Billingham Town FC
Town complete their third fixture on the road, within six days on Tuesday night. After picking up one point in the previous two fixtures, Town now face Chester-Le-Street Town, a side who aren’t afraid to use route one tactics and it worked superbly for them during 2015/16 season, gaining promotion in the process. After one season in division one, The Caestrians have found life difficult back in division two but another tough encounter is expected as Town look to maintain a top-half finish in the table with teams around them having games in hand. Hopefully, the spring temperatures continue and surprisingly, the pitches at Easington and Brandon were in good condition so fingers crossed for the same on Tuesday night although heavy rain is expected on the day.
Manager James Hunter remains positive despite Town’s loss of form and had this to say in the build up to the game:
JAMA ON CHESTER:
Chester-Le-Street will be tough and everybody knows what they’re all about and how they’ll play as it works for them so often. It’s never an easy game against them and they will prove to be very physically demanding as well as breaking up any rhythm in a stop start scenario. At the moment, we’re in a rut and the lads know that; now is when you will see which lads will want to play and fight for the club and be successful again. We had glimpses of it against Brandon for periods of time but not enough of it to win a game. If we are to win on Tuesday night, we will need to be at the races from the opening whistle to the last. I will do my upmost to get the three points, something the fans and the club deserve after all the hard work going on behind the scenes. We want to get back on track more than ever and will continue to do so until we achieve our objectives.
Lee Moore and Jack Connor, absent from the draw at Brandon will also be unavailable for selection on Tuesday night. Jason Blackburn managed forty five minutes on Saturday but suffered a repercussion of his ham-string strain and Brandon Kirkbride is also ruled out due to injury. Elliott Beddow, who scored at the weekend, coming off the bench could start upfront in Blackburn’s absence and Mark Ward returns to the squad. Gary Redman will play left back with the possibility of Jake Fenton, Clayton Macdonald or Jamie Bellamy filling in for the vacant right back slot. Meanwhile, Ashley Lavan is two strikes shy of reaching the twenty goal mark.
How to avoid the inevitable cliche? I will try, but it’s going to be an ineffable task! Last night has to be right up there, with one of the most perplexing games I have ever witnessed. Town’s total domination of the first half was in total contrast to the second; the home side the beneficiary of some inconsistent refereeing decisions. While 2-0 ahead, and seemingly coasting to victory, Town were on the end of some rough justice. Reece Kenney, who was running the midfield got taken out by Mark Peck’s potential leg breaker but incredibly, referee Mr S.Birkett , only issued a yellow card. And when Clayton Macdonald saw a second yellow and then red during the second half, that earlier decision, had clearly left the Town travelling contingent in a fit of pique. To make matters worse, Peck would go on to score the equaliser but Billingham can at least take some comfort in that Chester’s third goal was ruled out for a foul on Lewis Shaw who performed heroics in goal. The opening forty-five minutes was exquisite stuff from Town, belying their erratic nature of late. In fact, Town had too many chances to note down and if they had scored a third goal then one would expect the game to have been over as a contest. Alas, everything that could go wrong in the second half - did go wrong but at least Town didn’t cave in after conceding several late goals in recent games. The point sees Town drop a place into seventh position with only one win in their last seven fixtures. Billingham took the lead with the first notable chance when Joe KERRIDGE cut inside from the right and struck a low shot with his sweet left foot, beating Jack Wilson with ease. Town were playing neat, possession based football, the only blemish being McDonald’s yellow card for a high challenge on Andrew Clarkson. It took the Moor’s half an hour to make any real impact, their best chance coming from Sam Moore who shot over while under pressure from Kris Summers. Town extended their lead three minutes later, the goal coming from persistence and precision; Ashley Lavan managed to get his cross into the box at the third time of asking but the home defence could only head the ball out to Elliott BEDDOW who was lurking outside the box in anticipation. The youngster chested the ball down to waist height and volleyed into the top corner - a strike that would grace any stadium. Gary Redman saw his low shot cannon off Wilson’s legs and Stephen Oakley’s free header glanced wide from the resulting corner. And then Kenney went down via a double axel from Peck’s impetuous challenge - only seeing yellow in the process. Further impressive moves from Town resulted in Macdonald side footing wide and Redman saw his pile-driver drift away from goal.
HT CHESTER LE STREET TOWN 0 BILLINGHAM TOWN 2
Unsurprisingly, Chester started to play to their strengths in the second half, showing more intensity and changing tactics. The Moor’s were getting a foothold in midfield and Clarkson thought he had pulled one goal back but Shaw, seeing the ball late, managed to fingertip it onto the post. It was a lucky escape, however, CLARKSON did score a minute later, heading home Aaron Reynolds cross from close range. Town needed to maintain a disciplined shape but that plan was scuppered when Macdonald received a second yellow, followed by red for an innocuous challenge. With Macdonald down the tunnel, there was some karma when Shaw superbly pushed away Peck’s speculative effort from thirty yards. That karma didn’t last long as PECK equalised with a free header, two minutes later. Beddow, Lavan, Luke Hogan and substitute Glen Hargrave were doing their utmost in keeping possession inside the opponents half without troubling the Moor’s defence. And the home side thought they had won the game, seven minutes from time with another header although Kevin Dixon’s goal was chalked off for a foul on Shaw. Billingham managed to see out the remaining minutes plus extended added on time to take a well earned point. It was most certainly a game of two halves!!!!! There....I failed!!
Saturday 7th July