Bromley 3-0 Dover Athletic -There's nothing to lose but everything to gain at Rochdale, says Bromley boss Neil Smith

Tuesday 17th October 2017
Bromley 3 – 0 Dover Athletic
Location Hayes Lane, Bromley, Kent BR2 9EF
Kickoff 17/10/2017 19:45

The Emirates FA Cup Fourth Qualifying Round Replay
Tuesday 17th October 2017
Stephen McCartney reports from Hayes Lane

GENIUS Bromley manager Neil Smith says he wants to be the man to guide his home-town club to their first FA Cup First Round win in 72 years when he takes his side to struggling League One outfit Rochdale.

The Ravens boss said after Saturday’s goal-less draw at Dover Athletic that he “will have a trick up his sleeve” for tonight’s replay and the 46-year-old delivered the goods.

ROCHDALE BOUND: Bromley winger Adam Mekki
celebrates the second goal during a magical second
half at Hayes Lane to set up a trip to League One
Rochdale in The FA Cup First Round.
Photo: Bromley FC/Mark Avenell

Chris Kinnear’s side arrived at Hayes Lane unbeaten in seven games, in second-place in the Vanarama National League table with 28 points from 15 games, conceding only 10 goals.

Bromley, unbeaten in three before tonight, went into this Fourth Qualifying Round Replay in seventh-place in the table with 24 points on the board.

The 90 minutes at Crabble at the weekend and the first half here tonight was an uninspiring stalemate with both teams cancelling each other out – but Bromley turned on the style during a dominant second half on their plastic pitch to seal a deserved place in The FA Cup First Round for the 14th time in their proud 125 year history.

Bromley won this game without a recognised striker on the pitch!  Striker Brett Williams picked up his fifth yellow card of the season at Crabble at the weekend, George Porter was injured so Smith pulled off a tactical masterstroke.

Roger Johnson, 34, made his home debut alongside Daniel Johnson (no relation) at the heart of defence and captain Jack Holland spent the first 77 minutes as a makeshift striker, before slotting back in his natural central defensive position with the game won.

Josh Rees, one of three central midfielders, smashed the stalemate 160 minutes into the tie, heading in his fifth goal of the season, before former Tranmere Rovers winger Adam Mekki lashed in his second for the club, just three minutes later.

Substitute Louis Dennis placed an injury-time third goal into the bottom far corner to wrap up a magical second half Bromley performance.

“Absolutely delighted,” said Smith.

“We knew it was going to be tough, they’re a very good side, they’re very strong, powerful, relentless, like I said on Saturday.  I knew we could withstand that. It was about can we get the ball down and play and I thought we did today.

“It was always going to be like that (in the first half).  You want to play a certain style but if a team doesn’t let you, or you can’t put your foot on the ball, when we did, I thought we were awesome!”

Dover Athletic created the first chance of the game after only 141 seconds when left-back Femi Ilesanmi played the ball inside to winger Nortei Nortey, but his right-footed angled drive from 25-yards bounced comfortably into David Gregory’s hands.

Gregory launched the ball upfield and Mekki played a one-two with recalled winger Luke Wanadio to drive a right-footed drive into Mitch Walker’s hands from 30-yards.

“They’ve not let in many goals this season, I think they’re one of the tightest defence so we knew it was going to be a tough ask,” added Smith.

“We knew defensively what we were going to have to come up against so we had to find a way of opening them up and we did a lot of training yesterday with Mark Hammond and the forwards and myself and it worked.”

Dover Athletic central defender Connor Essam split Bromley right-back Alan Dunne with a long ball on the deck to put Mitchell Pinnock through but the winger hit his left-footed drive from 22-yards over the crossbar.

Kadell Daniel then put in a cross from the right towards the penalty spot which was hooked over the bar by Mitch Brundle, the Dover captain.

Bromley produced a slick move including Jordan Higgs and Holland to feed Mekki, who dragged his low left-footed drive past the far post from 25-yards.

