Canvey Island 0, Billericay Town 2
BILLERICAY took firm control of their title destiny with an excellent win at derby rivals Canvey.
Skipper Rob Swaine headed Town into an early lead before Glenn Poole got the goal his overall performance merited from the penalty spot.
It was disappointing from the Gulls, though, as they rarely threatened on a blustery day in front of a 506-strong crowd at Park Lane.
Third-placed Lowestoft were held to a draw at home to Tooting. And although second-placed Hornchurch beat Lewes 1-0 at home, they are still five points behind Town, albeit with two games in hand.
And with Billericay set to go to Hornchurch in early April, and host Lowestoft on the last day of the season, their title hopes are now very much in their own hands.
But Swaine said nobody at the club is getting too carried away.
He said: “There is a long way to go yet and everyone will drop points for sure.
“But the pleasing thing is that in the last two games we have been playing a lot better than we have been.
“We went to a Canvey side here who were playing really well, and we beat them, and quite comfortably really.
“The wind was really difficult to play in, but we stuck together as a back four and as a unit.
“And although we had to play a lot of long balls because of the conditions, Dave and Glenn got on the ball for us in midfield when they could and tried to play.
“And when it comes to the title it is nice that it is in our hands now, and we are confident that is we carry on playing like this we will win it.
“But like I said, I still expect teams to drop points, so that means we could lose a couple of games and still win it.”
With a swirling wind at their backs, Billericay took a third-minute lead when Dave Collis’ floated free-kick was powered home by Swaine for his 13th goal of the season.
That prompted a rousing rendition of “Blue Army” from the delighted travelling support, and there was little to dampen their mood for the rest of the game.
Swaine headed wide from another Collis free-kick, and Jay May went close to ending his goal drought when he volleyed just wide after the Gulls failed to deal with yet another Collis free-kick.
Canvey were almost gifted a way back into the game when Dale Brightly spilled Michael Alaile’s cross, but the former Concord Rangers keeper claimed at the second attempt.
There were yellows for James Hawes and Jason Hallett in a keenly-contested but hardly dirty game before Canvey finally carved out a clear-cut opportunity just before the interval as Steve Sheehan
glanced his header over the bar with just Brightly to beat from James Comley’s whipped delivery.
The Gulls went close again seconds after the restart when Hawes was caught napping by Hallett and his low cross was deflected just past his own post by Greg Oates.
And then came one of the misses of the season as Sam Berry’s through ball set up a race to the ball between Emeka Onwubiko and James Russell. The Canvey keeper got there first but his clearance was
charged down by Onwubiko, who then ran in and somehow skewed wide of an empty net from a slight angle.
Collis curled a direct 25-yard free-kick narrowly wide before his side doubled their advantage from the penalty spot. Left-back Ashley Dumas brought down Berry and Poole lashed the ball high into
the net, leaving Russell with no chance.
Bradley Woods-Garness — omitted from the Canvey starting line-up after a bout of flu — came off the bench against his former club and won a free-kick which he fired wide with seven minutes to go.
But Billericay’s impressive central defensive pairing of Swaine and Chris Wild were largely untroubled on a day which underlined a growing belief that this will finally be Town’s year.
Canvey (4-4-2): Russell 6; Alaile 6, Sheehan 6, Easterford 6, Dumas 5; Curran 6, King 6, Comley 7 (Game 46, 6), Rhodes 6 (Mason 68, 5); Heale 5, Hallett 5 (Woods-Garness 60, 6).
Billericay (4-4-2): Brightly 5; Oates 6, Swaine 8, Wild 7, Hawes 6; Berry 6, Poole 8 (Sobers 87, 6), Collis 8, Chatting 6 (Green 77, 6); May 6, White 5 (Onwubiko 56, 6).