This week is another blockbuster clash for the Blues, as we once again face a team only two places above us in the league and hungry for promotion. It’s Billericay this time around, and so 3rd vs 5th is how this game is set up leading into Saturday
‘Ricay, from Essex, come into this tie in good form and will be looking to head back into the National League South, having been relegated down in 2022 after finishing bottom. Their 10th place finish in the Isthmian Premier League last year would have been below expectations, and so they will be much more pleased to be third in the league after the early running of this edition of the Isthmian Premier League.
They are managed by ex-Hendon stalwart Gary McCann, who knows the Blues well from his 13 years at our North London rivals. Both he and Rifat will be looking for the bragging rights, and more important the three points, on Saturday.
Head To Head
There were reverse splits last season, with both sides winning their away fixtures when the two sides met. Billericay triumphed 3-1 at the MRS where the Blues had a red card and penalty go against them in isolated incidents. They had taken the lead through Dylan Kearney in the first half but in the end succumbed to Billericay’s three unanswered goals
It was a 1-0 victory for the Blues in Essex in March, with Elliot Long the goalscorer on that occasion.
Saturday’s game is notable because it features the league’s best defence, against the division’s second best attack (Hornchurch are the most potent in front of goal). It will be strength against strength, and the game may well be decided by which strength is able to shine through come match day
Last Time Out
Due to a quirk in scheduling, both sides’ previous games were against Carshalton, with Billericay winning 2-0 at home, and Wingate winning 3-2 in a fantastic game in Surrey.
Beyond that, Ricay have won three of their last five in the league, most recently beating Margate 3-1 (only shortly after the Blues beat the same opponent 1-0). They have also performed well in the FA Trophy, most recently taking out table-topping National League North side Tamworth. Their next tie will be away at National League Wealdstone in the last 32.
The Blues have responded well to defeat at Chatham, beating Carshalton in a thriller last weekend. They had previously lost three league games on the spin, and so the aforementioned victories against Margate and Carshalton will have done plenty to keep the good momentum that had been built earlier in the year
Players To Watch
Dan Wilks in the Billericay goal has seen the fewest goals scored past him of any keeper in the division so far, and he will be looking to martial his defence well against the threat posed by Chukwu, Long, Carvalho, Newton, Yeboah and the Blues prominent attacking threat.
It promises to be a cold afternoon at the MRS, but with the sun expecting to shine, and three enormous points to play for, it will be a game you don’t want to miss!