The spoils were shared between Chelmsford City and Billericay Town following an entertaining 1-1 draw in the Essex derby.
Opportunities were limited during a mostly uneventful first half; Sam Deering came closest for Billericay Town as the midfielder missed from close range after Chelmsford failed to clear their lines. Moses Emmanuel also came close with a fiercely struck shot which whistled past the post; Billy Knott’s powerful effort from 20 yards was dealt with by Alan Julian well.
Anthony Church’s header at the far post gave the Clarets the lead six minutes into the second half.
With a 1-0 lead, City were given a greater advantage when opposing defender Louis Ramsay was given his marching orders for a late lunging tackle on Fraser Shaw.
The Clarets, however, were unable to hold onto their lead against ten men as Billericay engineered a swift counter-attack which culminated in Emmanuel netting his fourth goal of the season. His low drilled effort skidded across the turf and nestled into the bottom corner of Carl Pentney’s goal.
In what was their only defensive error of the evening, the home side were made to pay, leaving City boss Rod Stringer dejected in dropping points despite being the “better side”.
“It is definitely [two points dropped rather than one point gained],” explained Stringer. “We were the better side for sure.
“However, the one time we made a mistake and allowed them to play deep in to the edge of the box and they got away with it. To be fair to them, he finished it off well.
“I thought we were the better side, we looked brighter than them. I said to my players ‘we’ve made one small mistake and been punished for it.’ You look at the chances we had that could have turned into goals but we haven’t been able to get a second or third.”
On an eventful night in front of a crowd in excess of 1,000, it was the visiting side which produced the first valuable chance of the night.
Reacting to a deep cross from the left, Matt Rhead rose highest to head towards the bottom corner. Carl Pentney did well to turn the accurate header around the post, although the goal would not have stood as the assistant referee’s flag was raised for offside.
‘Ricay came close again as Frazer Shaw cheaply lost the ball cheaply to Sam Deering; the attacking midfielder flashed a cross along the face of goal but Pentney strode off his line to gather the ball ahead of the approaching Emmanuel.
Chances continued to fall for either side as Sam Deering stabbed over the crossbar from a tight angle; Billy Knott’s skewed shot should have been converted but Robbie Simpson but was bundled away to safety.
Emmanuel almost opened the scoring with a fiercely struck effort, although his spinning effort whizzed past the post with Pentney grounded to the floor midway through the first half.
Daniel Waldren entered the referee’s book after chopping down Knott’s driven run. The defender, who was sent off in the Boxing Day 5-1 drumming over Billericay Town by Chelmsford, was the first one to receive a booking.
After having a darting movement cut short, the energetic Knott forced a fine save. The midfielder squeezed between two ‘Ricay players to find space before executing a fine shot that seemed goal-bound only for Julian to palm the effort away.
Knott, an ever-present in all of City’s attacking creations, drew another foul as he stepped inside against Ramsay – referee Lee Brennan had no option but to show the full-back a yellow card just before half-time.
A pinpoint cross from the right flank by Knott fell into Simpson’s path after the interval, but it was cleared away hastily by the visitors. Moments later Church became the first City player to enter the book after leaving a hanging foot in his challenge on Deering.
After sharing the chances, it was Chelmsford who eventually took the lead six minutes after the break.
Knott’s clever footwork against Callum Kennedy drew a foul in a wide position and, when the subsequent freekick was taken, the midfielder executed a curling ball towards the far post which met Church’s run with the City captain nodding the ball powerfully past Julian from six-yards.
The visitors almost responded after Jordan Parkes’ freekick was deflected out for a corner. After being cleared momentarily by the Clarets, Parkes recycled the ball towards Rhead; however, the giant striker could only muster a tame shot into Pentney’s grasp.
Being a dangerous spark, and with Chelmsford well on top against Billericay, Harry Wheeler opted to take off the already-booked Waldren in place of Douglas Loft on 65 minutes.
With twenty minutes left on the clock, things turned from bad to worse for the visitors after Ramsay lunged into a tackle on Shaw on the far-side by-line. Tempers flared as a number of the two side’s players squared up to each other, but it was Ramsay who received the greater punishment as he was sent for an early shower for a second bookable offence.
But Billericay Town barely had their ambitions hurt as on 71 minutes, in City’s only defensive error of the evening, Emmanuel found enough space on the right-wing to drive forward and slot a low shot across Pentney into the bottom left corner.
City almost immediately restored their lead but were twice denied. Firstly, Knott’s header bounced across the face of goal after Tom Wraight flicked on a deep cross. Then Chris Whelpdale had a point-blank effort saved before Wraight shot the rebound into a defender.
A series of corners had Chelmsford players and fans alike appealing for a penalty when Michael Spillane, who returned to the starting line-up for the first time in four matches, was dragged down. Referee Brennan waved away the loud calls for a spot-kick.
Knott should have tested Julian with a late curling freekick but, as his effort travelled narrowly over the crossbar, the referee blew his whistle as Chelmsford City were made to settle for a point.
Speaking afterwards, Billericay Town boss Harry Wheeler praised his side’s efforts to come from behind with ten-men to grab a draw.
“We go into every game trying to win them,” he said. “but we would have taken a point after sixty-minutes with ten men and a goal behind so it’s a great point and I’m really proud of the lads today.
“We live by two promises: we’ll work as hard as we can and when it’s not going our way we’ll stay solid, be resilient and not give in. That’s exactly what we did with the latter. The work rate was good and our resilience was excellent.
“We stayed with it, fought for our lives at the end, and we take a precious point. With a good home record that we’ve got, it’s a very good point.”