Brilliant K’s Keep Play-Off Dream Alive
K’s were rampant for the opening 20 minutes or so, quickly racing into a two-goal lead courtesy of a Pelayo Pico Gomez brace.
A soft red card given to Malachi Hudson – the game’s outstanding player until his 29th-minute dismissal – left K’s with plenty of defensive work to do for the final hour. However, an exceptional team effort kept the Essex side at bay and moved Tommy Williams’s men to within a point of the play-off places.
K’s travelled east to contest the game they had in hand over many of the sides around them brimming with confidence after Saturday’s emphatic win, and that showed early on. Hudson in particular was a menace down the left, tormenting the inept Steve Sheehan – more on him soon – with plenty of pace and trickery.
The opening goal actually stemmed from good work down the right by Steve Butterworth. He slipped the ball inside to Pico Gomez who waltzed into the box past a couple of flimsy Billericay challenges before finishing confidently into the corner.
Nine minutes later he had goal number two, this time the beneficiary of wing wizardry from Hudson down the left. Gomez’s header was too powerful to keep out, making it seven goals for the languid striker in Essex this season. Between his brace, Charlie Penny had a goal harshly disallowed for offside after converting an inviting low Hudson centre.
Billericay were rattled, Ks in the ascendency. It was a real pity, then, when Hudson raised his arms into Sheehan’s chest after the ball had gone behind for a goal-kick. The right-back’s reaction was downright farcical – reminiscent indeed of Rivaldo’s antics at the 2002 World Cup, or more recently in the reverse fixture this season when ‘Ricay’s Ryan Scott got Tommy Kavanagh sent off – but it gave the referee a decision to make. He opted for red.
K’s dug in and limited their hosts to very little from then on. Ricky Sappleton’s free-kick struck Rob Tolfrey’s bar but aside from that the goalkeeper remained relatively untroubled before and after half-time against a team that played much like Tony Pulis’s Stoke side of yesteryear – in the air, reliant on set-pieces and throw-ins, and with a back four incapable of passing the ball. Sheehan’s shank 40 yards from his own goal behind for a K’s corner will live long in the memory.
Steve Laidler and Josh Casey in midfield were outstanding, as was Charlie Penny to their left who filled in admirably in Hudson’s absence. It is unfair to single out any individuals though, for this was a truly brilliant team performance in the face of adversity. Every man in red and white gave their all for the cause, ensuring Tolfrey was restricted to a couple of relatively comfortable second-half saves and K’s had at least as much possession as their opponents despite being a man lighter.
On this form, and with the same level of application shown on this wet and windy Monday night, K’s have every chance of making the play-offs. Dare to dream.
Goals: Pelayo Pico Gomez (12m, 0-1), Pelayo Pico Gomez (21m, 0-2)
Match report by Rupert Cane.