Almost: Allan Julian keeps out Jamal Lawrence's last-gasp effort
Hungerford Town 1 Billericay 1
AN Essex return beckons Hungerford on Tuesday night after a nerve-tingling Third Qualifying Round tie pitched both sides into Monday’s Emirates FA Cup draw.
Hungerford held a first half lead thanks to Stefan Brown’s penalty, but Billericay’s second half pressure brought an equaliser from substitute Ricky Modeste and a wave of raids.
But at the end, Hungerford could have snatched it, and a Fourth Qualifying Round spot rather than a midweek trek.
“It was a hell a game,” said Hungerford co-manager Jon Boardman. “They are a very good side but I thought our lads came out of it with a lot of credit.
“I think with a couple of tweaks here and there, they are beatable, but make no mistake, this is going to be one hell of a difficult game on Tuesday night.
“We rode our luck at times, but at the end, we could even have nicked it and that’s the beauty of the FA Cup and we’re still in the hat for Monday, and we’ll take that.”
Billericay had only four of their allowed seven substitutes and had a good team’s worth of injured and suspended players in the stands. But they had talent enough on the park with Sam Deering constantly probing, and his early flick led to Jake Robinson half-volleying a chance off the mark and the visitors nearly opened the scoring when Jermaine Pennant’s free kick spun up off goalkeeper Marcus Beauchamp and Ian Herring had to complete the clearance off the line.
Deering went close before Hungerford got a sniff when full back Matt pained levered a weak back-pass that Nicholas Bignall was on to before having his shirt tugged.
But Louie Theophanous might have done better than find the woodwork with his head and the same player was twice more denied by Beauchamp, once with a regulation stop and then by the goalkeeper’s legs as Hungerford were hanging on for a spell.
But they emerged from that to take the lead 10 minutes before the break when skipper Rhys Tyler drove in a cross that Paul Konchesky blocked with an arm and Stefan Brown tucked home the penalty.
Beauchamp kept the lead intact at the break when he took off to tip over a Pennant free kick, but the pressure grew after the re-star with Modeste and Billy Bricknell thrown into the massed ranks of Billericay attackers and within a minute Beauchamp was saving from Modeste and Joe Ellul, and the young ‘keeper was soon at it again to deny Robbie Evans while Scott Rees was on hand to clear off the line from Modeste.
A rare Hungerford break saw Brown cross deep, but Louis Soares could not make proper head contact at the back post, and soon the visitors were back on terms when they finally found a way past Beauchamp.
Ellul fopund Theophanous, who drove the ball in for Bricknell to meet and although Beauchamp pulled off a fine reaction stop, Modeste was following up to sweep home the rebound.
Modest got the rough and deserved ending to two penalty shouts, one a solid take by Herring but the other a take by Beauchamp when he had to come out wide to meet the striker’s run and clipped his heel, referee David Spain instead booing the forward for a simulation.
Herring produced a vital block from Deering and Beauchamp again from Brickell as Hungerford were looking like settling for the second bite. But they very nearly snatched the purse and a clear run into the next round at the finish when Allan Julian saved from Harvey Read and then substitute Jamal Lawrence got in behind only for Julian to pull off a superb save to leave both teams having to go for it again.
Hungerford Town: Beauchamp; Tyler, Read, Herring, John (Stonehouse 81); Clark, Willmoth (Simpson 56), Rees, Soares; Brown, Bignall (Lawrence 87). Subs: Rusby, Boardman, Hopper, Partridge.
Billericay Town: Julian; Paine (Modeste 46), Chambers (Lynch 74), Ellul, Konchesky; Deering, Waldren, Evans, Pennant; Thephanous, Robinson (Bricknell 46). Sub: Whymark.
Referee: David Spain (Sussex). Attendance: 507.