Writes Matt Lee...
The two sides entered the break level following a sub-par first half where neither side managed to create clear chances.
But Rhys Murphy’s strike on 76 minutes proved to be the difference as City recorded the double over their League rivals to tighten their grip in the race for the play-offs and send Ricay down into seventh place.
City boss Rod Stringer named a virtually unchanged side for the third consecutive match as he looked to maintain consistency among the squad. The Clarets made just one change as goalkeeper Nathan McDonald returned from illness to replace on-loan shot-stopper Ashley Maynard-Brewer who had returned to his parent club.
Elliot Omozusi, Michael Spillane, Adrian Cascaval and Joe Anderson formed City’s defensive back-line, while Tom Wraight and Chris Whelpdale attacked down the flanks. Anthony Church took a holding central midfield role as Chez Isaac was handed the freedom to roam in an attacking position behind a striker partnership of Rhys Murphy and Scott Fenwick.
After a poor opening ten minutes, which saw neither side threatened, Billy Clifford tested McDonald’s reactions by firing a low volley towards goal; the City shot-stopper made a comfortable save down to his left to turn the effort around the post for a corner.
The hosts made loud appeals for Fenwick to be punished after he collided with Ross Lafayette; referee Wayne Cartmel deemed it an unintentional coming together and refused to brandish a card.
One of Billericay’s late additions to the squad, Kieron Cadogan, chipped a cross into the box from the left wing but Spillane rose to head the danger away as the hosts edged the number of chances created in the opening encounters.
In a rare foray into the Billericay half, Whelpdale dropped a pass into the right channel for Fenwick to drive forward with. The talented frontman did well to beat Callum Kennedy before slicing a low cross into the box but it was a comfortable claim for another of Billericay’s late signings, goalkeeper Mark Smith.
On the infrequent occasion City could attack, they were limited to shooting from distance. Fenwick cut inside against Paul Rooney on 38 minutes but struck well over; Whelpdale shanked an effort over from the edge of the box moments later.
Moses Emmanuel was given space to squeeze a shot towards McDonald from six-yards moments before half-time, but the flag was raised for offside as the two sides entered the break level.
City boss Rod Stringer’s half-time speech clearly motivated the Clarets as they came bursting out the blocks in the second half.
Fenwick cleverly teed the ball to Isaac after he had controlled a deep cross from Whelpdale, but the attacking midfielder was unable to open the scoring from close range when in-front of goal as he drove a low first-time effort wide of the up-right.
Four minutes later, Town boss Dean Brennan made his first change of the afternoon as he made a defensive change by replacing Emmanuel with Jake Howells.
Whelpdale’s long throw from the right wing caused havoc in the Billericay penalty box, and almost broke the deadlock when it was flicked towards Murphy, but he drilled a shot into the advertising boards adjacent to the goal.
Murphy came close again on the hour-mark when he rose to head Whelpdale’s teasing cross, unfortunately his attempt went narrowly over as Billericay’s clean sheet was left hanging by a thread.
Until the 74th minute Billericay had done well to keep City at bay; but they failed to prevent City on one occasion and were made to pay by Murphy.
The Clarets’ top-scorer controlled the ball well under pressure, hooked the ball round Smith to give him a clear sight on-goal and kept his composure to tap home before striding away to celebrate with the large contingency of away supporters.
Brennan looked for an immediate response to Murphy’s goal from the Blues as he introduced Rhys Murrell-Williamson from the bench at the expense of Adam Coombes; Devonte Aransibia came on for debutant Lloyd Doyley five minutes later.
City escaped a late leveller as they reacted in defensive solidarity to block a loose ball before Clifford arrowed a shot well over McDonald’s crossbar.
Stringer looked to assert his dominance on the game with two late changes as Murphy and Anderson went off for Max Porter and Mikhail Kennedy prior to stoppage time; but it was too late for the hosts to claw back into the game and City held on to a well-earned victory.