BILLERICAY Town gave the Ryman Premier League champions Wealdstone a guard of honour before their match – then proceeded to outline why they could be genuine contenders to follow them next season.
The Blues have had an inconsistent season back in the Ryman Premier following their relegation from the Conference South last season.
They would have liked to have been in the position their visitors to New Lodge found themselves in before the season kicked off.
But boss Craig Edwards has had to work hard to re-mould his team and it has turned out to be a year of transition more than anything else.
But there were signs against Wealdstone that Edwards has come up with a winning formula as the champions were put to the sword 4-2.
Yes, the visitors looked as though they had taken their foot off the gas a bit after being crowned champions last week, but Billericay certainly showed they have the spine of a very good team that will serve them well if they can keep it in place for next season.
Things didn’t start well for the hosts, however, as Wealdstone took the lead inside five minutes, Michael Martin taking advantage of a parting in the home defence to run through and slot past Billy Lumley.
Town had another setback in just the 12th minute when striker Cedric Ngakam limped off to be replaced by Ricky Sappleton.
It took a while for Billericay to get going and adjust after that double set back, though Glenn Poole’s free kicks were proving a constant threat.
At the other end, Wealdstone weren’t offering too much of a threat of their own however and as the half wore on, Blues gradually began to take over.
So it was no less than they deserved when, on the half hour mark, Poole swung in a delicious, in-swinging corner and skipper Richard Halle thumped a header into the net.
Richard Halle makes it 1-1
Halle nearly doubled the advantage when he got on the end of a cross from George Beavan from the other side but his volley was deflected and fell invitingly into the arms of Wealdstone keeper Jonathan North.
Town didn’t have to wait too much longer to take the lead though and once again it was Poole’s delivery from a corner that did all the damage.
In what was almost a carbon-copy of the first goal, the ball was swung in dangerously, but this time it was Halle’s centre back partner Ryan Scott who was the beneficiary – though he had to have two attempts to find the back of the net.
Scott’s first header came back off a Stones defender but the ball fell kindly back at his feet and he made no mistake from six yards.
Ryan Scott scores Billericay's second
Like in the opening half, Billericay fell asleep at the start of the second period and ex-Southend man Mark Bentley nearly made them pay when he strode through only to see his shot deflected wide.
Wealdstone’s brightness in attack meant Blues really needed a two-goal cushion and they got that in the 56th minute thanks to a wonderful goal from Calum Dunne.
Poole’s free kick was headed out of the box by Wealdstone but Dunne was there 25 yards out to take a touch, steady himself and then send the ball fizzing into the top corner.
Like all good champions, Wealdstone would not be beaten and they pulled a goal back with 20 minutes to go when Luke O’Nien’s great free kick from the edge of the box was superbly saved by Lumley. The ball fell to sub Georges Elliu, however, who forced it back across goal for Jonathan Wright to score.
It was all Wealdstone for the closing stages but Halle and Scott held firm to restrict them to half chances and the game was wrapped up late on by Isaac Layne who ran on to the ball played across the box and crashed a fierce right-footed drive into the top corner.