Billingham Town FC
On Thursday night, Town begin a triple header on the road against Easington followed by Brandon United on the Saturday and then a trip up to Chester-Le-Street on Tuesday night. For now, we will focus only on the first two fixtures.
Although promotion was still a mathematical possibility a few weeks back, Town now face the mammoth task of having to win all ten remaining games to stand any chance of qualifying for next season’s FA Cup. The qualifying points target is around the seventy five to seventy eight marker but manager James Hunter will have other things on his mind as he attempts to galvanise his squad after two bitterly disappointing results in a row. Last Saturday, Town scored what was perceived to be the winning goal, five minutes from time against Darlington R.A and yet somehow, struck the self destruct button to end up losing the game. Hunter had previously indicated that the squad wasn’t good enough to go through the motions and expect to win games. Without doubt, Hunter expects a positive reaction from his squad, starting with a win at Easington.
JAMA ON EASINGTON:
So Thursday we take on Easington, which can’t come quick enough in my eyes as we need to get back on the pitch and put in some hard graft. I’ll hold my hands up and maybe over the last couple of weeks I have been too easy on the lads but I can guarantee that that won’t happen again. What the fans have payed to support the last 2 games is ridiculous and shouldn’t be allowed to be associated with the Billingham town badge. We have trained Tuesday night and put some good quality football and hard work into it and the lads are raring to go on Thursday. The players need to start taking some pride in themselves and the strip when they step over the white line, they know that now and need to show up ready for a battle against Easington.
Meanwhile, Harry Taylor will give his thoughts on Saturdays game against Brandon United later on in the week with updated team news to follow.
Hunter has brought in a new face this week and goes straight into the squad. Mark Ward is a no nonsense central midfielder who has predominantly played in the Teesside League. Ward has been plying his trade at Grangetown Boys club, a move which followed a similar pattern to that of Danny Maloney and Jack Connor in the past. Town still have fitness doubts over Mark Dixon and Jason Blackburn. And Reece Kenney & Joe Kerridge are set to face their former club (Check out the Bugle for a recent interview). Elliott Beddow trained on Tuesday night, and his work commitments have come to an end, enabling him to join up with the squad. Kris Summers made a welcome return to the bench last weekend and is close to a return to action.
This preview is part of a triple header of articles involving Town and Easington. Along with the above mentioned interview, we look back at couple of tough weeks on the pitch but remain stoical in support of the management staff.
Last weekend, Town turned victory into defeat in the closing stages and the denouement of this match, had similarities to Saturdays loss against Darlington R.A. As the game entered the final ten minutes of an uneventful nights entertainment, Town appeared to be finishing the stronger of the two sides. And Easington have keeper Kyle Donaldson to thank, making two excellent saves, particularly the first one as he somehow got a hand on Ashley Lavan’s goal-bound strike. Donaldson, has previous - impressing in past encounters and he followed that majestic save to deny Jack Connor with a low dive to his right, leaving Connor crestfallen. Almost immediately, Easington went down the other end, punishing Town for not clearing their lines as Jack Pounder finished from close range. It was harsh on Town, who deserved at least a point for their endeavours, showing plenty of grit and determination although they lacked a creative spark. Manager James Hunter made several changes to the line-up, handing debuts to Jamie Bellamy and Mark Ward and there was a pleasant surprise to see Jack Connor and Elliott Beddow back in the fold after previous unavailability due to work commitments. You know your lucks not going to be in your favour when the goalpost keeps out a fierce drive from Lavan after only ten seconds of action! On this occasion, Donaldson was left stranded and probably didn’t even see the ball, such was the power of the strike! Easington soon took command after that early scare but Town were well organised, marshalled by Kris Summers who was another player making a welcome return to the side in Stephen Oakley’s absence. The home side’s best effort in the opening twenty five minutes came via a breakaway that ended in Wood shooting straight at Liam Gibbs. Opportunities continued to be at a premium - for Town, Lavan evaded five green shirts inside the box but dragged his shot wide and just before halftime, Easington’s O’Brien blazed over from the edge of the box.
HT EASINGTON COLLIERY 0 BILLINGHAM TOWN 0
Considering the abysmal weather of late, the ground staff had done an excellent job on the playing surface and the quality of the football in the second half was in juxtaposition with that of the pitch. Town had several half chances early on - Beddow hooked across goal and Lavan had two efforts within a minute, heading wide and shooting into the side netting from a narrow angle. Easington regained the initiative with Pounder’s strike rising over the crossbar and quickly followed by Green firing wide from eight yards. The match seemed to be heading for a goalless draw until the final ten minutes. With the Spring weather on the horizon, the game came to life. Donaldson denied Lavan and substitute Joe Kerridge, who made an impact on introduction was unfortunate to see his angled drive swerve away from Donaldson’s right hand post. And is often the case when chances go a begging, the opposition took full advantage and and all three points. Town had the opportunity to clear their lines but when Easington regained possession in a dangerous area, Adamson found his way into the box, pulled the ball back for POUNDER who made up for his earlier miss with a close range finish. However, Town didn’t down tools with minutes remaining; further good work from Kerridge allowed Lavan to get a shot away but ended a frustrating night without a goal. And it was Donaldson who had the final say, keeping out Connor’s strike from the edge of the box. To add insult to injury, we had some minor difficulty leaving the car park due to a personal works van.... yes you guessed it... belonged to Kyle Donaldson. It appears the man has many skills!
FT EASINGTON COLLIERY 1 BILLINGHAM TOWN 0
Saturday 23rd February
Tow Law Town
Ebac Northern League