The Gulls played well and were more than a match for their big budget opposition, but in the end some suspect defending and failure to convert chances meant that the Blues earned the bragging rights and extended Canvey’s wait for a Boxing Day win to 13 years.
Canvey captain Tambeson Eyong was suspended with Steve Sheehan taking over the armband. Jake Pitty slotted in at right back, Ashley Dumas dropped back to left back and Harrison Chatting came back into the side on the left wing.
The first shot on goal came in the fifth minute when Billericay striker Alofabi Akinyemi burst into the area from the right, past central defender John Mbamarah. Akinyemi shot low with his right foot but Lewis Moore was able to save with a dive to his left.
Canvey responded with a chance of their own three minutes later when Ashley Dumas managed to dig out a cross from the left wing following a free kick. The cross was deep but the danger was kept alive by Steve Sheehan who nodded it back across goal where is was met by George Sykes. The striker flicked a clever shot over his head which goalkeeper Jack Giddens blocked with his body while on his post.
The Blues took the lead on 17 minutes when they caught Canvey in total disarray in defence. Conor Hubble advanced down the right before looking up to see Michael Bakare all on his own inside the area. John Mbamarah attempted to close Bakare down but couldn’t get there before the on-loan Wrexham man struck a powerful shot past Lewis Moore.
The home side came close to drawing level almost immediately when the ball was played into forward Callum Ibe inside the area. Ibe turned a defender and shot low, but his goalbound effort was brilliantly blocked by defender Oliver Sprague who slid in to deny an almost certain equaliser.
Billericay doubled their lead when a poor corner to the near post went straight to Ashley Dumas. However, the former-Blues defender scuffed his attempted volleyed clearance, playing the ball back out to the wing to be whipped in once again. This time the cross was much better and was turned home via a deflection by Afolabi Akinyemi.
The Gulls had several opportunities to pull a goal back in the final five minutes of the half but were unable to convert any of them.
On 42 minutes a good cross from the left by Ashley Dumas was met by the head of George Sykes who had jumped high to make contact. Sykes’ effort looked as though it was heading in but instead hit the outside of the post and went behind for a goal kick.
Sykes was involved again a minute later when he showed great strength to get the better of two defenders down the left before squaring to Ryan Blackman who was 20 yards from goal in a central position. Blackman hit a low first time shot with his right foot which he didn’t catch cleanly and the ball went harmlessly wide.
The chances kept coming for Canvey as Callum Ibe was played in down the right, but his shot was kept out by the feet of goalkeeper Jack Giddens and eventually put behind for a corner. The set piece was played short to Harrison Chatting who clipped a dangerous cross into the area with the outside of his boot which was inches away from being headed home by John Mbamarah.
Trailing 2-0 at half time, the Gulls had a good chance to pull a goal back early in the second half when a perfectly weighted ball down was played down the left wing for George Sykes to run onto. Sykes took the ball into the area before drilling a low, left-footed shot into the side netting.
The visitors nearly made it 3-0 on 56 minutes when a low cross from the left by Oliver Sprague was met by Afolabi Akimyemi at point blank range. It seemed inevitable that the net would bulge, but miraculously Lewis Moore pulled off the save diving to his left.
Michael Bakare had a similarly good chance on 67 minutes from slightly further out, but this time the ball was kept out by torso of John Mbamarah who positioned himself well to block.
Billericay captain Jack Giddens made his best save of the match on 73 minutes when he dived full to his left to turn Callum Ibe’s shot behind for a corner after the forward had jinked his way into the area.
Billy Bricknell had a chance to seal Billericay’s victory on 77 minutes when he was brought down inside the area by Lewis Moore. Steve Sheehan mistimed a header in the area and Moore clipped the ankles of the forward to concede a penalty.
Bricknell picked himself up to take the spot kick but blasted his effort a long way over the crossbar towards the sea wall.
Former-Billericay defender Steve Sheehan gave Canvey a lifeline with three minutes of normal time remaining when he thumped home a back post header from a Ryan Blackman corner to setup a grandstand finish.
Canvey pushed forwards in search of an equaliser, and in the last of four additional minutes they had a golden opportunity as George Sykes raced through on goal onside. However, Sykes got the ball caught up in his feet and in the end attempted to square to a teammate, none of whom had joined him in attack.
Photo: Holly Allison
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