A performance full of character and commitment earned the Peacocks a deserved second bite of the cherry against the National League South table toppers. Town showed what they were made of by hitting back twice to equalise after falling behind and had Matt Wright’s penalty gone in during the second half rather than hit the bar the outcome may have been even better. As it was, the dismissal of Andrew Neal with 15 minutes remaining changed the complexion of the latter stages and Town were forced to withstand a Billericay barrage as the Essex side pressed for a winner.
The weather could not have been better for the first ever meeting between the sides, glorious warm sunshine greeting the players as they entered the pitch at the impressive AGP Arena. Backed by a fantastic travelling support, the Peacocks were missing the suspended pair of Ryan Brett and Pierce Mitchell, resulting in Shane White switching to the right and Nuno Felix returning on the left side while Brett Trowbridge continued to assume the centre midfield role. Billericay meanwhile fielded three debutants including recent signing from Sutton United Ross Lafayette and two loan players from Nottingham Forest.
With the resources at their disposal it soon became evident that the tie would be the biggest challenge of the season for Town with the hosts looking very assured on the ball. Lafayette’s early header proved easy pickings for Lloyd Irish with the Peacocks’ first opening coming when Neal’s header from White’s cross deflected for a corner.
It was the Essex side though which began to boss possession, using the flanks to good effect. However Town dealt well with any crosses until a Jake Howells corner reached Lafayette at the far post where he directed his header wide. Irish was then off his line quickly to smother after Lafayette advanced into the box. The opening goal the hosts had threatened came after 17 minutes when Joe Kizzi’s long ball down the right found Lafayette who chested down and played a pass between two defenders to pick out Moses Emmanuel. With the Town backline momentarily seeming to hesitate and appeal for offside which wasn’t given, Emmanuel tucked the ball past the exposed Irish from six yards.
Another neat move saw Sam Deering feed Kizzi whose cross deflected to Irish before the Peacocks silenced the home crowd by levelling after 21 minutes. White threaded a pass to Neal down the right side and after taking a touch he fired a great finish across Alan Julian from the corner of the box to send the Town fans into raptures.
Both keepers then made important contributions to keep the scoreline intact. Town failed to clear their lines, allowing Deering to launch a swerving strike which Irish punched one-handed over his bar before Keith Emmerson won a tackle on the edge of his area, his long ball reaching Wright and after an exchange of passes with Neal, the Town captain was denied by the legs of Julian as he drove in an effort from wide on the right.
With Town looking to keep the equilibrium until the interval, they were undone after 39 minutes. Deering picked out Emmanuel who played a fine one-two with Lafayette before just managing to poke the ball over the oncoming Irish to restore Billericay’s lead. The Peacocks showed their true feathers by responding straight away. Ben Adelsbury made progress down the right, an interchange of passes with White seeing him reach the byeline where he lobbed over Joseph Coveney to cross low into the six yard box where Matt Buse was waiting to steer past Julian and cue more wild celebrations on the terraces.
Buoyed by their rapid recovery, Town made a bright start to the second half, with Wright flicking on White’s throw but just too far ahead of the incoming Buse and Neal cutting out Shokunbi’s square pass but the momentum carrying the ball to the Blues keeper. The home side were soon back into their stride though when Emmanuel turned to fire over the top from Howells’ cross and Lafayette’s shot deflected to Irish. Billericay brought on former Tottenham man Jamie O’Hara eleven minutes in to boost their midfield before Town made their only substitution of the game five minutes later when Dan Sullivan replaced Trowbridge.
The Peacocks were now beginning to gain impetus and look the more dangerous side. Two quickfire penalty appeals for handball and holding were both ignored but it was third time lucky when Lafayette handled the ball after getting in front of Wright. The Town skipper stepped up to take the penalty and although it was struck well it crashed off the underside of the crossbar and was booted clear.
Emmerson’s raking pass was just too far in front of the stretching Neal as Town continued to press while O’Hara picked up a clearance to send a 30 yard strike just wide. Peacock hopes were then dealt a severe blow with 15 minutes remaining when Neal lunged to try and stop Dean Inman’s clearance from the edge of the six yard box. The intent was to block the ball but his momentum caught the home defender and referee Miles, despite being some distance from the incident, was quick to show the red card.
Reduced to ten men, Town found themselves under bombardment for the final part of the game, with Wright their sole outlet up front. Lafayette planted a free header wide from a Howells centre and Irish dived to claim Alfie Potter’s cross at full stretch. Potter then made space before driving an angled shot over the bar and Kizzi put his header wide of the mark from another Howells’ cross to the far post while Lafayette rifled the ball across the face of goal after latching onto Deering’s deft pass.
The best opportunity for the hosts came in stoppage time when Howells drilled the ball across from the left, Ricky Modeste knocked down and Emmanuel blazed over the target from seven yards. The gutsy Peacocks held on though, receiving a rapturous ovation from the fans and now looking to add another big name to the casualty list at the Viridor Stadium in four days time.
Match: Billericay Town v Taunton Town
Date: October 20, 2018
Competition: Emirates FA Cup | Fourth Round Qualifying
Venue: AGP Arena
Kick Off: 3.00pm
Billericay: Alan Julian, Joe Kizzi, Jake Howells, Scott Doe, Ethan Stewart (Dean Inman 70), Sam Deering (captain), Alfie Potter, Joseph Coveney (Jamie O’Hara 56), Moses Emmanuel, Ross Lafayette, Ademola Shokunbi (Ricky Modeste 68). Unused subs: Louis Wells, Adam Cunnington, Danny Waldren, Calaum Jahraldo-Martin
Taunton: Lloyd Irish, Shane White, Nuno Felix, Ben Adelsbury, Keith Emmerson, Matt Buse, Ollie Chamberlain, Brett Trowbridge (Dan Sullivan 61), Matt Wright (captain), Josh Nelmes, Andrew Neal. Unused subs: Craig Veal, Douglas Camilo, Harry Gardner, Matt Villis.
Referee: Jacob Miles (Peacehaven)
Referee’s Assistant 1: Alex Bradley (Brighton)
Referee’s Assistant 2: Jack Oxenham (Egham)
Fourth Official: Graham Swanton (Sawbridgeworth)