Thamesmead Town 1-1 Billericay Town - I think it's a fantastic day for the club, says proud Thamesmead Town boss Tommy Warrilow

Sunday 17th September 2017
Thamesmead Town 1 – 1 Billericay Town
Location Princes Park Stadium, Grassbanks, Darenth Road, Dartford, Kent DA1 1RT
Kickoff 17/09/2017 14:00

The Emirates FA Cup Second Qualifying Round

Sunday 17th September 2017
Stephen McCartney reports from Princes Park Stadium

THAMESMEAD TOWN boss Tommy Warrilow says he is proud of his players after giving big-spending Billericay Town a massive scare in The FA Cup – but admitted to feeling devastated that his side didn’t win the game after missing some glorious second half chances against ten-men.

Glenn Tamplin’s men arrived in Dartford having stormed to the top of the Bostik Premier with 18 points from seven games and they thrashed Didcot Town 5-0 at home in The FA Cup First Qualifying Round. 

After losing 1-0 at home to Kingstonian on the opening day of the season, they arrived here on a seven match winning run, scoring 26 goals and conceding four and keeping four clean sheets in a row.

But there is only so much you can do to scream out a pre-written script inside the dressing room before a game and have a sing-sing to pump up your highly-paid players and hope they produced the goods.

Thamesmead Town, without a home ground and with only 17 players on their books, played with heart and desire for 90 minutes and you can’t buy that and they missed some glorious second half chances to produce the biggest FA Cup giantkilling act of the season.

You feared the worst when Billericay Town striker Jake Robinson produced a quality dipping strike to give the Essex side the lead inside the opening four minutes.

But Thamesmead keeper Lewis Carey was immense and produced a long string of saves to give his team-mates a chance.

Thamesmead Town equalised in the 25th minute through a fine low strike from central midfielder Tom O’Connor – before Billericay were reduced to ten-men when central defender Josh Urquhart was sent-off for kicking out at Leon Smith nine minutes before half-time.

But the crowd of 433 inside Princes Park Stadium - Thamesmead Town's largest crowd as an Isthmian League club - looked in in disbelief as Mead striker Paul Vines missed three glorious headed chances in the second half.

“I’ve got a minimum 16 players today available but they are good players and if you go round in awe of people you shouldn’t be playing football,” said Warrilow, whose side are in fourteenth-place in Bostik South with 8 points from five games.

“They flew out of the blocks, that’s what we’ve been doing lately.  I said to the lads we’ve got to accept that we’re playing a very, very, very good team here.  When the game went on we grew into it and even in the first half I thought we had some good chances aerially and we got into good areas.

“Lewis (Carey) has kept us in it with some good saves as well but second half, I mean you’ve seen it yourself, we should’ve been out of sight!  We’ve created enough chances.  I don’t know how we’ve missed some of them, but we have!

“I just didn’t want the last free-kick to go in because the minimum we deserved today was a draw and I said to the lads you’ve got to do that again on Tuesday night and you’ve got to be mentally strong.

“They’ll be wounded a little bit from that but like I said before the game I totally respect and like everything that’s gone on at Billericay but I thought my team today, I thought we were the better team!

“I’m proud as punch.  I’m obviously gutted that we haven’t finished the game today and won it with the chances we created second half.”

Jermaine Pennant failed to impress for Billericay and just took their set-pieces.  He swung in the ball from the left channel and Carey caught the ball as Rob Swaine cut across his line of vision and stuck out his right leg at the near post.

But Billericay Town opened the scoring when Robinson cut in from the left flank, cut inside and cracked a beautiful drive from 25-yards, which swerved off his right-boot, appeared to be sailing over the crossbar, dipped over Carey’s head at the last second and kissed the underside of the bar before dropping down and in.

“They came off us, cut inside, he went past three players. It was spinning all over the place, it was a good finish and that’s what he can do, the lad,” said Warrilow.

“We did start on the back foot but they are a very good team.  I’ve been saying all week how good they are but I know my team are good. Unfortunately we switched off and got punished, that’s what will happen.”

Everyone expected the floodgates to open at that point but contracted goalkeeper Carey produced an excellent performance.

