Bromley 0-0 Barrow - We're going in to the last game of the season with a chance and that's all we ever wanted, says play-off chasing Bromley boss Neil Smith

Tuesday 24th April 2018
Bromley 0 – 0 Barrow
Location Hayes Lane, Bromley, Kent BR2 9EF
Kickoff 24/04/2018 19:45

Vanarama National League
Tuesday 24 April 2018
Stephen McCartney reports from Hayes Lane

BROMLEY manager Neil Smith says it’s brilliant that his side have everything to play for going into their final Vanarama National League game of the season on Saturday.

The Ravens were held to a goal-less draw by a Barrow side that under boss Adrian Pennock and assistant Jamie Day have given the Cumbrians a massive lifeline of maintaining their current status.

Bromley wasted the chance to climb themselves into the play-off zone so travel to Maidenhead United one place outside it, in eighth-place, with 70 points from 45 games, a couple of points adrift of Boreham Wood and AFC Fylde (who play at home to Guiseley and travel to tenth-placed Wrexham) respectively.

“Frustrated really because I think we did enough to create enough half chances to actually put one of them away but ultimately we’re sitting in the changing room talking about a referee (David Rock) again and it seems to be the same ref that we’re taking about, so we’re a little bit disappointed,” said Smith.

“But ultimately we’re going into the last game of the season with a chance and that’s all we ever wanted come 28th of April to be in with a shout and we are!

“It wasn’t going our way.  I think there was at least one penalty decision, half-chances, it just wasn’t going to go in today.  Their keeper’s pulled off a couple of decent saves as well.

“If someone had said you’re going to go into the last game of the season with a chance of getting in to the play-offs, I’d snap their hands off!”

Bromley created their first opening inside seven minutes when Jordan Higgs, who started wide right before finishing it at left-back, cut the ball back for Alan Dunne and the former Millwall man floated in a deep cross which was knocked wide by recalled striker Brandon Hanlan.

Barrow put in a good performance that belittled their lowly league position in the bottom five and a long ball over the top released Luke James down the right channel and he saw David Gregory off his line but his chip from 30-yards dropped and the Bromley keeper stepped to his right to grab hold of the ball.

Smith said: “Roger (Johnson) thought the ball had gone out and he was saying it was our ball but the ball hadn’t gone out and he sort of got his half-chance and chipped it but I think they had about two chances to be fair.  I don’t think Gregaz had too much to do in very tricky conditions.  We were like if we can go in without giving a goal away then the conditions will help us second half but the wind sort of stopped!”

Barrow’s holding midfielder Dan Jones swung in their second corner of the night in the 13th minute, which Gregory punched up rather than out of his area and Moussa Diarra came up from the back to hook his shot over his shoulder and wide from 12-yards.

Gregory, who went on to keep his 20th clean sheet of the season, was called into making a comfortable save in the 20th minute as Barrow edged the first half.

Bedsente Gomis hit a cross field pass out to Luke James, who cut inside and stroked his low right-footed drive towards the bottom near corner from 18-yards, which Gregory held diving low to his right.

Smith said: “I wasn’t too fussed!  I thought we were controlling the game without it being a pretty game because we know their style of play.  They’re very direct, they get it up front to Jordan White, who I thought is a good player.  They’ve got Gomis in midfield, looking for second balls and hoping for a mistake from the defenders.”

The lively Luke James ran at the Bromley defence, skipped past Jack Holland, before Tyrone Sterling stopped him in his tracks with a superb tackle inside the Bromley box and the ball came out to right-back Callum MacDonald, whose 40-yard speculative shot curled around the far post.

Bromley went close to grabbing the lead in the 41st minute.

Omar Bugiel, who snatched a last-gasp winner to beat Boreham Wood 3-2 here at the weekend, released Hanlan down the left and he cut into the box and his shot was blocked by Steve Arnold, who spread himself at the near post.  The ball looped up in the air and Higgs sent an acrobatic hook shot back across goal and past the far post from eight-yards.