An even better chance fell Bromley’s way in the 17th minute when Mekki whipped in a cross from the left and Wanadio’s chip from a couple of yards inside the box sailed over the crossbar.

“He’s trained really hard, he’s been waiting for his chance. Yes, he made a late run and was a bit heavy on it,” added Smith.

Wanadio also dragged a shot past the left-hand post from 30-yards after cutting onto his right-foot and letting fly.

Pinnock’s first of 11 long throws into the Bromley box skimmed Holland’s head at the near post and Daniel’s overhead kick bounced harmlessly wide from eight-yards.

Bromley midfielder Higgs floated in a cross into the box which Holland knocked down and Mekki was fouled by Josh Passley as he was about to shoot from outside the box.

Frankie Raymond steered his deflected free-kick past the near post and behind for a corner.

Dover Athletic lost holding midfielder Giancarlo Gallifuoco to concussion after an accidental clash of heads with Jordan Higgs, heading Ilesanmi’s cross from the left into Gregory’s hands from 15-yards, with 44:47 on the clock.

Medical staff treated the player on the sidelines during the break and he was stretchered down the tunnel at twenty minutes to nine.

Smith said: “It was one of them. It was quite tight in there.  I think the boy was concussed so we knew they were going to make the change in the second half but I thought Jordan Higgs in there, with all my three in midfield, Josh Rees and Frankie Raymond, I thought just started dominating the game at the end of the first half, like we did on Saturday and carried it on this week in the second half.”

Three halves of football failed to produce a goal but Bromley put in a much better performance during a one-sided second half.

“Same again, just same again but as soon as you get the ball can we dominant it? Can we keep it? Can we pass and move, rotate all the stuff you want to here,” said Smith, on his half-time talk.

“But on this pitch we can do it! It was watered before so it was nice and sharp, a little bit of a mist on it so our boys can play the style they want to play.”

Dover Athletic did start the second half on the front foot after bringing on Loui Fazakerley at right-back and Kane Richards further in front of him after the break.

Ilesanmi found himself in acres of space to drill a speculative left-footed shot from 25-yards, which screamed over the top of the near post after 107 seconds.

Brundle then fed Ilesanmi in the bottom left channel and he whipped in a cross, which was cleared out to Pinnock, who flashed his left-footed drive across the keeper and just past the foot of the far post from 20-yards.

“Mitchell’s a good player, I like Mitchell Pinnock,” said Smith.

“We know he was going to be dangerous. He came into centre midfield after the injury. It was a case of our boys then getting on top of him and I think they did.”

But Bromley clicked into gear from the hour-mark, winning seven of their 10 corners in the final 30 minutes of the game and with the Hayes Lane faithful getting behind their heroes, Bromley delivered the goods when it really mattered.

Raymond swung in Bromley’s fifth corner, from the right, in the 62nd minute, when went all the way to Wanadio, who sold his man a dummy before whipping in a deep cross, which was steered over the bar by Mekki’s header from 10-yards.

Smith said: “He got in there a couple of times Mekki, he could’ve done better but he was showing what he can do.

“In that last little pattern of play of the game, I think we had them under the cosh for a little while with relentless corners going in, so we were hoping to get one because we have worked on them.”

Wanadio then whipped in another cross towards the far post and Mekki’s header from six-yards lacked power and the ball bounced into Walker’s hands.

Bromley continued to press and it was one-way traffic but the fear was that Dover could snatch one on the counter-attack.

Smith knew his side would have enough quality on the pitch to clinch the victory.

“Our thought was It’ll be one goal. I said if we keep a clean sheet we will win so I knew that was safe at the other end. It was just making sure we had one person who kept his composure in front of goal,” said Smith.

Hayes Lane erupted when Bromley deservedly smashed the stalemate in the 70th minute, following their seventh corner of the game.

