Click here to see the Paul Baxter Photography images from the match.
Dylan Gavin’s sensational 31st-minute strike secured a BBC Essex Senior Cup Final victory for Jody Brown’s Billericay Town against Bowers & Pitsea in front of 1,555 spectators at Colchester United FC’s JobServe Community Stadium.
The former Republic of Ireland Under 16s striker netted from 30 yards to register the only goal of a contest his side bossed, although a late scare threatened to take the game straight to penalties. However, Brown was very proud of his team’s performance, as part of a bigger picture for the future: “They’re the things you want as a manager.”
“You’re not out there playing the games but you’re preparing, you’re working hard and probably the most pleasing thing is seeing the players happy and also, on the night, so many young supporters there. Lots of the Billericay Colts teams were there and those sorts of nights can inspire everyone. It can inspire the next generation. I hope we played a part in that.”
Billericay crafted the first opportunity of the match when Gavin fired over the crossbar from a good position on 7 minutes. Next up, attacking midfielder Jack Munns controlled a 16th-minute pass well outside the box on the right but he didn’t connect so well with shot, which flew wide. Two minutes later, Michael Chambers somehow glanced a free header off-target from a few yards.
It was Town who enjoyed much of the attacking possession, and they went close once more in the 23rd minute courtesy of former Kenya Under 23s midfielder Henry Ochieng. His rasping left-footer from edge of area was pushed away by diving ex-Chelsea Academy goalkeeper Mitchell Beeney, who then had to get back up to thwart the rebound.
Just after the mid-way point of the half, a mix-up between defender and goalkeeper from Bowers enabled striker Niko Muir to find himself clean through with an open goal, but a recovery block from the defender’s foot prevented a shot on target, and the ball was cleared to safety. From the corner, ‘keeper Beeney had to tip a header over the bar.
It would have been a sucker punch had Bowers netted at this point, though they almost did. On 28 minutes, a bouncing ball wasn’t cleared properly by Billericay and Quentin Monville, playing against his old club, waited for it to drop, but his shot across the face of goal flew wide.
As the half-hour mark approached it had been Town with the lion's share of the chances, and some presentable openings, too, but they needed to convert one as Bowers had held on until that point. So, it was crucial when Billericay broke the deadlock in the 31st minute.
Munns knocked an aerial ball on with his head and Gavin, from an ambitious distance, tried his luck with an impressive effort which deceived goalkeeper Beeney and dipped under the crossbar. It was a spectacular, long-range strike which earned his team a deserved lead at the interval.
Brown praised the 19-year-old Charlton Athletic loanee, claiming: “Dylan’s goal was exceptional, and fitting for the final. He’s a very good first-time finisher, so most of his goals are first-time strikes. He’s an instinctive finisher, he takes a lot of things early and he’s got that in the locker, so I wasn’t overly surprised to see it go in. Every football fan that sees it will know it’s a special strike.”
Opportunities dried-up after half time, though the action was still competitive. Seven minutes passed before a Muir cut-back fed a well-positioned Gavin, who hacked over from close range. Aside from this, it wasn’t until five minutes from time that Munns placed a left-wing cross onto Gavin’s head. He’d already started celebrating, but Beeney pushed his effort onto the post and away.
There was a considerable amount of injury time, and both sides could have scored. Substitute and Guyana international Anthony Jeffrey shot across the goalmouth on two separate occasions without success, though there was drama at the other end eight minutes into stoppage time.
With the last touch of the game, three-time Senior Cup winner and Bowers Captain, James White, headed at goal from a right-wing delivery but Oualah pounced and landed on the ball just the right side of the goal line as Referee, Robert Whitton, blew the full time whistle.
Brown and his team enjoyed the celebrations at full time, explaining: “We’re delighted to have done it and, of course, everyone who’s played in a Senior Cup Final and has seen the trophy knows what a beautiful trophy it is, and it would look nice in any club cabinet.”
Billericay Town: Zaki Oualah, Aaron Ekumah (Marvel Ekpiteta, 12), Michael Chambers (C), Henry Ochieng, Jack Munns (Anthony Jeffrey, 90), Kreshnic Krasniqi, Greg Halford, Niko Muir (Tariq Hinds, 77), Bagasan Graham, Dylan Gavin, Josh Wright. Unused Substitutes: Anderson Pinto, Toby Stevenson.
Bowers & Pitsea: Mitchell Beeney, Ben Steward, Max Cornhill, Quentin Monville, Danny Norton, Lewis Manor (Pedro Silva Barbosa Bento De Carvalho, 67), Joshua Rusoke (Tobias Braney, 90+2), Vanadiny Junior Mendes, George Wind (Mitchell Gilbey, 88), Michael Ademiluyi, James White (C). Unused Substitutes: Arron Benstead, Terlochan Singh.
Referee: Robert Whitton.
Assistant Referees: Peter Wilson and Michael Scott.
Fourth Official: Aaron Farmer.