Thamesmead Town 1-1 Billericay Town
This was a game I’d been looking forward to since hearing it would be on the Sunday.
Thanks to landlords Dartford FC having an F.A. Cup match against on Barking the previous day, I had a chance for some bonus F.A. Cup action.
Moneybags Billericay Town visiting Thamesmead Town was your proverbial ‘David v Goliath’ clash, even though Thamesmead were only a division below the visitors.
Since a blip on the first weekend of the season, Billericay Town have won six out of six, and stand three points clear, at the top of the Bostik Premier League.
Whatever you say about owner/manager Glenn Tamplin, their investments, and high wage bills, it seems to be working, at least in the short term.
They were ominous opposition for Mead, who were sitting in mid table of the Bostik South league, having been regionally shuffled from the North this season.
Both teams hadn’t conceded so far in the F.A. Cup.
Thamesmead had scored eight at East Preston, followed by another three at home to Lewes.
Billericay meanwhile, had put five past Didcot Town in their only game so far.
I went to Billericay twice last season. Once for a postponed game against Dulwich Hamlet, and then I returned to see them beat Leiston 2-0 in April.
By then, they had already signed Jamie O’Hara and ex Addick Paul Konchesky, who both played that day.
Having found some bargains in CEX on the way to Cheshunt FC the previous day, I thought id try my luck in the Dartford branch before the game.
Much to my amazement, I found and even better bargain than the day before.
The Depeche Mode singles box set, with 60 of the greatest band in the world’s music videos on DVD for only £4.50.
Naturally I now had an extra spring in my step as I headed to the ground.
This is Thamesmead’s first season at Princes Park, and I guessed the superior facilities would not be so intimidating for the ex pros in the Billericay side.
After wandering around the stadium, I ended up sitting directly behind the Billericay bench.
Having checked the teams, I noticed that Paul Konchesky was absent, and not even on the bench.
I was wondering if he had sneaked off to The Valley to play in the Charlton legends game taking place that afternoon.
Just then he wandered along the touch line and jumped into the next block of the stand along from me.
Jamie O’Hara was on the bench, but Billericay’s latest star signing, ex Liverpool winger, Jermaine Pennant was starting the game.
Billericay started the game at a high tempo, and it only took three minutes for Jake Robinson to fire them ahead with a great strike that went in off the under side of the bar.
Mead keeper Lewis Carey pulled off a great save from Louie Theophanous in the 10th minute.
A few minutes later Theophanous then rattled the bar.
Billericay were dominating, and it looked like this could soon turn into a rout, but in the 26th minute Tom O’Conner weaved his way into the Ricay box, and placed the ball into the bottom left corner of the net. 1-1
This seemed to give Mead more confidence, but Billericay were still surging forward.
Carey had to make good saves from Theophanous and Robinson in the next couple of minutes.
Shortly afterwards Carey saved yet again from Theophanous, followed by a shot wide from Jermaine Pennant.
The turning point of the game came in the 36th minute, when Billericay went down to 10 men.
Josh Urquhart was shown a straight red after a bit of a scuffle on the edge of the Mead box.
Thamesmead had a chance to take the lead before half time, but Paul Vines shot was saved by Ricay keeper Alan Julian.
The second half belonged to Thamesmead, who could easily have won the match. Having said that, so could Billericay.
Vines had a close header from a Mead cross, just after the break.
Jermaine Pennant’s free kick in the 53rd minute was deflected into the hands of Mead keeper Carey.
His counterpart at the other end then pulled off a brilliant double save to keep Ricay in the game.
Billericay did get the ball in the net from a Pennant free kick after an hour, but it was ruled as offside.
Paul Vines then had another two close headers, but failed to put Mead ahead.
Ricay dominated the final few minutes and Mead had keeper Carey to thank for winning them a money spinning replay.
It had been a cracking match, that no doubt was made more equal by it being 11 v 10 for most of the game.
Thamesmead will no doubt rue the chances to win this game, but for Billericay the bandwagon rolls on.
Andy Phillips again. Follow his exploits on Twitter!