Raymond swung in the ball from the left towards the far post and Rees steered his header off a Dover defender into the top right-hand corner from close range.

“The goal might’ve been a little bit scruffy but as soon as that went in you could see everybody’s shoulders drop down, they were relaxed and then started playing,” said Smith.

“Josh has been brilliant, he’s been absolutely awesome all season and probably could’ve scored a few more but the goal was 20 minutes to go and it was a decent time for us because we were just getting on top as well and then when he got that goal we’d knew they’d open up a little bit and try to get them on the break when you can.”

Bromley revealed that Rees did the most running during the first game at Crabble at the weekend.

“We have a look at stats and running distance stats, he wins hands down every time but I must say I think Frankie Raymond and Jordan Higgs will be up there with him today because they put a shift in as well,” added Smith.

Bromley doubled their lead within three minutes when they kept the ball on the deck and hit Dover on the counter-attack.

Holland, picked the ball up inside his own half, ran with the ball for around 30 yards before releasing Mekki down the right and he cut inside, left a defender sliding on the floor, before smashing his left-footed drive into the top far corner from 10-yards.

“He sort of committed the keeper, the committed keeper went down and he just lifted it over him, very, very cool finish,” said Smith.

“He’s been knocking on the door to score goals for a little while so it’s nice for him, he deserves it. He’s worked hard, he’s had a couple of disappointments when I’ve not played him and he’s just proved a point today.”

Job done. Holland moved back into the heart of defence to partner Daniel Johnson and Dennis added a new threat to Dover’s shell-shocked players.

Bromley produced a sweeping move down the right involving Wanadio, Dennis and Mekki and Wanadio’s low cross was cut out by Walker with Rees lurking unmarked at the far post.

Dover Athletic missed a glorious chance to mount a late comeback.

Pinnock whipped in a free-kick from the left and striker Bird steered his header straight into Gregory’s hands from eight-yards out.

“It’s getting towards the end and you don’t want to give a goal away because then the impetus is on them and it gets into that little situation where the panic mode does come in but it went straight into Greggors and we literally went down the other end and sealed it.”

Bromley sealed the victory one minute and 21 seconds into time added on through Dennis. Bromley played football the way it should be played, on the deck.

Dennis played a one-two with Rees in the final third on the right and cut into the box before placing his left-footed angled shot nicely into the bottom far corner from 15-yards.

Smith revealed: “It’s brilliant because we were telling him to go into the corner! That’s what Louis can do, Louis didn’t play today, Luke Wanadio deserved his chance because he was late so we played a team with pace to get at them, always knowing Louis can come on and do some damage. He caused problems down the wing and to finish his goal was sublime but Louis has been brilliant and we have to keep Louis on track and on the pitch.”

Smith pulled off a tactical masterstroke by winning this game 3-0 without a recognised striker on the pitch.

“Yes, someone said ‘what are you going to do on Saturday?’ and I said maybe we need to do what Barcelona do and play without a striker. It’s so easy now!

“But I needed someone to be a bit of a battering ram up there against Manny Parry and Connor Essam and Jack Holland definitely filled that spot. He did it two years ago so I knew he could do it.  I didn’t want to do it because he done so well (in defence) on Saturday. We knew their strengths were to get it forward but I needed to ask him to do a job for the team. He sacrificed himself and DJ (Daniel Johnson) came in alongside Roger (Johnson). 

“Roger was absolutely immense again and his organisation, he’s just going to make us, our younger players learn a hell of a lot more and a hell of a lot sooner so two clean sheets in two games with him coming in is absolutely fantastic.

“Look, if I played Jack Holland in goal, he’d probably save a penalty, he’s that way inclined. He commits himself to the club, to the players and to me.  I couldn’t ask for more for a leader and that’s why he’s the captain of this club.

“I’m hoping he’ll be here for a long time with me but I wouldn’t be surprised if someone comes knocking on the door for him because I think he's that good.”

