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Kingstonian 1-3 Billericay Town

The uncertainties created on the playing side by off-field problems were reflected in the fact that manager Scott Steele gave starting debuts to the 55th and 56th players to turn out for the club this season, one of them their seventh goalkeeper. On top of that he also had to ask the team to play three different formations during the game. As so often this season, Kingstonian flattered for long periods only eventually to deceive their long-suffering supporters against opposition they had seen beat their team 6-1 in the reverse fixture in September and who currently stood third in the table.

The game started with Town in the ascendancy. Their lively 19-year-old striker Nathan Elder made it quite clear that he was going to be a bit of a handful. He caught Richard Taylor in possession and took off down the right, but his eventual cross sailed across the face of the K's goal. In response, K's skipper Martyn Lee delivered one of his telling corners, which Phil Ruggles headed across the face of the Ricay goal. Then a good passing move saw Giles Coke find Lee out on the right flank, but this time he got his cross all wrong.

Increasingly confident-looking Ks grew in resolve, however, and they scored on 10 minutes. Lee's free-kick floated deep into the Ricay box where Jean Serge Nusungu headed the ball down for Ruggles in space to spin round and thrash the ball home past a stationary Paul Gothard. The visitors replied with a great deal of pressure that led to four consecutive corners, but the K's backline mopped up on each occasion. On 15 minutes co-striker Neil Cousins set up Elder on the K's penalty spot, but Paris made a great saving tackle. Then K's keeper Mark Torcaso, on his debut from Crawley, darted out of his box to clear but rebounded the ball off Cousins and fortunately to safety. On 22 minutes, with the away defence pushing up, Ruggles broke down the left leaving the Ricay defenders puffing in his wake. Unfortunately his final drive, although on target, was straight at a diving Gothard on his line. Cousins then broke deep into the K's box, but first Torcaso and then Paris neutralised the threat. Three minutes later a high cross from defender Gary Henty found Leon Hunter close in, but a full-stretch Torcaso did well to hold the header on his line. Then a first-time cross from winger Matt Game picked out Elder on the far post, but Taylor made a brave block. Elder then escaped the attentions of Taylor on the edge of the K's box, but he volleyed the ball over the bar. A Keiran Gallagher free-kick found Elder close in, but his header was straight at Torcaso.

After all that Essex pressure it was the Ks who almost scored again. A cross from the right fell unexpectedly to a surprised and unmarked Bashiru Alimi close in. He went for glory but an unlucky bounce saw him he fire into the turf allowing Gothard to instinctively push the spinning ball over the bar.

The second half started with more Essex pressure but the K's defence looked equal to it all. A couple of dangerous free-kicks around the K's box were dealt with as Paris finally coolly wellied the ball out of his goalmouth. But six minutes into the second half, newcomer James Mann finally succumbed to a first-half injury and was replaced by Kenny Ojukwa, with goalscorer Ruggles dropping into midfield as the formation was switched from 3-5-2 to the more defensive 4-4-2. Almost immediately Ruggles put in a long through ball for Ojukwa, but the experienced Gothard was out quickly to intercept. On 67 minutes a Hunter corner was flicked on by Cousins to centre back Robin Trott but his header was cleared by Paris. Long-range efforts from Hunter and skipper Jamie Dormer plus a wasted free-kick were perhaps a sign of Essex frustration.

The theory held when Dormer wasted an opportunity from close range but on 76 minutes they scored a heartbreaking equalizer. Sub Ross Wareham found Elder suspiciously offside-looking deep in the K's box. Torcaso came darting out but the young striker elegantly bodyswerved the keeper and coolly stroked the ball home into an unguarded K's net. This was all too much for Steele who was removed from the dug out by the referee, seemingly at the nearby assistant referee's instigation, three minutes later. Steele's response was to put on a forward, James Rose, for full back Steve Sanders and go to an attacking 3-4-3 in search of an equaliser. But before the new formation had settled down, a quite extraordinary goal saw Ricay take the lead. Henty tried his luck from some 30 yards and his sweetly struck left-footed rising drive flew into the roof of the net foxing an unsighted and motionless Torcaso. With six minutes to go it looked like the Ks were back in the game. Lee lifted the ball over the Billericay backline finding an unmarked Ruggles close in, but he chose power over guile and unfortunately blasted over.

There was still time for the visitors to make it safe. With two minutes remaining a Dormer cross from the left was flicked on by Wareham to Elder who carefully slotted the ball past Torcaso. Eight minutes of additional time (to add to the five additional first-half minutes) saw Ricay almost add to their score as a Wareham drive unluckily struck a post.

Sat 5th Feb 2005
Kingsmeadow Stadium
Isthmian League Premier
Billericay Town3
1Mark Torcaso
2Steven Sanders16
3Bashiru AlimiCautioned
4Richard Taylor
5Robert Paris
6Giles Coke
7Mazin Ahmad
8James Mann14
9Phil Ruggles
10Martyn Lee
11Jean-Serge Musungu
12Dean Lodge
14Kenny Ojukwa8
15Jonathan Coke
16James Rose2
17Alan Hughes
Match Report By
Sean Cotter
Phil Windeatt