Grier's Guide to Billericay Town
The match: Billericay Town v Kingstonian, Isthmian Premier. Saturday 21 January, 15:00.
The club: Longstanding Isthmian rival, returning to the division after a spell in Conference South. They won the Isthmian in 2018, when ex-owner/manager Glenn Tamplin turbocharged the playing budget to include ex-Premier League players Paul Konchesky, Jamie O'Hara and Jermaine Pennant. In the 1970s they won the FA Vase three times in four seasons.
The town: Pleasant commuter town in the middle of the Essex countryside, with the walk from the station to the ground going along a decent high street. The Pilgrim Fathers were said to have had a meeting in Billericay High Street before setting sail on the Mayflower.
The ground: New Lodge, Blunts Wall Road, Billericay, Essex, CM12 9SA. It's one of the better grounds in the league with seating on both sides and covered terraces at both ends. The pitch has a significant slope. We're not sure whether or not the back of the main stand still features Tamplin's famous mural, which in 2020 Essex Live listed as one of the county's most-loved.
Directions: By public transport it's half an hour from Liverpool Street (or 25 minutes from Stratford) followed by about a 20 minute walk, if you avoid being distracted by the numerous pubs along the High Street. By car it should take an hour and a half if traffic is OK, heading round the M25 into Essex and then taking the A127 and A178. Remember to pay the Dart Charge online.
Tickets: £12 adults; £7 concessions; £5 12-17; £1 11 and under. Card only, no cash accepted. You can buy them online at https://billericaytownfc.ktckts.com/event/bil2223h14/1st-team-v-kingstonian-fc
Our record there: We've had some big wins and some heavy defeats but one game stands out above all others. On the first day of the 2017/18 season, a Ks side that had suffered a difficult pre-season visited to play Tamplin's expensively-assembled title favourites. Against all odds we won 1-0 through a last minute Lewis Taylor goal. It was particularly satisfying for boss Craig Edwards, who left Billericay the previous season, and for a week it made Ks the toast of non-league.
Recent form: Only two points outside the playoffs at time of writing and unbeaten in their last four, although just before that run Corinthian-Casuals came away from New Lodge with all three points.
Players to watch: Alfie Cerulli (10) and Bradley Stevenson (15) lead the goalscoring line. Defender Marvel Ekpiteta is the brother of ex-K Calvin, as well as Blackpool's Marvin.
Crowd: Better supported these days than when we used to visit - like many teams from mid-sized towns outside of London, their crowds have boomed in recent years. Expect at least 600, possibly more.
Drinking: The walk from the station to the ground has plenty of options. Almost immediately you hit The Railway, a friendly locals' pub which on our last visit (some years ago now) had a dart board and a bar billiards table. Opposite, The Crown is a good pub for big screen football. Next is Wetherspoons and then comes The Chequers, the most traditional and favoured by real ale drinkers. The Red Lion is also in a nice building (an old coaching inn) and the Billericay clubhouse is one of the league's better ones as well.
Food: As well as the pubs, the nearby High Street offers a wide range of choice. Years ago, the Railway used to let punters eat pizza from the Domino's next door in their beer garden.