“He had a couple of those at the far post Jordan,” said Smith.

“We tried to get Jordan into the game a little bit more. It was a difficult chance for him and he just tried his best and unfortunately it was a little bit wayward but I thought he played brilliantly today Jordan.”

This was another home game where Bromley just didn’t click into gear during the first half.

Smith said:  “I was happy, I was happy.  Barrow are fighting for their lives so you’ve got be careful you don’t go guns blazing and they go and nick a win because I thought if we could get a draw there’s still a chance so to go in with a clean sheet after Saturday being 2-1 down at half-time, so we were pleased coming out for the second half knowing we’d get stronger in the second.”

Now kicking down the slope, Hanlan’s pace was a pain for Barrow’s defence.

The on-loan from Charlton Athletic striker cut into the penalty area, the ball bounced off Barrow defender Asa Hall inside the box and came out to George Porter, but the Bromley winger’s attempted curler went horribly wrong four-yards outside the penalty area.

Frankie Sutherland’s corner from the left was punched poorly by Arnold and Higgs stabbed his shot from inside the six-yard box at the far post wide.

Former Dover Athletic keeper Arnold, 28, frustrated Bromley by making a fine save a minute before the hour-mark, diving low to his right to tip Bugiel’s left-footed drive from the edge of the D around the post after the Bromley attacker cut in from the right and aimed for the bottom corner.

“He saved them a couple of times Arnold,” added Smith.

“I thought Omar and Brandon were a constant threat for them.  I thought their power and pace was immense and I thought we should’ve got a couple of decisions when Brandon actually broke past people and got pulled down.”

Barrow created a chance when Jones took a touch before whipping in a cross for Diarra to rise on the edge of the Bromley box to plant his header harmlessly wide.

Smith lifted spirits by bringing on star man Louis Dennis and giving him a free role while Pennock responded by putting Kingsley James alongside Jones in front of a back four to try to stop the Bromley talent.

Bromley should have smashed the stalemate in the 64th minute when they were awarded a free-kick some 35-yards from goal.

It was too far out for Sutherland to have a go himself, but he played a clever free-kick in behind for Dennis to hook his left-footed shot across the keeper from a right angle, which Arnold stuck out his left hand to make a vital block to his left.

Smith added: “I think that was it! He just got a block on it and that seemed to sum up our second half!

“I honestly believed we would get a goal.  I brought Adam Mekki and Louis Dennis on.  I’ve had to bring Woolfy (Luke Woolfenden) on for Alan Dunne because he got a bit of cramp.  I could see us getting a goal.”

Just 16 seconds later, Frankie Raymond and Roger Johnson linked up outside the Barrow box and Dennis’ low right-footed drive from 18-yards was comfortably saved by a kneeling down Arnold.

Arnold spread himself big to charge down Hanlan’s chip from the right-hand side of the Barrow penalty area after the striker used his pace to get in behind the Barrow bus.

Barrow came out with more attacking intent during the final 12 minutes.

Nathan Waterston played the ball inside to White and Luke James cut onto his right-foot and cracked a drive sailing just over the Bromley crossbar from 25-yards.

Holland should have let a long ball forward run through to his goalkeeper but his touch ended up with White flashing a shot across the diving Gregory and past the far post from 25-yards.

But as time ticked by it was evident that Bromley would not find that decisive winning goal that they needed to make final day a lot less stressful in Berkshire.

Smith said: “A bit like Saturday, I believed we could get one right at the death.  I’m looking at Brandon going down the line right in the last minute and after being told (by the referee) if he goes down he’ll get booked, he’s tried to stay up and we still didn’t get a free-kick, which I think is a bit harsh on Brandon!

Bromley did create one final chance inside stoppage time but the ball fell to the wrong person and Johnson produced a defender’s finish, snatching at his chance inside the box and flashing his low drive past the far post from 15-yards as he came up for a set-piece.

