Billericay Town 1, Lowestoft Town 4
Lowestoft put a dampener on Billericay Town's championship celebrations by completing a league double over their hosts on Saturday.
The result did not totally spoil the post match celebrations as the Essex side were presented with the league trophy.
But it also did no harm to Lowestoft's confidence as they go into Wednesday's play-off semi-final at home to Wealdstone.
With nothing on the result of a fixture which had, for such a long time, seemed certain to play a key part in deciding the title and play-off issues, both sides made wholesale changes.
The Trawlerboys retained just four of the starting line-up which had beaten Cray in midweek while Billericay also retained just four of the players who had clinched the title the previous week.
You may also want to watch:
Lowestoft gave a debut for Iavor Guentchev, who had been waiting patiently in the wings for a chance to play since obtaining his international clearance in March.
On a heavy pitch the contrasting styles were soon apparent with Billericay opting for a physical aerial bombardment while the Blues tried to play their normal passing game.
- 1 Extent of Norwich Prison Covid outbreak revealed
- 2 Village care home confirms coronavirus outbreak
- 3 Tributes to 'Winkle' - the legendary landlord who broke the mould
- 4 'Sounded like my roof was coming off': RAF jet sonic boom heard over city
- 5 Town clerk sacked following months of controversy
- 6 Mansion for sale for £2.5million with helicopter pad
- 7 New drive-thru McDonald's to create 65 jobs
- 8 Flood alerts across Norfolk ahead of expected rain
- 9 Police concerned for welfare of missing 14-year-old girl
- 10 'My heart was racing' - Horse rider's shocking encounter with speeding van
The early stages suggested that the aerial route was the better option but the Trawlerboys' rearguard coped well with goalkeeper Jake Jessup standing up well to the barrage.
Lowestoft stunned the champions by taking the lead in their first real attack as Lubo Guentchev floated in a free-kick from the right, with Michael Frew timing his run to perfection to glance a header wide of Harry Ricketts. Billericay were level within two minutes. A corner from the right reared up in the rutted goalmouth and hit Dale Cockrill to rebound into the net off the underside of the bar.
Lowestoft regained the lead in the 28th minute with a stunning goal from Iavor Guentchev. A cross from the right was headed clear of the Billericay area but fell to the younger Guentchev, who hit a tremendous strike from 30 yards that dipped into the top corner of the net.
As the rain increased at the start of the second half the Trawlerboys took a stronger grip on the game and always looked the more likely to score. The third goal came in the 58th minute as Frew was released down the inside right channel and when Ricketts failed to hold his low driven cross, Cockrill – playing his first game for three months – pounced to hammer home the loose ball.
The icing on the cake came in the 75th minute as Chris Wild misjudged a forward ball, allowing Frew to race through to shoot past Ricketts for a fourth Lowestoft goal.
The performance leaves the Town management with some crucial decisions to make for Wednesday's semi-final. Stuart Ainsley had one of his best games for the club, Cockrill proved how much he has been missed and Frew showed a welcome return to form.
• Billericay Town: Ricketts, Oates, Hawed, Collis, Halle (Green, 63), Wild, Luke, Edwards (Chatting, 61), Small (White, 77), Onwubiko, Poole. Subs not used: Lechmere, Ottley. Goal: Cockrill og
• Lowestoft Town: Jessup, Okay, Ainsley, I Guentchev (Sinclair, 75), Halliday, Gaughran, L Guentchev (Forbes, 60), Cockrill (Smith, 79), Frew, Forshaw, Francis. Subs not used: Mitchell, Crane. Goals: Frew (2), I Guentchev, Cockrill
• Attendance: 1145
• Hornchurch host Bury in the other semi-final and, if they win, the play-off final on Monday, May 7.