Kevin Foley, who played on the left of a three-man defence, alongside Swaine and Urquhart, threw the ball to Louie Theophanous, who cut onto his right-foot to power his low drive into Carey’s hands from 25-yards.

Holding midfielder Danny Waldren played the ball up to Robinson, who cushioned his header back to Sam Deering, the former Ebbsfleet United man took a touch and screamed his left-footed drive just past the post from 30-yards.

Thamesmead Town weathered that storm and created a decent chance to level after 11 minutes.

Right-back Harvey Brand was given space to whip in a cross towards the penalty spot and Alex Teniola’s glancing header was caught by former Bromley keeper Alan Julian, who was wearing matching blue and white gloves and boots.

Robbie Evans spread the play from right-to-left to winger Ricky Modeste, who raced towards the by-line, cut into the box and cut the ball back for striker Theophanous, whose low right-footed drive from 15-yards was turned around the post by a diving Carey, using a strong right hand.

“Lewis Carey, I’ve been banging the drum, I don’t want to lose Lewis but he’s on a contract because I’ve known Lewis since my Tonbridge days,” said Warrilow.

“He’s made some exceptional saves. As I’ve said before, he’s the best goalie in two leagues.  He’s committed to us on a contract so if anyone does want him, we’re not going to roll over and have our bellies tickled.”

Carey was certainly keeping Thamesmead Town in the game and was outstanding again in the 20th minute.

Pennant’s corner from the right was headed away back out to Pennant, who teed up Robinson, whose low right-footed drive from 12-yards was blocked by Carey’s legs at the near post.

Carey then produced an excellent double save to deny Pennant and then Robinson after Waldren played the ball into Theophanous down the right.

Billericay Town’s movement off the ball was excellent but Thamesmead Town grabbed an equaliser in the 25th minute.

Ellis Green swept in a cross from the right, which was headed away by Swaine and the ball fell to Vines, who slipped in O’Connor, who cut inside his man to place his left-footed drive underneath Julian to score from 12-yards.

“He didn’t panic, he had a good first touch which committed the defender and slid it under the keeper,” said Warrilow.

“I think we had a few chances before that as well. We got in some good areas with headers so we were knocking on the door on little counter-attacks.”

Theophanous twisted and turned on the edge of the penalty area and let fly with a left-footed drive from 20-yards, forcing Carey to dive to his right to parry the ball towards safety.

Theophanous then raced down the left to reach the by-line and his cross sailed over to Robinson, whose right-footed drive from 12-yards stung the busy keeper’s fingers.

Brand and Smith doubled up on Robinson down the left but he was still able to cut in towards the edge of the box and Carey stepped to his right to claim the ball in his midriff.

Deering played the ball into Theophanous, whose backheel inside the box played in Evans who swept in a shot from the right and Carey used his legs again to make another near-post block.

Pennant went close to scoring with a hooked right-footed drive from 25-yards, which flashed just past the post.

Despite taking that battering, Thamesmead striker Vines missed his first headed chance in the 34th minute.

Laurent Mendy was given space down the left wing to float over a deep cross towards the far post but Vines guided his free header over the top of the right-hand post from eight-yards.

But the turning point in the game came in the 36th minute when referee Craig Green pulled out a red-card after spotting that Urquhart kicked out at Smith, grazing the central defender’s right knee in the process, after Swaine rose to meet Pennant’s corner from the left.

“It changed it because they were causing a few problems in the middle of the park. We switched off at times but it gave us energy to get it and move the ball a lot quicker in the second half and we played to that strength,” added Warrilow.

“But it still doesn’t matter, it’s still Thamesmead. If we can achieve anything that they’ve got regarding the aura around the place, we’ll be delighted.”

Foley was then forced off through injury so on came Joe Elluh on the left-hand side of a three-man defence with Waldren dropping in on the right with Swaine in the middle.

The red-card lifted Thamesmead as they realised they could get something from this game that looked dead and buried during Billericay’s dominant spell earlier.

Smith launched a long throw from the left, the ball was cleared away by Waldren and O’Connor’s attempted shot flashed across goal and Vines’ left-footed swept shot on the turn was turned around the post by Julian, getting down low and quickly to his left.

