Billericay Town scored twice in stoppage time to seal a dramatic Essex Andrews Under 14s Cup Final victory, as Great Wakering Rovers were defeated 4-2 at the Aspect Arena, home of Concord Rangers.
Town twice took a first-half lead through Tom Merritt and were pegged back both times before the break through Toby Linsell and Kieran Brown, before James Jenkins popped up twice late on to seal the win. “We felt it was going to be one of those days when it went against us,” reflected Billericay boss Mick Lowe after the game.
In exhausting conditions in the South Essex heat, he continued: “We had a lot of the play, a couple of offside goals and hit the bar twice, but just couldn’t score and just couldn’t finish them off. But, fair play to Great Wakering, they gave us a real good go and we’re just pleased we’ve come through.”
After twice hauling Billericay onto level terms, the side unbeaten throughout their Eastern Junior Alliance campaign were certainly pushed all the way by their divisional rivals. “We said to the boys at half time that they’ve come back twice and we need to get the next goal because they’re always dangerous,” said Mick, who was full of praise for side’s opposition.
“They were falling like flies and they’ve got a lot of injuries. But, fair play to them, they’ve come out and given us a real good game. They’re a good club. I like them, they’re good fellas and there was great spirit from the boys, but I’m just happy that we got through at the end.”
With the thermometer touching the mid-twenties, the conditions were energy-sapping. Mick explained that both sides adapted well to the extra challenge: “We definitely didn’t want extra time in this heat! It’s hotter than we expected it to be, but the pitch held up well and, if we’d’ve gone to extra time we’d’ve to gone extra time, but thank goodness we just got there!”
“We’ve done the double now. Now we’re looking to the Eastern Junior Alliance Play-Offs - we’ve got those as well. That’ll be a real test as they’ve got some good sides in the other divisions, the likes of Stotfold, Ware, Sudbury, so it’ll be a good play-off. We won it last year and we want to go and do it again. We’ve had five trophies in two years, so credit to the boys. It’d be nice to return here next season. It’s been a fantastic day.”
Town made a perfect start, and led on 7 minutes. Harvey Samon saw two shots blocked and the resulting Charlie Sayers corner was nodded in by Merritt. He nearly added a second when his dipping volley cannoned off the bar but, on 17 minutes, Wakering levelled. The ball bounced around the penalty area and eventually dropped to Linsell, who pounced at the far post.
But Billericay’s response was swift as they went ahead again just three minutes later when a short corner was whipped in for Merritt to head in his second from close range. Another chance for Billericay then saw Jenkins’ shot blocked by goalkeeper William O’Connell before Jenkins fired the rebound high. Three minutes into first-half added time, Rovers levelled again. Brown rifled a low, angled shot into the bottom left-corner from 30 yards.
Great Wakering’s Alfie Grove made a great last-ditch tackle to deny Billericay’s Ryan Lowe early in the second half and Merritt hit the crossbar again with a header from a corner after Lowe and Kenny Coker had seen shots blocked. Coker then watched his lobbed effort drop just inches wide of the far post before the late excitement saw Billericay snatch the game.
They edged ahead four minutes into added time as Jenkins arrowed home an angled finish and they sealed the win three minutes later with the last action. This time Lowe’s cross along the ground was converted by Jenkins.
Billericay Town: Joshua Woodrow, Will Osborne, Charlie Sayers, Tom Merritt, James Tungatt, James Jenkins, Kenny Coker, Ryan Lowe, Charlie Sullivan, Harvey Samon, Jamie Sullivan. Substitutes (repeated): Ben Crocker, Bradley Gray.
Great Wakering Rovers: William O’Connell, Kieran Brown, Ronnie Tandy, Dillon White, Kai Cody, Owen Barratt, Jonny Rouse, Callum Keane, Toby Linsell, Connor Smith, Harrison Taylor. Substitutes (repeated): Alfie Grove, Joe Snarey, Josh Firth.
Referee: Ryan Whitehead (Epping Forest).
Assistant Referees: Adam Palmer (Chelmsford) and Andrew Palmer (Chelmsford).
Fourth Official: John Whitehead (Epping Forest).