A marvellous game of football, veering to and fro all afternoon, swung decisively in Borough’s favour in the final quarter – but the foundations were laid even before kick-off. It came from two purposeful training sessions, a tactical plan which brilliantly used Bloor’s available players, and probably also a dash of injured pride and self-respect.
The freakish opening-day result, 0-5 at home to Hampton, was simply that. Bloor always knew, as did his players and staff, that they would quickly put it right. This was about togetherness, teamwork and tactics, reducing the Essex side to a shambles.
True, it took until 55 minutes to find the net – and only after going behind. But Billericay were fortunate to reach the interval all-square, as Borough carved out at least four cracking chances. And by the end of the game the Sports were scoring for fun.
Mitch Dickenson returned at centre-back, but with Jake Elliott and Dom Hutchinson on the injured list, the Gaffer tweaked his line-up cannily. A busy, effective Jack Currie kept his left-back slot. James Ferry, Mr Dependable, slotted into the back four, and there were full – and highly impressive – debuts for James Beresford and Charlie Towning. The latter looked cool and intelligent in midfield, while Beresford was a revelation: positioning, timing, tackling to perfection – and always with an eye for the creative pass rather than the safety-first clump.
Town had slightly the better of the opening minutes, with young Colchester loanee Harvey Sayer skipping through the left channels, and then almost reaching a dangerous cross from Joe Felix. But Chris Whelpdale was soon imposing himself with sublime control and expansive range of passes – setting first Joel Rollinson and then Greg Luer clear on dangerous runs.
A sweet one-two with Charlie Walker sent Rollinson through the centre, and his low angled shot beat former Sports keeper Bailey Vose but rebounded off the left post. Then Rollinson was again played in, this time on the right, but he opted to shoot high across the face of goal when a squared pass looked the better choice.
Borough were now queueing up for scoring chances. Luer slipped in from the left but centre-back Michael Chambers blocked his effort, and then from a corner Walker tried a classy overhead kick that scored high for artistic impression but didn’t trouble the scorers.
In response, Billericay had little to offer but toil and sweat. The tears would come later…. By the end of the afternoon they had chalked up a slightly disreputable seventeen fouls, mostly nagging rather than malicious. Ironically the first player in Mr Walchester’s book was Charlie Towning, for a milder offence than those.
The first half had been engaging and nicely open. The second would bring gripping action and a cascade of goals. All of us – even retired goalkeepers or would-be centre-halves – secretly want to see forwards on top, and defences breached at will. Billericay’s plush new 3G? For 45 minutes here, it could have been kids in the park with jumpers for goals.
Just 90 seconds after the break, towering defender Chambers met a corner to thump Town ahead – but eight minutes later at the other end, it was hero to villain: Chambers shoved Whelpdale in the back for the most obvious penalty of the season, and possibly the most idiotic. James Hammond coolly drilled the spot kick for 1-1.
The Sports now dominated, and were ahead on 69 minutes when Vose could only parry Luer’s curler and Rollinson clipped in the loose ball. Their lead, however, lasted just two minutes. Ricay got in behind the Eastbourne defence and the lively Norman Wabo popped in a shot off the post.
Settle for a point? Not likely. Bloor called up new fire-power from the bench in the shape of Leone Gravata, who looked to have restored the lead with a diving header from Rollinson’s wicked cross. But Vose dived low to claw the ball miraculously away. Do old men still remember Banks and Pele? Thanks, but a younger generation has Vose and Gravata!
But the Langney youngster was not long denied, and on 81 minutes he delightedly pinged Borough ahead with a stooping header from Hammond’s curling free-kick.
Still time for Town to rescue the game, and they nearly did so on 83 minutes. Young Colchester loanee Harvey Sayer, whose nippy runs had caught the eye, struck a fabulous drive which seemed certain, frame by frame, to be arching into the very top left corner. But the suspended animation froze in Borough’s favour and somehow the ball came back off the angle, and Anderson pulled off a splendid save to keep out Kurtis Cumberbatch’s follow-up. Phew.
That was Billericay’s last clear chance. On 86 minutes Hammond neatly recycled a corner from the left, and Josh Oyinsan – newly introduced off the bench – turned powerfully to strike Borough’s fourth.
Boring football teams would now kill the game, feign a couple of injuries and see the game out. Bloor doesn’t do boring. Urging his side on from the sideline, he clenched both fists in the air as young Leone, played in by the tireless Walker, squeezed along the touchline and clipped an inch-perfect ball for Oyinsan to meet with a net-bursting header.
What were we saying after that chaotic Hampton defeat? The season starts at Billericay? It has well and truly started now.
Borough (4-2-3-1): Anderson; Beresford, Ferry, Dickenson, Currie; Towning, Hammond; Rollinson, Whelpdale (Oyinsan 82), Luer; Walker (Gravata 77) Unused subs: Lambert, Perez, Shaw.
Referee: Callum Walchester – steered the play competently
Borough MoM: an immaculate debut for James Beresford