Warrilow added: “When you reflect back on the first half, I suppose they’ll say Lewis kept us in it but I don’t think their chances we’re as worked as much as ours were. 

“We got it out wide put deliveries in and some free headers but we’ll take it but I’m disappointed.”

At half-time, Warrilow told his troops to, “believe in yourselves!   I think we finished the first half well and we’ll go out and take it into the second half.

“I’ve got a lot of young lads in there so they’re going to play this sort of game and try to take that pressure off them but instilling how good they are and believe in themselves.

“To come off here and do an interview and be a little bit gutted that we’re not in the hat (as a winner) is an understatement!”

Tamplin had the luxury of bringing on Jamie O’Hara at the break and fellow sub Adam Cunnington, a targetman up front, dominated in the air.

Thamesmead Town grew in confidence as soon as Vines should have buried another header at the far post.

Green was terrorising Elluh down the right with some brilliant crosses and Vines found a pocket of space at the far post to plant his header over the crossbar from six-yards after only 79 seconds.

Warrilow said: “I can’t blame any of them, they’ve all put in a shift in, every single one and we’re all gutted that we’ve not killed it off because we’ve created the better chances and we’ve had chances in the first half but I think we had more clear cut chances in the second half with the free headers and the scrambles that we’re not put away.”

Billericay were always a threat from set-pieces, although Thamesmead kept giving silly free-kicks away in dangerous positions.

Pennant’s driven shot from 35-yards bounced off Bode Andugbe and dropped into Carey’s hands.

Thamesmead’s Brand drove forward with the ball and played the ball outside to Green, who cut inside and Teniola swept his shot towards goal from eight-yards, which Julian parried low to his left at the near post.

Anidugbe worked tirelessly alongside O’Connor in the middle of the park and he rolled the ball out wide to Green, who whipped in another excellent cross for an unmarked Vines to glance his header across goal and past the far post from 10-yards.

Robinson chased down a long ball over the top and Carey came out of his box, headed the ball away and seconds later used his legs again to deny Theophanous, as he got in behind the Thamesmead defence on the hour-mark.

Tamplin worked out that Green was a threat down the right and he made a switch in the 65th minute to put Evans in at left-back, push Elluh inside to partner Swaine and Waldren slotted in as right-back.

Then there was the moment for Thamesmead Town to send shockwaves around non-league football.  The clock was showing 27:25 at the time and Vines will be regretting missing this glorious chance.

Green whipped in another quality cross from the right wing, which sailed over to the unmarked Vines, who powered his bullet header against the underside of the crossbar from six-yards.  It was agonising!

Had that gone in, it would have gone down as Thamesmead Towns’ greatest ever victory.

“I don’t want to mention (that miss but) Vinsey’s worked his socks off today but I don’t have to tell him, he’ll be gutted that he’s not buried at least one of them but that’s football, you’ve got to get on with it,” said Warrilow.

“A draw against this side wouldn’t have been talked about before the game but I always back my team in any game.   I knew it would be harder, a lot harder this week but after the game I’m absolutely devastated that we haven’t taken any of them and against sides like this you’ve got to do that.”

On Green’s crossing, the Mead boss said: “Believe it or not, Ellis is another one who has been struggling fitness wise. When it’s working, just carry on doing it but I thought we could’ve come out a couple of times and switched it a bit.”

The longer the game went on, you sensed that Billericay Town would snatch a winner from a set-piece. It was the only way that they looked like scoring in a second half that Thamesmead dominated.

Pennant floated in their tenth and final corner from the left and Cunnington made space to plant his header straight into Carey’s hands from sixteen-yards from a central position.

“I think the big lad has caused some problems when he came on but we’ve got to learn,” said Warrilow.

“They brought the big lad on and resulted in playing off him, which is fine but I’m not wanting to dissect how other teams play.  Sometimes in football you’ve got to deal with second balls and the lad was a handful and we dealt with them.”

Carey made a rare mistake when he came out of his six-yard box and failed to claim Cunnington’s ball into the box and Robinson got their first and looped his header over the bar.