Dover Athletic had the last shot on the night, former Bromley winger Pinnock cracking his left-footed volley past the post from 30-yards.

This Bromley side is more than capable of ending 72 years of FA Cup First Round hurt when they bid to beat their first Football League opponent in Rochdale (date to be confirmed over 3-6 November).

“It just means for myself, it’s nice to be the manager of a football club that goes into the First Round Proper.  You’re pitting yourself against a League club.  I think it’s a progression where this club has gone in the last few years and I think we go there and there’s nothing to lose but everything to gain,” said Smith, who was reminded about the 72 years of FA Cup First Round hurt.

“I would love to be the next manager that does that (win). I’d love it to be in the 125th anniversary year. I’d love it for all the different reasons, no more than for the supporters.”

Holland, meanwhile, reflected on a magical night at Hayes Lane.

“Brilliant!  Again, we knew what game it was going to be and there’s something about us at this ground. We show the resilience. It was 0-0 at half-time so we came out second half and it was a different game.  We got it down and started playing a bit more and scored three well-taken goals.”

When asked about his forward role tonight, the 25-year-old said: “I had to go up there and do a job today. It was more of a hold-up play. All credit to the midfielder and wingers, especially Adam Mekki and Luke Wanadio, they were around me all the time, always looking for something and they made my job a lot easier but everyone out there played their part – what a win that is for us!”

Holland dedicated this win to club president Glyn Beverly, who was Bromley’s chairman before Jerry Dolke took the reins at Hayes Lane.

“Before the game, I said it’s not only for ourselves, there’s a man called Glyn Beverly at this club and he’s ill at the moment and we wanted to win that game more than anything so we won that for him. That was for him today and we send our best wishes and thoughts to him and his family.”

Holland wants to create history for the club and replicate the 1945-46 team that defeated Slough United 6-2 on aggregate in the First Round.

Looking ahead to the trip to Rochdale, still fifth-from-bottom in League One after being held to a 2-2 draw at home to Northampton Town tonight, Holland is confident his team-mates can bury a ghost.

“I’m ready, I’m ready to go there. The team’s ready. It’s a great draw for the club to be in the hat after so many disappointments in so many years.  I’m just over the moon to go there now. Hopefully it’s history making time for us this year so we’ll prepare again, fully prepared for the battle.”

“I’m feeling ecstatic!  I’m chuffed for every single player, staff, fan at this club. They’ve come out tonight and I know they’re all buzzing for a night out in Rochdale and they’ll travel away so I’m over the moon for everyone at this club and hopefully we can go to Rochdale and do the business.”

Bromley: David Gregory, Alan Dunne (Ben Wynter 85), Tyrone Sterling, Josh Rees, Daniel Johnson, Roger Johnson (Louis Dennis 77), Luke Wanadio (Iffy Allen 90), Frankie Raymond, Jack Holland, Jordan Higgs, Adam Mekki.
Subs: Santiago Tulian, Aiden Enver, Tahjae Anderson, Guy Baskerville

Goals: Josh Rees 70, Adam Mekki 73, Louis Dennis 90

Booked: Josh Rees 84

Dover Athletic: Mitch Walker, Josh Passley (Kane Richards 46), Femi Ilesanmi, Giancarlo Gallifuoco (Loui Fazakerley 46), Manny Parry, Connor Essam, Nortei Nortey (Aziz Deen-Conteh 83), Mitch Brundle, Ryan Bird, Kadell Daniel, Mitchell Pinnock.
Subs: Jamie Allen, Manny Adebowale, Ejiro Okosieme, Chris Lewington

Booked: Josh Passley 42, Mitch Brundle 59

Attendance: 828 (111 away)
Referee: Mr Gary Parsons (Lymington, Hampshire)
Assistants: Mr Dave Bushell (Tottenham, London N17) & Mr Anthony Pope (Braintree, Essex)
Fourth Official: Mr Craig Kissi (Lambeth, London SE11)

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