Billericay Town 1 Swansea City 2: Bauza gives Swans some grace

Class eventually tells as Spaniard saves League One side from slipping on Billericay banana skin
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The Independent Online

When Guillem Bauza surveyed those around him in Spain's under-16 team a few years ago, including his then fellow striker Fernando Torres, what dreams did he harbour? Playing in those reinforced concrete theatres of excellence, probably, like the Nou Camp. Not here, in rural Essex, surrounded by the corrugated iron stands of Billericay Town's New Lodge ground.

In the career that stretched before him back then, it's unlikely he envisaged that one of his career highlights would include yesterday, or that he would claim victory for Swansea in front of the visiting fans occupying Town's Blunts Wall Road End.

For half of this contest, there was a feeling that this was really no place, or competition, for the lank-haired Spaniard blessed with a cultured pair of feet and wearing a hairband. One suspects that you don't get too many of that latter fashion accessory among Town's regular opponents in the Ryman Premier League. Indeed, until just before the hour, when they held sway, the hosts demonstrated that they were no Billericay thickies, and, yes, were doing rather well against opponents 105 places above them.

That was until the man signed from Espanyol in the summer by Swans' manager Roberto Martinez decorated a compelling match with a venomously struck goal, which his partner of yesteryear, Liverpool's £27 million striker, would have admired, and followed up with a winner eight minutes from time. Far from regarding this as being the nadir of his journey through football, Bauza was pretty chuffed. You could tell because he careered around the pitch, adopting that curious aeroplane gesture, and afterwards wanted nothing more than to telephone his family.

Back home, of course, they had heard of the FA Cup, though they all believed it concerned Arsenal and Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool, and clubs like that. In Spain, it would be fair to say, there's not a lot of interest in the first round proper. But that didn't trouble Bauza. As a fourth-choice striker, who hadn't played a League game all season, he hadn't even expected to play. But then in Martinez, Swansea clearly possess a manager who has swiftly adopted his compatriot Rafa Benitez's tendencies: no fewer than six changes from the side who played Millwall in midweek. There was also a rookie goalkeeper in David Knight.

For rather too long for that goalkeeper's comfort, it appeared his day may be recalled as the one in which he and defender Gary Monk collided and allowed 18-year-old Wayne Semanshia to turn home his first goal for Billericay. Though, in Bauza, and his countryman Andrea Orlandi, Swansea seemingly possessed the quality to win this at will, Billericay covered and harried like men possessed. After the interval, the home side had opportunities to place the tie beyond doubt before Bauza's brace.

Their performance reflected the preparation of manager Matt Jones. "This is a proper football club, from the top down," he said. "The chairman [Steve Kent] sets the example. I remember in the summer, he and his wife were out there, weeding the pitch."

In the end, the task proved as steep as the pronounced cross-field slope here. Class, and the fitness, of the League club told.

Martinez, who has already learned the expression "banana-skin" for such occasions, admitted: "At half-time I wanted character and a reaction from my team. A few players had not played before in the FA Cup, in this kind of environment, and had found it difficult to know what was required. In the second half, we competed. But Billericay were fantastic."

Next Saturday, it's back to normality for Billericay. Ashford Town away. And reflections on an afternoon of memories.

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