Billericay Town created one late chance when Theophanous beat his man on the left and cut the ball back for Robinson, who swept his shot on the turn from eight-yards, but the outstanding Carey dived to his left to make yet another brilliant save.

“We were knocking on the door a lot in the second half so to lose it at the end would’ve been so soul destroying, but the main thing is we created enough chances to win the game second half,” said Warrilow.

Not many people would have said this game would have finished in a draw and Thamesmead Town can be proud of their performance.

“I can’t come off with any negatives, apart from the fact that we should’ve been in the hat – we should’ve taken our chances,” said Warrilow.

“We ain’t going to win The FA Cup, we want to stay in it for as long as we can, if we go to Billericay then so be it.

“It’s going to be a different story over there. It’s always been a hostile place but now it’s become fantastic but we’re looking forward to it.

“I’ve said to the boys you should want to play in these stadiums every week, so we’ve got to dust ourselves down and it’s going to be hard to leave anyone out.”

Billericay Town start off as favourites on Tuesday night but Warrilow has the power to pull off the giant-killing act in Essex.

Warrilow saw off Oxford United in The FA Trophy in his first few weeks as Tonbridge Angels manager back in 2007 and pulled off The Great Escape by winning ten games on the bounce to keep Cray Wanderers in the Isthmian League in April 2015.

“You want to win every game but if you want the starting odds there’s two teams out there. Glenn will think he can win it. I think we can win it so it’s 50/50.  We just have to make sure we don’t make sloppy mistakes, that’s all,” said Warrilow on his side’s chances.

Warrilow was naturally proud of his players for surprising many on their performance and claiming a second bite of the cherry.

He said: “That’s a yardstick for us because we are a good team and I’m glad we’ve gone out there and we’ve put in a good performance.

“We’re just all a little upset that we haven’t killed it off in the second half but it’s a different game on Tuesday night.  I’m sure we’ll find out and they’ll be telling them that.

“I think it’s a fantastic day for the club. For all the netutrals that came and for us it’s a great showpiece for us and I think we’ve put on an excellent game, even though at times it wasn’t pretty but our work-rate, effort and desire and the quality was good as well today.

“You’ve just watched a very good game of football, a good Cup tie and you’ve watched David-v-Goliath and you’ve seen us turn up and give a very, very good side a good game of football today and I’m proud of the lads for that.

“Listen, I’m just going to have a couple of beers and soak it in tonight. It was a fantastic performance. We are all a little bit gutted but it speaks volumes.  But we didn’t win the game so we don’t want to jump up and down.  The main thing is we’ve got another game and more revenue. They will be wounded, they’ll want to come and finish us off on Tuesday night, that’s for sure, so we’ve got to be prepared for that.

“I think we’ve got some very, very, very good players here and we’re looking to build.  If we can get a sponsor it will be a start then it helps me to keep them for next year.  It’s a positive for the club today, we’ve just drawn one-all with Billericay.”

Thamesmead Town: Lewis Carey, Harvey Brand, Jake McIntyre, Bode Anidugbe, Leon Smith, Simon Glover, Laurent Mendy, Tom O’Connor, Paul Vines, Alex Teniola, Ellis Green.
Subs: Dane Luchford, Tashi-Jay Kwayie, Joe Denny, Ryan Flack, Max Ovenden

Goal: Tom O’Connor 25

Booked: Tom O’Connor 13, Leon Smith 48

Billericay Town: Alan Julian, Robbie Evans, Kevin Foley (Joe Elluh 40), Danny Waldren, Rob Swaine, Josh Urquhart, Sam Deering (Jamie O’Hara 46), Jermaine Pennant, Jake Robinson, Louie Theophanous, Ricky Modeste (Jamie O’Hara 46).
Subs: Laurence Whymark, Billy Bicknell, Elliot Kebbie, Jeremy Lynch

Goal: Jake Robinson 3

Booked: Louis Theophanous 87

Sent Off: Josh Urquhart 36

Attendance: 433
Referee: Mr Craig Green (Aldershot, Hampshire)
Assistants: Mr Harrison Read (Guildford, Surrey) & Mr Tim Dowdeswell (Dorking, Surrey)

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