Hamlet 2 Billericay 1
Another fine win for the Hamlet against opponents managed by our previous manager Craig Edwards. What really impressed me was how well we did the less eyecatching aspects of the game against a strong side who overpowered us rather too easily on their own turf both last Spring and again in August.
We know what to expect from Craig's teams from seeing them in our own colours: he likes players with pace, stamina, physical presence, and they're defensively well drilled and hard to break down. I never felt so confident holding a one goal lead as when Craig managed us, and we rarely dropped points under him when we scored the first goal of the match. So to come from behind and beat his team was a real achievement, thanks to a wonderful goal created in open play and a perfectly struck direct free kick. Conversely I felt we struggled most in Craig's time when chasing the game, and tended to run out of attacking ideas, which I felt happened to Billericay yesterday.
For most of the first half I felt Billericay were the team dictating the game and playing the way they wanted, even if they weren't necessarily dominating possession and territory. We looked a bit tentative on the ball, conceded possession too cheaply, and allowed them too may set piece opportunities. It soon became apparent that they had a dangerous long throw specialist, something we haven't seen much since returning to the Premier Division. In D1S it seemed we were the only side without one. Faversham in particular had a human trebuchet of a full back who would launch throw ins into the heart of our penalty area from anywhere within about thirty yards of the corner flag. (A section of their support almost celebrated the award of a throw as if it was a penalty!) It was from the second long throw of the match that Billericay took the lead as a textbook flick on at the near post left Wilson with the impossible task of attempting to stop a far post header at point blank range. Another goal for the visitors befroe half time may well have knocked the stuffing out of us, but we began to fight back, and some epic timewasting antics from their keeper possibly slowed his own team's tempo and conspired against them. Just as first half stoppage time approached Carew unlocked the visiting defence with a superbly weighted pass for Shaw, overlapping on the left, and the full back took the ball right to the byline before chipping it into the middle for Wanadio to meet with a perfectly timed leap and head back into the opposite corner.
Hamlet usually manage to complete the win after going in level at half time at Champion Hill, and true to form were mcuh more composed and authoritive after the break. Equally importantly I felt we showed more discipline than usual in terms of not giving away cheap free kicks, and not conceding further throw within their slinger's range. A niggly foul ended a strong run by Clunis just outside the box and Carew, having earlier misfired from a slightly less favourable position, stepped up and struck a presice shot into the top corner from twenty yards. There was nearly half an hour remaining at that point,a dn I felt it seemed more likely that we'd add further goals than concede an equaliser. We thought we had a third when a great angled cross from the right picked out James, drifting in unmarked onthe far side to place a well judged header into the far corner, but the flag went up for what must have been a very tight offside call. It's impossible to be sure from behind the goal, but some such moves just look offside and I instinctively check the linesman; this one didn't. These situations generally result in a rather nervous finale for Hamlet followers, but this time I thought we saw out the closing phase fairly comfortably.
Team (4-2-3-1): Wilson - Abnett, Forbes(c), Pinnock, Shaw - Carew, Dixon - Wanadio, Vidal, Clunis - Ottaway.
Subs: James (for Ottaway), Jarrett (for Clunis), Samuels (for Vidal), Kamara, Hibbert (not used)