Sun Nov 05, 2017 4:19 pm
EBAC NORTHERN LEAGUE DIVISION TWO
BILLINGHAM TOWN (2) 3
BRANDON UNITED (0) 1
They may have made it look harder than it should of been, but one senses Town have turned a corner. As home fans lamented over recent departures, notably Mark Dixon and Chris Dickinson, a new face emerged to put smiles back on their faces. For young Middlesbrough loanee, Bradley James produced a magnificent display in goal on his debut, a performance that imbued confidence throughout the squad. The short term arrangement may not be perfect, but quality of this nature cannot be ignored and during his time at the club, Town potentially have a shot-stopper who’s talent is on a par with, if not better than that of Tom Dawson. Both Tom and Bradley have come through the academy system where keepers are habitually well educated and leave the club with the potential of staying within the game. Watching James in isolation highlighted several strengths, notably his concentration, constant movement and his decision making. He wasn’t afraid to come off his goal-line and take out his defenders if he needed to, or cajole a defence that were practically a bunch of strangers to him. And if truth be told, Town required a keeper of his stature. Results elsewhere meant Billingham sit in seventh position in the table and will now concentrate on two upcoming cup ties. Barry Oliver made one change to the side that won at Darlington RA last week with Jack Connor returning after work commitments and Brandon Kirkbride was amongst a strong looking bench. Town wasted no time in gaining a foothold of the game, taking the lead after just three minutes of action. Patient build up play involving Craig Ruddy was the catalyst behind this goal; initially spreading the ball to the left side and then to the right, enabling Lee Moore to produce a precision cross for Matty OSMOND to score with a downward header. The early attacking threat from Town was reminiscent of last season’s style and Luke Hogan, Ashley Lavan and Elliott Beddow were putting Brandon’s defence under severe pressure. Hogan shot wide from an acute angle and the winger also had a similar effort saved by Kris Carr while Osmond was denied by the keeper, moments later. Despite their domination, Town had James to thank on twenty six minutes, making a save of Peter Schmeichel proportions which left Adam Storey looking crestfallen. At the other end, Brandon’s rearguard somehow managed to pull off two goal-line clearances as Lavan tried desperately to force the ball over the line. The second goal finally arrived on the stroke of time when HOGAN found the bottom corner with an angled drive.
HT Billingham Town 2 Brandon United 0
The away side, sporting a smart looking Adidas kit and a new club crest began the second half in a positive fashion. The new badge has the word ‘Endeavour’ emboldened on it and they certainly showed plenty of that as Town tried to hold firm. Niall Fingleton picked up the loose ball after James punch lacked distance but the young keeper recovered well to make a fine save. The midfield areas were becoming congested but Brandon made two positive substitutions, bringing on Ethan Grayson and Jack Marley. And it was the diminutive GRAYSON who pulled a goal back with a heavily deflected shot off Stephen Oakley which left James stranded. Grayson was at it again on seventy eight minutes with a low strike but this time James came out on top. Town weathered the storm and extended their lead on eighty three minutes. Ruddy’s corner was met with a powerful header by Oakley and the ball came back off the far post but Gary REDMAN was on hand to tap in the rebound. There was still time for Beddow to side-foot wide, Lavan had an effort parried away by Carr and Clayton Macdonald was unfortunate to see his thirty five yard strike drop over the cross-bar.
FT Billingham Town 3 Brandon United 1
THREE THINGS WE LEARNED TODAY:
1) Last week I touched on the importance of Matty Osmond and its no coincidence that an upturn in form and results has corresponded with his run in the side. Now playing in his intrinsic position, Osmond was immense and he took his goal well. It was also notable the number of shots he had on target. With Craig Ruddy, Jack Connor and Reece Keeney amongst those vying for places, Osmond must be one of the first names on the team-sheet. My man of the match.
2) The new attacking system has started to produce goals from all areas of the pitch. Last week, Jake Fenton scored his first goal of the season - today it was Osmond’s turn. Town have scored eight goals in their last three games and are no longer relying on Ashley Lavan. As popular as Chris Dickinson was with supporters, the decision to let him go does appear to have been the right decision.
3) Joe Kerridge came to the club lacking minutes in the legs having spent most of his time on the bench at North Shields. For whatever reason, whether it’s down to fitness, or the problems commuting from Newcastle, Kerridge hasn’t started a game. He came on at the beginning of the second half, replacing the injured Jack Connor on the right wing and then ended the game on the left side. During the week, AFC Blyth put in seven days notice so it could well be that Kerridge is on the move again. A talented striker, it is hoped he stays and gets a run of games under his belt.
Graham Hutchinson at Bedford Terrace
Next up: On Saturday, away to West Auckland Town in the FA Vase. West hammered Synthonia 4-0 even though they were without their main goal threats Nathan Fisher and Amar Pureval. Even allowing for injuries, they can still call on the likes of Alex Francis and Paul Connor who scored a hat-trick. A tough task but Town have little to lose and go into the game after two morale boosting victories.
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