Billericay Town 1-3 Leatherhead. Asif Burhan reports from the New Lodge
IT’S not often a battle between two seventh-tier teams can call itself the biggest match in the country, but that was the case in front of a sell-out crowd of 3,400 at the New Lodge on Thursday night.
Isthmian League Leatherhead shocked their promotion-chasing opponents Billericay Town to reach the second round of the FA Cup, in which they will travel to League Two Wycombe Wanderers.
By the admission of their flamboyant owner and manager Glenn Tamplin, Billericay have created “a lot of noise” with their big-name signings and — unbeaten in 24 games since the opening day of the season — they were expected to defeat opponents they had already beaten in the league.
Yet, despite falling behind on the hour to Adam Cunnington’s close-range goal, Leatherhead rallied to equalise almost immediately, before two late goals sent them through, the last of which came from their player-manager Sammy Moore.
“It was such a great feeling when that third goal went in. As soon as I hit it, I knew it was game over. No-one knew our names on that team sheet, everyone knew Billericay’s names, but our boys stepped up to the mark tonight, I think they should be all proud of themselves.”
Billericay captain Paul Konchesky felt the second Jack Midson goal for Leatherhead after 82 minutes, following the dismissal of Rob Swaine, was the pivotal moment in the match.
“They get a penalty and then the sending off which absolutely kills us. With one man extra and we’re attacking to try and get back into the game, there’s always spaces in behind and they got in on the third.”
Nine FA Cup matches have left Billericay with five games in hand over league leaders Dulwich Hamlet — facing an uncertain future as a result of brinkmanship by their property developer owners — and Konchesky hopes the team’s focus can now return to winning promotion.
“It’s been a good run, a disappointing ending, but we need to get back to winning ways in the league on Saturday.”
Moore’s Leatherhead can look forward to playing at Adams Park and a chance to reach the FA Cup third round for the first time since 1975.
“We’ll go there and just enjoy the day. We’ve done all the hard work getting through this one. To come to Billericay and win is very special. It’s a tough place to come. Our boys showed character. On the night, I think the best team won.”