“He’s a centre-half so you want it to fall for one of the forwards but it does come to him and he’s pulled it right at the end and wide of the goal,” added a frustrated Smith.

Barrow almost snatched victory too.  Higgs, now at left-back, gave the ball away and substitute Lewis Walters broke but dragged his shot across Gregory and past the far post and both club's now face a nervous final day of the season.

Bromley must win at Maidenhead United on Saturday (12:30) and hope results go their way to reach the National League play-offs for the first time.

“We’ve got to go and win it, we can’t get a draw, we’re two points behind.  The other teams have still got to get results and stuff like that so why we’re in it, we’ve got to go for it,” said Smith.

“We’ve earnt that chance.  Winning against Boreham Wood gave us that opportunity to go and get a result.  Everybody else has got to try to get a result as well and we’re just in there amongst it and we’ve got nothing to lose at the end of the day.

“We set out a goal that we wanted to better ourselves from last season – and we have!

“We’ve got more points (in the National League) than we’ve ever had.  I’ve got a fantastic squad. We’ve got a trip to Wembley (on Sunday 20 May in The FA Buildbase Trophy Final against Brackley Town).  This club is in a no-lose situation.  If we just miss out it will be disappointing but we’ve got a great day coming up but if we make it, it will be the biggest achievement this club has ever had!”

Woking are rooted inside the drop zone with 48 points and Barrow are in the safety zone with one more point. Woking host ninth-placed Dover Athletic (70 points) while Barrow host relegated Chester at the weekend.

Former Woking midfielder Smith said: “I’ve had messages from everybody! Woking supports saying ‘can you do us a favour?’  I always want to win because I want to win. I’d love to do any help I could do for Woking and then I’ve got an ex team-mate in Ady (Pennock) also wishing him the best next week but that’s out of my hands at the moment.  My full focus is on getting Bromley into the play-offs if I can and no doubt we’ll be working on scoring a goal!

Do NOT write off this special Bromley team.  They have every chance of qualifying for the play-off lottery to keep the club’s promotion dream alive.

“I think it will be the biggest achievement this club has ever had and that’s the championship and that’s The FA Trophy Final,” said Smith, when asked what it would mean to guide his home-town club into the play-offs.

“To go 46 games and be one of the top seven teams in this division with the size of the club and everything else that goes with it, I think it will be the biggest achievement and then once I’m in it, I want to get to the Final again and get promotion!

“But we’ve got a Cup Final on Saturday and I want to achieve the best thing this club has ever achieved, that’s all I ever want to do. I’ve always wanted to repay the faith that was given in me and I think, at the moment, the players’ have.”

But there are still three points left to play for and Bromley CAN and WILL DO IT!

Smith added: “We’re still in with a chance, we’ve got everything to play for, it’s brilliant!”

Bromley: David Gregory, Alan Dunne (Luke Woolfenden 80), Tyrone Sterling (Louis Dennis 60), Frankie Raymond, Roger Johnson, Jack Holland, Jordan Higgs, Frankie Sutherland, Brandon Hanlan, Omar Bugiel, George Porter (Adam Mekki 73).
Subs: Josh Rees, Dan Johnson

Barrow: Steve Arnold, Callum MacDonald (Harry Panayiotou 75), Tony Diagne, Dan Jones, Asa Hall, Moussa Diarra, Nathan Waterston (Lewis Walters 80), Bedsente Gomis, Jordan White, Luke James, Kingsley James.
Subs: David Fitzpatrick, Grant Hall, Oliver Cook

Booked: Nathan Waterston 23

Attendance: 1,331
Referee: Mr David Rock (Hertford, Hertfordshire)
Assistants: Mr Martyn Holmes (King’s Lynn, Cambridgeshire) & Mr Damith Bandara (Pease Cottage, West Sussex)
Fourth Official: Mr Stephen Bates (St Albans, Hertfordshire)

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