. Another through ball sends him clear and with Ryan Palmer trailing, Martini can only stand and watch as the forward’s powerful first time effort belts his crossbar and flies to safety.
Sutton then give us a slight glimmer of hope right on time, winning a free-kick about 25 yards out from the ‘Ricay goal. Corbett delivers but the ball is cleared, but only as far as Mison who nods it back over the outgoing defenders. Rob Haworth peels off, latches onto the ball and fires past King to make it 2-1.
The home team then waste as much time as possible in the corners, before one last chance for the U’s. Another free-kick is won again 20-odd yards out. Bob and I discuss going over the fence if this one somehow miraculously pulls a draw out of the bag, but we needn’t have bothered as Corbett fails to get any depth on the kick and it’s easily cleared. Moments later and our 3rd defeat in 4 games is confirmed.
We wander out of the ground, Bob wanting the earlier mentioned suit to ask him if he was alright now. Sadly the opportunity never arises.
A couple of concilliatory pints later and it’s back to Liverpool Street and one for the road. It’s just me next week. Bob’s on holiday and Chalmers will be on an England-Germany all dayer. Ho hum.
Questions now need to be seriously asked. 1 point from 12 is not what I’d call a ‘promising’ start. The only consolation about this latest failure is Billericay actually looked a decent side. Playing quick and attractive attacking football for most of th 90 minutes. And their fans aren’t a bad bunch either.
Sadly, we still look like we’re a bit unsure of how or who to play and where. Which is a bit arse really.
MAN OF THE MATCH : Paul Honey. Worked his arse of in the middle of the park.
ENTERTAINMENT : 6. A decent game of footy, even if we weren’t great.
TEAM : Martini, Arkwright, R Palmer, Timothy, Mison, Corbett, Honey, Boothe, J Palmer, Fowler, Akumoah SUBS : Taylor, Drewett