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Chelmsford City 1 Billericay Town 1
3:53pm Wednesday 6th February 2013 in Local Sport
MANAGER Glenn Pennyfather explained how his Chelmsford City players had to "show a different side" of themselves to secure a battling point from their local derby against Billericay Town as Jamie Slabber's penalty in first-half injury time was required to cancel out Glenn Poole's stunning 19th-minute strike for the visitors.
In a fiercely competitive match between two local rivals there was little flowing football from either side as Essex pride was up for grabs, making for a tense evening at Melbourne.
Craig Edwards' blues moved in front to land the first blow on a frustrating evening for the fourth-placed Clarets but the hosts' top scorer won and converted his spot kick in injury time before the interval, and Glenn opted to draw on the positives.
He explained: "I said to the players after the game that I think, this time last year, we'd have lost that match. We're made of sterner stuff this year and our resolve is much better.
"Sometimes you get performances like that and, fair play to Billericay, they've got here after they hadn't played in a long while and we've given them the incentive with the goal.
"They made the game ugly and we played into their hands for a certain amount of time.
"I'll always see it as a couple of points dropped when we're at Melbourne because we've got used to winning here. But, in the same vain, I'm delighted we've got a point.
"We've had to stand up and be counted in the game and we've done that. It's not always going to be the pretty football that we played against Hayes & Yeading on Saturday - there are times when we've got to dig in and we won't always get the level of performance we're after. "
Arsenal goalkeeper Reice Charles-Cook replaced the injured Stuart Searle having completed his loan move just hours earlier, while there was a change at right back as Justin Miller, who took a knock in the weekend game, stood aside for Bradley Hamilton.
David Rainford stepped into the centre of midfield ahead of David Bridges, while new Macclesfield Town loan midfielder Junior Konadu was unavailable for dental reasons.
One of Charles-Cook's first actions as a Chelmsford player was to watch the ball fly past him for a shock Billericay opener, though he could have done little to prevent the superb controlled volley from Poole after a long Junior Luke throw-in was knocked down to him on the edge of the box.
He connected well with the ball as it clipped the underside of the crossbar and bounced back out, although it had already crossed the line.
Two minutes later Town threatened to sensationally move further in front, although Charles-Cook proved equal to an angled Chris Wild header as he dived excellently to his right to push the ball to safety.
The only other notable act of the half was a minute into in stoppage time at the end when Wild was booked after bringing Slabber down in the area as he was about to shoot. The Clarets' marksman got back up to ram the penalty low to Sam Beasant's right.
That was a crucial moment for Chelmsford as the game would have had a different complexion had they trudged in at half time a goal down.
Instead they were able to re-enter the pitch hunting for the victory and Cook fed Omer Riza on the left-hand corner of the penalty box on 56 minutes, from where he screeched inches wide of the far top corner. Cook himself then saw his close-range effort blocked by Paul Rodgers eight minutes later.
However, Billericay were causing enormous problems from set pieces, launching Luke throw-ins and corners into a packed penalty area on numerous occasions.
On 65 minutes it was from a deep left-wing centre that Jay May jumped to head over, although City followed suit within sixty seconds at the other end, Rainford nodding a corner onto the bar.
The last act of the game saw Charles-Cook leave a lasting impression on his home supporters with a crucial late intervention.
Substitute Sam Lechmere's powerful drive from twelve yards appeared to be flying into the top corner until the Gunners prospect launched himself to acrobatically tip the ball wide. That prompted special praise from his boss at full time.
"We're missing Stuart, but young Reice has come in to do fantastically well," said Glenn as his side stayed in fourth place with the point. "He probably thought we were playing Stoke City at times with the amount of long throws that were coming into the box!
"The players have shown a different side this evening. These are notoriously difficult games, especially with the conditions the way they were today, which made it a real leveller."
"The pitch is drying out and it's cut up a little bit so it was quite a bobbly surface to play on. What with the swirling wind as well, it levelled everything out.
"Now we'll move on and regroup with a training session on Thursday so we make sure we're ready for another tough weekend with Tonbridge and Farnborough."